Guitarist Paul Jackson Jr. named artist-in-residence at USC Thornton School of Music

The producer and composer will spend the academic year working with students in the Contemporary Music division

October 05, 2016 Evan Calbi

Paul Jackson Jr., a Grammy Award-nominated producer and composer who is one of the most recorded guitarists in the world, has joined the faculty of the USC Thornton School of Music as an artist-in-residence for the 2016-17 school year.

Paul Jackson Jr
(Photo/Tim Alexander)

Jackson is the first recipient of the Garn Family Contemporary Music Artist-in-Residence Endowed Fund established by Doug and Julie Garn of Corona del Mar to bring in visiting contemporary music artists each year to the school. The fund is the first of its kind in USC Thornton’s Contemporary Music division.

“What the Garn Family Artist-in-Residence provides is the opportunity for students to work with world-renowned artists on a sustained basis,” said Vice Dean Chris Sampson, founder of the Popular Music program. “Our students will really get to know and be mentored by Paul Jackson Jr. over the course of the school year. This creates a very deep and lasting impact.”

Jackson grew up near the University Park Campus and is happy to teach at the university.

“When I was a kid, we used to drive here,” he said. “Both of my parents received their master’s degrees from USC — my mother in psychology and my father in engineering. To come back years later as an instructor is pretty amazing for me.”

On the go

Each artist-in-residence funded by the Garn gift will spend an academic year working with students in USC Thornton’s Contemporary Music division. The template for the contemporary artist-in-residence experience was recently set when hip-hop producer Young Guru spent two years working with USC Thornton students and helped shape a new major in music production.

Jackson will be busy.

I’m going to have my hands full, but it’s all really good stuff.

Paul Jackson Jr.

“This morning I was with Professor Paul Young in a music business class, and this afternoon I’m working with students in the Studio/Jazz Guitar program,” he said. “I’m doing a jazz forum soon, a recording workshop and a lot of classes with Patrice Rushen [head of the Popular Music program], as well as mentoring students. I’m going to have my hands full, but it’s all really good stuff.”

USC Thornton’s Contemporary Music division is also known for bringing in an impressive schedule of artists for its weekly Popular Music Forum, giving students an opportunity to learn from — and occasionally play with — musical legends. Some past artists who have come to the forum include Elton John, Randy Newman, Smokey Robinson, Chaka Khan, and Mike Love and Bruce Johnston of The Beach Boys.

“Talent and knowledge are assets, and you have to reinvest them,” Jackson said. “I think it’s necessary. Nobody would make money and then not try to reinvest it in the stock market or real estate or something. So, for me, this is trying to reinvest things that I’ve been blessed to know and do and experience. I’m just really happy to do that.”

Jackson has played on recordings by Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Elton John, Barbara Streisand, Celine Dion, Quincy Jones, Luther Vandross, Ella Fitzgerald, Natalie Cole, B.B. King, Selina, Jennifer Lopez, Luis Miguel, Jewel, Amy Grant, Bebe & CeCe Winans, Kenny Rogers, Al Jarreau, Stanley Clarke, George Duke, Barry White, Chicago and many others. His playing can also be heard on the underscore of many motion pictures.

He has released eight albums of his own on the Atlantic, Pony Canyon/Blue Note and Branch Records labels, including the Grammy-nominated I Came to Play.

He has been a regular band member on television shows such as American Idol, The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and Don’t Forget the Lyrics and has taught at music workshops around the world.