During his interview process, Andrew Jackson said he was asked by St. Clair R-XIII School District personnel if he could do the job in replacing Paul Swofford as instrumental music instructor and director.
“I told them no one could,” he said in response of Swofford’s 30-year R-XIII career in which he led the high school and junior high school bands to unprecedented school district heights and into one of the most respected programs in the state.
And whatever else he told that interview committee, which included Swofford himself, was good enough as Jackson was selected as the individual to next wave the baton in front of the R-XIII bands.
“I knew where they were coming from with that question,” Jackson told The Missourian during a recent interview. “You just can’t replace people like the Swoffords. They accomplished some amazing things.
“But, I am excited to come home and continue what they started. I’m excited about this opportunity and about having the chance to continue to make some incredible music here.”
Jackson, hired by the R-XIII school district in April after Swofford and his wife, Elaine, announced their retirement the month before, is a 2001 SCHS graduate who played the trumpet during his St. Clair years under the Swoffords’ direction. He officially begins his duties on July 1.
“It’s a little funny because when I was in high school, all my friends and I kind of laughed about me coming back here to replace the Swoffords,” Jackson said. “At the time you might not realize it, but later you discover how awesome a program we have here.
“While in college, I kept thinking about how nice it would be to return home to do this. There’s nothing like coming home and continuing the tradition the Swoffords started.”
Jackson said he has kept in touch with the Swoffords over the years and has Paul’s cellphone number programmed into his own phone.
“His number is entered as Papa Swoff,” Jackson said. “He has influenced me so much. He is an extremely important figure in my life.”
Jackson said he was an all-state trumpeter in high school and also sang in the choir. He also enjoys playing the piano and can play scales on all instruments.
He last served as the instrumental music director at Glendale High School in Springfield, where he was responsible for the development, recruitment and maintenance of a program that includes a marching band, symphonic band, freshman concert band and a jazz ensemble. He resigned there when he got the job here.
On his resume, Jackson said over a period of three years during his tenure that began in July 2009, the Glendale band program grew by about 50 percent and “reignited a passion for band in the Glendale side of Springfield public schools.”
He also said that he has taken the GHS bands from consistent last-place ratings to a top-four finish in each competition attended, including marching, concert and jazz events.
Before Glendale, Jackson was the instrumental music director at Sullivan High School from July 2008 to May 2009. In addition, he served as music director at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Clair from October 1998 to July 2009. He also gained experience as the assistant instrumental music director at Wentzville public schools and as the music director in the Anna School District in Illinois.
After St. Clair High School, Jackson graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in music from Truman State University in May 2005. In August 2006, he earned his master of arts in education degree from TSU.
“The Swoffords built a culture of people with good character,” he said. “They helped the kids set individual goals with an overall goal for the group. I’d like to make sure the students understand that it’s a big world out there. You can care for each other as well as for yourselves.
“I think one of my strengths is connecting with the kids. I think someone in charge of a group must be able to make individual connections as well as the group connection.”
After he was hired, Jackson was introduced to the 2011-2102 SCHS band students. He said it was a good, yet brief, start.
“The quicker we can get to know each other, the quicker we can get going and continue to produce wonderful music here,” he said.
“I’m just so excited to return and to try to use my skills learned from the Swoffords to continue the tradition here.”
Kelly Walker, who Jackson did not know until she was interviewed by R-XIII, will be Jackson’s assistant. He was hired first and helped select her. She, too, will start on July 1.
The original selection committee consisted of R-XIII Superintendent Michael Murphy, Assistant Superintendent Mark Denbow, SCHS Principal Kevin Hillman and Paul Swofford. They interviewed four finalists after receiving dozens of applications. Jackson then joined that group.
“She will be very good with the kids,” Jackson said of his new assistant. “She understands discipline is important. She was like a shining star when we interviewed her.”
Walker also graduated from Truman State University, obtaining her bachelor of arts degree in music in May 2010 and her master of arts degree in education this past August. She graduated from Platte County High School in May 2006.
Most recently, Walker was a substitute teacher in Kansas City within the North Kansas City, Park Hill and Platte County school districts.
Walker has earned several honors during the past few years, including the Sigma Alpha Iota Scholastic, the Sigma Alpha Iota Collegiate Honor and the Sigma Alpha Iota Sword of Honor awards in 2011. In addition, she was named the recipient of the Dillinger Woman Band Director Scholarship in 2009, the Wells Bank Scholarship in 2008 and 2009, the Truman State University Combined Ability Scholarship from 2006-2009 and the John Philip Sousa Band Award in 2006.