Meet Jordan High School senior Tony Jackson. We talked with him about his musical inspiration, how his passion for music has led to plenty of opportunities at Jordan, and how it’s shaping his thinking around college. 

“Music is my life for some reason. It’s all I can talk about,” says Tony Jackson, a senior at Jordan High School. There seems to be a very clear reason, however. Music has been a part of Jackson’s life from a young age. He remembers being small and hearing the music from his mom’s favorite artists throughout the house–playlists with musicians like Grover Washington, Jr., Michael Jackson, and others. “Sometimes I’d try to do the beats I’d hear in the songs,” he says. “Every night was a music night in our house.”

Being around music constantly eventually gave way to Jackson wanting to learn how to play music. As he began his high school career at Watts’ Simon Tech, he was disappointed to learn they didn’t have much of a music program. Two years later, upon transferring to Jordan High School, one of the first classrooms he saw was the band room. “I got sucked into the band room and haven’t been out of it since,” he laughs. 

In his two years at Jordan, Jackson has not only learned how to play several types of drums–including the snare, bass, and tenor drums as well as the marching quads and a bit of saxophone–but he’s also the drum major of the high school’s drumline in addition to being a part of the larger band. He says he’s tried to get involved in other activities, such as sports, but he always goes back to music, where he knows he can make a difference. A difference, as well as a legacy. His love of music is so contagious that even his little sister joined the band at Markham Middle School.

Right now, he’s working with Mr. McMullen, Jordan’s Band & Choral Director, on creating a jazz club and an orchestra program from scratch. “We’re trying to have an all-around music program,” he says. “We don’t have a lot of funds going into our music program,” he says. “But despite those challenges, we still have a band and we’re starting more music clubs. We’re doing just fine.” 

Music programs are exactly what Jackson is looking for as he applies for colleges. Last month, he was part of a group of high school seniors who visited several HBCUs with Jordan’s College & Career Counselor Mr. De Jesus. “We visited Atlanta and toured Morehouse, Spelman, Clark Atlanta, and Morris Brown, as well as two colleges in Alabama State.” One of the biggest highlights of the trip was getting to see Morehouse’s band perform during their Homecoming game. “It made me want to go there!” he says. He also enjoyed touring Morris Brown and learning about their eSports degree program. 

As incredible as it was to see the HBCUs and their communities on display, Jackson says he’s planning to attend college close to home. He’s considering Los Angeles City College or Cal State Dominguez Hills for their music programs. He’s grateful for both Mr. McMullen and Mr. De Jesus, who have helped him with college applications and letters of recommendation. “Whenever I need help, or I’m not having a good day, the teachers here are very supportive,” he says. “They know how to make things a bit easier.”