Juanita Jackson was named Arts Council Menifee’s March Artist of the Month.
Jackson is a violinist and educator who developed an interest in music from a young age. She said she remembers her father playing several instruments growing up, most notably the ukulele. At the age 9, Jackson decided that she would like to play the violin. It was a decision for which she cannot give a reason even as an adult.
“I could have started two years earlier if I had chosen the flute or something like that, but I wanted to play the violin,” Jackson said. “Why? I can’t tell you, but what is for certain is that I never would have been able to start playing if it had not been for the public-school system.”
She was pulled out of class for lessons twice a week beginning in fourth grade, continued with middle school orchestra, high school and many years of music camp.
She played violin in junior college and was part of America’s Youth In Concert, a performance group that takes a 14-stop tour of Europe that included performances in Paris, Venice, London, Geneva and Rome.
She attended California State University Long Beach on a musical scholarship and was part of the Honors University String Quartet, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in music and a teaching credential.
Jackson said she decided to take a break from the music world, and for 15 years, she devoted most of her time to her family and raising her children. She began offering private lessons in the late 70s, and the Jackson family moved to Menifee in 1989 at “a time when Newport Road only had stop signs and two lanes,” she said.
After moving to the area, Jackson began participating in many local music programs including symphonies in both Riverside and Redlands. Later, she joined the Temecula Valley Symphony and took a position as assistant conductor under founder Don Marino.
In the early 2000s, Jackson earned her master’s degree in educational technology and learning. She began her career in education by teaching in local elementary schools for five years. Jackson also began working as an applied music instructor at Mt. San Jacinto College. She took a position as the band director at Menifee Valley Middle School in 2008. During her 10 years at the school, Jackson has doubled student participation, and students have received the highest honors in festival competitions over the last eight years. Her students also perform at Knott’s Berry Farm and Disneyland, including exclusive studio sessions with renowned Disney studio clinicians: Kurt Curtis, Sal Lozano and Robert Feller.
Since her retirement in June 2019, Jackson has become more involved in other music community programs, including the Temecula Symphony’s Junior Youth Symphony, and said she felt an obligation to advocate for the importance of music in school.
“Education is so important and learning an instrument provides students an opportunity to learn something that inhabits a place in their heart that, in my opinion, cannot be achieved with any other means,” Jackson said. “Music is important and is an opportunity for students that should never be taken away. Every community deserves a high-quality music program, and every student deserves an opportunity to express themselves through music.”