These ideals shape the artistic philosophy of renowned clarinetist Bil Jackson. Jackson enjoys a varied musical career that includes solo, orchestral and chamber music performances, as well as authorship and academia. Currently Principal Clarinetist with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and the Aspen Chamber Symphony, Jackson has performed as Principal Clarinetist with the Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Honolulu Orchestras, and has appeared as a soloist with the Colorado, Honolulu, Denver, Charlotte, Dallas Chamber, and Aspen Chamber Orchestras, among many others.
In 1989, he commissioned and premiered Dan Welcher's Clarinet Concerto with the Honolulu Symphony under the baton of Donald Johanos, which he subsequently recorded for the Marco Polo label. The Welcher was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Music. Jackson's chamber music affiliations include performances with the American String Quartet and Miami String Quartet, among many others. In addition, he is a guest artist with such notable organizations as the Music Northwest and Sunflower Chamber Music Festivals, and has performed with the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society and the Australian Chamber Music Festival. In 2009, he is slated to debut a new clarinet concerto by distinguished American composer Kevin Puts.
Beyond his highly successful performing career, teaching gives the artist a great deal of satisfaction. According to Jackson, as he gets older, he finds it increasingly important to continue the traditions of the past – handed down through such masters as Cyrille Rose, Daniel Bonnade and his teacher Robert Marcellus – and to pass them on to his students.
Currently a professor of clarinet at the University of Northern Colorado and on the Artist-Faculty of the Aspen Music Festival, he has previously served on the faculties of the University of Texas, University of Colorado and Duquesne University. Jackson encourages his students to identify their dreams and what makes them happy. "To be happy and successful you must be passionate about your dreams," he says. "You will then be passionate about the process of realizing your dreams; you will learn to love the journey in all of its aspects."
"Don't approach music with blinders," Jackson also advises. "This isn't just a world economy, but a world music economy." He puts this lesson into action by capitalizing on his jazz background, which informs his classical music playing and gives him an "unusual voice" on the clarinet. "Playing jazz gives me great insight into playing classical repertoire," he notes. "Both styles complement each other."
Jackson often teams with pianist Bill Douglas to present concerts that synthesize jazz, classical and contemporary formats.
Jackson studied at the Interlochen Arts Academy, where he won the Academy's Concerto Competition three times and was awarded the gold medal for overall musicianship upon graduation. He continued his formal study at Northwestern University with Robert Marcellus. Additionally, he became the only player ever to win the International Clarinet Competition twice, and in 1981 he was a finalist in the Prague International Clarinet Competition.
He performs and records in Japan with the Tokyo Bach-Band, which presents the music of Bach in a modern musical format. As a hobby, he designs and manufactures reed-making equipment, and is currently writing a book entitled "SpeedReeding," intended to help discerning clarinetists to craft their own reeds for optimal performance and quality control.
Jackson has been a Yamaha artist since 2002. He performs on the Yamaha YCL-CSGH. "Yamaha is a company that sets the standard for excellence, but continues to pursue new ideas," says Jackson. "The people are sincere in their integrity to solicit ideas for change, and to continue to refine what are already outstanding products."
When asked what he enjoys most about playing Yamaha instruments, Jackson replies, "It's the ecstasy of perfect recognition. It's difficult to put into words, but when I played the new CSG clarinet, it just resonated. It was the exact sound I'd been looking for, and so far superior to any other clarinet."