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Artist of the Month - March 2020

Written By Jim T. Gammill
Arts Council Menifee

Juanita Jackson is a formerly trained violinist who has had music in her life from a very young age. She remembers her father playing several instruments growing up (most notably the ukulele) and may have caught some subconscious inspiration for music merely from the music in her household. At the age of 9 Juanita decided that she would like to play the violin, a decision that the musician cannot give a reason for to this very day.

“I could have started two years earlier if I had chosen the flute or something like that, but I wanted to play the violin. 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.”

Jackson’s musical journey started by being pulled out of class two times a week beginning in 4th grade, continued with middle school orchestra, and then on to high school including many years of music camp. She played in Junior College and was even part of America’s Youth In Concert, a performance group that did a 14 stop tour of Europe that included performances in Paris, Venice, London, Geneva, and Rome. She attended Cal State University Long Beach on a musical scholarship and was part of the Honors University String Quartet. Juanita graduated from CSULB with a degree in music and a teaching credential.

It was at this time that Juanita decided to take a break from the music world. For around fifteen years, Jackson devoted most of her time to her family, specifically to raising her children. She began offering private lessons in the late 70’s and the Jackson family found themselves making the move to Menifee in 1989, “a time when Newport only had stop signs and two lanes!”

After moving to the area, Juanita began participating in many local programs including symphonies in both Riverside and Redlands. She also would later come to be a part of the Temecula Valley Symphony and take a position as assistant conductor under Don Marino, a musician that she has worked with and been inspired by since her high school years. Jackson is currently Concertmaster with the MiraCosta Community Symphony Orchestra in Oceanside.

In the early 2000’s Jackson earned her MA in Educational Technology and Learning. She then began her career in education by teaching in local elementary schools, which the musician did for five years. Around this time, Juanita also worked as an applied music instructor at MSJC. She took a position as the band director at Menifee Valley Middle School in 2008. During her 10 years at the school, Juanita was able to double student participation and hone the program to such a high degree that her students only received the highest honors in festival competitions for the last 8 years. Her students also had the honor of performing 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 at the end of the 2019 school year, Juanita Jackson has found herself becoming more involved in other music programs (including the Temecula Symphony Junior Youth Symphony) and feels an obligation to advocate for the importance of music in school.

Juanita had the following to say:

“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. 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. “

Juanita Jackson has been an integral part of the community for nearly two decades and it is for this reason that Arts Council Menifee is proud to name her as its Artist of the Month for March, 2020.

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