and pianist from Huntingdon,
Pennsylvania, who started
playing at five years of age, and took formal lessons at the encouragement
of his mother, who had learned to play by ear. He was already a force to be
reckoned with at the keyboard by the time he went to high school.
In 1960, he went to
the Eastman School of Music, but financing proved to be a problem, and he
wound up dropping out and taking a job as Program Director for a radio
station in Rochester, New York.
He returned to school
in time and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in the discipline of piano
performance from Wilkes College in Pennsylvania. Then he auditioned for Juilliard and
was welcomed into their Masters program, which he completed in 1968.
In 1969, he debuted
at New York’s
Town Hall with a recital of Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Sonata in D
major, Op. 10, No. 3”.
He hit the road with
the Norman Luboff Choir and met Chip Davis and
his soon-to-be wife, Almeda. They got married and relocated to Omaha, Nebraska,
in 1974. She took a job at the University of Nebraska as a choral director and he
wrote arrangements for her singers to perform.
Meantime, Chip had
his own ideas. He wanted to start
a new group that fused classical and electronic music with rock. One problem: he could compose better than he could
play piano, and he needed someone who could play his sophisticated
charts. Enter Jackson.
In 1975, the pair
released Fresh Aire,
the first of many albums that would bear the name Mannheim
Steamroller. It was followed by
five sequels and a 1984 yuletide album entitled Mannheim Steamroller Christmas, which went to #2 on the holiday
chart and #8 on the new age chart.
They have continued to release albums at the clip of at least one a
year until the present day.
Jackson’s compositions found a voice in his wife’s
newly founded Chorale Soli Deo Gloria Cantorum, and his own solo albums, beginning with Cape May Preludes in 2000. In 2001, he released Harpsichord Carols, with harpist
Kathy Bundock. This was followed by Facets in 2003 and Atlantic Fantasy in 2004.
He was very prolific
in the mid-2000s, composing “American Journey”, “Benjamin
Franklin’s 13”, “Cape May Solitudes”, “First
Noel”, “INGs for Flute, Oboe, Bassoon
and Piano”, “The Kate Campbell Collection”, and “The
Wind”. By 2005, he had
penned fifty commissioned works.
In 2009, he appeared on Mannheim Steamroller’s Christmas: 25th Anniversary
Collection and released another solo album, 21st Century Romantic.
He has written more
than 300 pieces of music in just about every classical idiom, including band,
chamber, choral, instrumental, orchestral and solo
For his efforts, he
has received ASCAP awards, Distinguished Achievement in Composition Award
from the Nebraska Individual Artist Fellowship for Performing Arts, has been
added to the roll of Steinway Artists, and won awards for his video
Paul Hill Chorale recordings
O Come All Ye Faithful (Frederick
Oakeley/John Francis Wade)
Arranger – Jackson Berkey
Conductor – Paul Hill
Organist – Sondra Proctor
Brass and Percussion Ensemble