CCM Classical Guitar student gives couch concert of pop, jazz and musical theatre hits

Luke Jackson is featured in Distilled Theatre Company's virtual concert series

Luke Jackson, a second-year master's student in UC College-Conservatory of Music's Classical Guitar program, recently performed a "couch concert" for the Distilled Theatre Company's video series. Featuring arrangements of Charlie Puth's "Attention," Daft Punk's "Doin' It Right," Chick Corea's "Sea Journey" and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Overture to Jesus Christ Superstar, the performance is available to watch online.

The classical guitar community has long defined itself by its mostly Euro-centric repertoire, says Chris Wilke, director of CCM's Classical Guitar program. "While guitarists have embraced the vernacular music of Latin America, we haven’t been nearly as accepting of popular music currents stemming from the African American community. That’s why the CCM guitar program works with the classics as well as the brilliant artistic heritage stemming from blues, jazz and today — even hip-hop."

A portrait of Luke Jackson

Luke Jackson. Photo/Provided.

For his couch concert, Jackson chose fun songs to distract from the dark mood that has been cast across 2020 due to the pandemic. He first connected with Distilled Theatre Company when he was called for a musical many years ago, and then he worked on several shows for the company and became good friends with the directors, Jessica Greene and Wesley Nelson. They asked Jackson to perform for the organization's couch concert series and allowed him to pick the music with one stipulation — one song needed to be from a musical.

"So I decided to do two light and fun pop songs, a tune by the great Chick Corea, and for the musical number, the Overture from Jesus Christ Superstar," Jackson says. "All the arrangements are my own, and it was really fun to put it all together to create something unique and yet instantly recognizable."

Guitarists don't have a traditional place in the orchestra, so they must develop a wide skill set in many styles in order to be ready for all circumstances, Wilke says. The CCM Classical Guitar program doesn't neglect the past, but it also acknowledges the present. "Our ultimate goal is to prepare true musicians for a professional career in the 21st century," Wilke adds.

Jackson enrolled in the master's program at CCM after teaching private lessons and performing for the past five years. He was a bit apprehensive about returning to school, but that dissipated after he met Christopher Wilke and former CCM Classical Guitar Director Clare Callahan, he says.

"I have grown so much in the past year, not only on the instrument itself, but also in my knowledge of its history and pedagogical resources," Jackson adds. "I have immensely enjoyed my time here, and honestly am a little saddened by the thought of it ending upon my graduation in the spring."

Luke Jackson’s interest in music began at age eight in Ashland, Ohio after watching a string quartet performance that captivated his young mind. Shortly thereafter he took up the violin, and four years later he began studying the guitar after moving to Richmond, Kentucky. His passion for the guitar quickly consumed his life as every day after school he would practice for hours on end, trying to master the many facets of the instrument.

Music also became his profession at an early age. He started teaching his first private lessons at the age of 17, and he began performing throughout the central Kentucky area. His passion for guitar propelled him into the academic world of music, and he went on to earn his Bachelor’s of Music at Eastern Kentucky University. In the following years he was invited to perform for many professional organizations including the Kentucky Music Educators Association (KMEA), the National Association of Music Merchandisers (NAMM) and the Appalachian State Guitar Festival.

He continued teaching privately and has produced students who have won songwriting competitions, were selected for the NAfME All-National Honors Guitar Ensemble, and were accepted into numerous collegiate music programs. For the past year he has studied under the direction of Professors Clare Callahan and Christopher Wilke while finishing his Master’s of Music at CCM.

Featured image at the top: Luke Jackson performing as part of Distilled Theatre Company's Couch Concert series.