Tampa Bay’s Entertainer of the Year at age 16, opening act for legendary artists like B.B. King and Tony Bennett and a debut CD at age 18 are just a few of sophomore Bernard “BK” Jackson’s accomplishments. Like the title of his first album says, the up-and-coming musician is “On the Move.”
The Tampa native is on his way to taking over the world of jazz. Jackson, a 19-year-old jazz studies student with a concentration in business administration has been playing the saxophone since the age of 11. He started out playing small gigs at family reunions, and has had an appreciation for performing ever since.
“A lot of people can play, but not too many people can perform,” said Jackson.
Jackson began lessons in middle school, and even sharpened his skills at the University of South Florida. He plays all of the basic saxophones (soprano, alto and tenor) along with the drums, and is currently learning piano.
Professor Robert Griffin, a Music Theory and Applied Trombone instructor at FAMU, encouraged Jackson to join his high school’s jazz band. Griffin previously taught Jackson at Howard W. Blake High School, which is a school for the performing arts.
“He immediately excelled in jazz ensemble and as a soloist,” said Griffin. “Bernard’s passion for music, for playing and his desire to excel makes him stand out among other young musicians. He plays with a lot of expression, and he’s always trying to better himself in his craft.”
Griffin also works with the “Marching 100’s” trombone section, but Jackson isn’t high-stepping down any fields.
“It’s hard to juggle school and other extra-curricular activities while being in the band, but I support the [marching band] 100 percent,” Jackson said.
Jackson’s exploits expand outside of music; he is also involved in the 40th Student Senate and is a jazz radio personality on 90.5. Jackson said his work with 90.5 has given him a different perspective on the industry.
“The station receives tons of CDs from artists,” Jackson said. “Now I’m on the other side, because I definitely know what it’s like to try and get my music out there.”
Despite his many accomplishments as an artist, he still considers himself a regular college student. His hobbies include playing his PlayStation, Facebook and Twitter.
“I like to have a good time just like everyone else,” Jackson said. “I don’t like to be bored; I’m always doing something.”
TJ Norris, a third year jazz studies student from Jacksonville, described Jackson as a chill guy.
“He likes to make people laugh and lighten up the mood,” said Norris, Jackson’s friend of over a year and a half.
The pair has worked together at numerous festivals, gigs around Tallahassee and also play at the same church. Norris is a fan of Jackson’s music and says he seems like he’s been performing for 20 years.
“This cat is really good at what he does,” Norris said. “He’s one of the most professional young men I’ve met in the music department.” Some of Jackson’s musical inspirations include FAMU alumnus Cannonball Adderley and Kirk Whalum. Jackson said his inspiration also comes from the music he listens to.
“I have a preference, but I can appreciate all music,” Jackson said. “That’s key to any musician.”
Jackson is currently working with Pieces of a Dream and James Lloyd for his sophomore CD, which is set to release in the spring of 2011. His current CD is available everywhere online, including iTunes and Rhapsody.
His immediate future plans include graduating and having a number one single.
Jackson credits his faith as a Christian and his family to keeping him level-headed.
“One day you’re on top of the world, the next nobody knows you,” Jackson said. “You have to understand that.”