Canadian icon reaches out to Okotoks
Music: Tom Jackson performs charity concert to support literacy and the arts
By: Tammy Rollie
| Posted: Wednesday, Feb 27, 2013 12:13 pm
When Tom Jackson gets out of bed each morning his first thought is how can he help others.
“I think to myself, ‘What am I going to do for somebody today,’” he said. “It gets my feet moving.”
Jackson is well known as a singer, actor and philanthropist who supports various causes such as literacy, food banks, youth suicide and environmental disasters.
Okotoks is Jackson’s next stop with a charity concert for the Literacy for Life Foundation and the Okotoks Art Council on March 3 at 7 p.m. at the Rotary Performing Arts Centre.
The Albertan, who last visited Okotoks during the filming of “Medicine River” in the early 1990s, will perform alongside his music director Tom McKillip.
Jackson has had a storied career with 15 albums, two Juno nominations, roles in television and movies, and numerous honours including the Humanitarian Award, Queen’s Jubilee Medal and Centennial Award for Alberta and Saskatchewan.
It all began with a journey which led a teenage Jackson to the streets of Winnipeg looking for a venue to express himself.
“In order for me to create a position where I could cause change, I had to become a better actor, a better singer, a better writer and a better person,” he said. “When I made that commitment I felt I was acting for someone else, I was singing for someone else.”
Jackson strives to better himself with others in mind.
“When you’re not feeling up to par and your day is not going well, if you close your eyes for five seconds and decide you are going to find someone to do something for, in that five seconds you just took control of your life,” he said. “You defined your life from there on out.”
It is this philosophy that guides Jackson’s life.
“It will make you feel so good that you made a decision to not think about yourself and do something for yourself,” he said. “It works for me.”
Jackson, who sees education as a key ingredient to change a world of impoverished communities and school dropouts, is a strong advocate of literacy programs.
“There are a lot of things we need to change in our world,” he said. “If we don’t start with education it’s impossible to imagine that we can achieve the kind of goals we hope to achieve.”
Jackson spreads his messages through music with many of his concerts acting as fundraisers for community initiatives.
“It’s great that I can share in the opportunity to help (people) in their community but we are shoulder to shoulder,” he said. “They are there to help their own community and they are there to make sure that their children get a better chance at life.”
High River’s Sue Stegmeier sees first hand the benefit of literacy in the foothills as the executive director of Literacy for Life, and is ecstatic to have someone like Jackson jump on board to help the organization.
“To have someone of his stature promoting our message makes us know we are on the right track,” she said. “His method of delivery is a very good fit. He’s very much into storytelling.”
The Literacy for Life Foundation focuses on building essential skills like reading, writing, numeracy and problem solving by partnering with community agencies such as libraries, schools and Alberta Health Services to enhance literacy in residents from birth to seniors.
“There’s that strong belief that literacy doesn’t stand alone, it’s in every part in what we do,” she said. “By having that partnership with the arts council we are supporting each other and the messages we are getting out is to a bigger audience.”
Town of Okotoks cultural and historical services team leader Allan Boss met Jackson while working for CBC and is impressed by his skills as an entertainer and his fundraising endeavors.
“He’s funny, he tells stories, he sings songs, he’s a great performer so it’s going to be a fabulous evening,” said Boss. “He’s wonderful. He’s friendly. He’s just a joy to be around. It’s a great opportunity.”
Boss said the Literacy for Life Foundation approached the Okotoks Arts Council with a proposition for a fundraising concert to support both organizations and Jackson was a perfect fit.
“If you look at Okotoks that name is an aboriginal word,” he said. “There is a huge history in this country and to have an aboriginal performer like Tom Jackson come here, star of North of 60 and known to Canadians all over the country, especially for a lot of his work with literacy, that’s great.”
Tickets to see Tom Jackson cost $40 and can be purchased at the Okotoks Art Gallery or by calling 403-938-3204. Tickets will also be available at the door if the show is not sold out.