UNCG Research

Conducting research, literally

Art critic, conductor, and undergraduate researcher Jackson Cooper


Posted on Sunday, February 28th, 2016 by UNCG Research.

He writes for several publications. He does research. He conducts and directs. And he just graduated after 3 1/2 years.

How does Jackson Cooper keep it all straight? “I have a Moleskine planner that helps a lot.”

He graduated in December with a BA in theater and a minor in business. “My background was arts administration,” he explains.

While carrying a full load as a Spartan, Cooper wrote for the News & Record, the CVNC arts site, and the Carolinian student newspaper.

And the Spartan spent the fall directing UNC Chapel Hill Pauper Players’ production of “A Chorus Line.” He is the first non-UNC CH student to be selected to do that. They’ve asked him to do it again this spring.

A grant last summer from UNCG’s Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creativity Office had given him the funds to be the full music director and conductor for the summer GLOS production in Manteo of “Beauty and the Beast.” Opera program director David Holley was there to advise and mentor. Cooper also observed David Holley prepare the Gilbert & Sullivan opera “Iolanthe.”

“I researched conducting techniques,” Cooper explains. He also learned about the styles of teaching musical opera and operettas.

Holley adds that in music, the research is the creative activity – in this case, the conducting. “Our rehearsal room is the lab.”

Cooper has written an essay for the Perform book series. His essay is about networking in the digital age and is designed to help the next generation of artists.

His more immediate deadlines are in the press and media. His research has better informed his writing of reviews and features for the popular press and arts sites.

What sparked his passion for music and theater? Growing up In Wake County, he saw a show – and zeroed in on the conductor “One guy is keeping this whole show together – and he’s smiling,” he thought.

Now he is taking all he learned in conducting/directing, to inform his writing. Over the summer, he was enlisted to write for CVNA (Classical Voice of North America), a publication of the Music Critics Association of North America that has broad reach.

He just published an article for American Theatre magazine online profiling the new artistic director at PlayMakers in Chapel Hill, and he has published several reviews in the journal Film Matters. He is working with the Music Critics Association to create an arts calendar for orchestras.

Each experience is new. He plans to move to a large “arts” city, perhaps New York, Chicago or LA. He hopes to work as an assistant to an artistic director or music director. And he has a book project in the works.

“My passion? To expose people to good art.”

by Mike Harris

redacted from the Fall 2015 UNCG Research Magazine, repost from UNCG NOW


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Click to read the Fall 2015 UNCG Research Magazine

Making our mark

You learn best by doing. 

When undergraduates roll up their sleeves and conduct research, they learn more and they understand more deeply. They prepare themselves for their future careers or graduate studies. They make a positive change in our world. 

Undergraduate research makes an impact. One young scholar at a time.

See more stories about undergraduate research in “Marking our Mark” in the current the Fall 2015 UNCG Research Magazine