Fall 2016

|  by Sandra Beckwith

Star Power

Musical alum sings OU’s praises for helping him find voice

His story is straight out of a Lifetime movie.

The first in his family to attend college, Adam “Aejaye” Jackson, SEHS ’86, turned down a scholarship at Berklee College of Music in Boston because it was too far from home.

After a brief but unsatisfactory experience at a community college, Jackson enrolled at OU — where he joined the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and thrived.

“I found my voice at Oakland University, literally and figuratively,” Jackson recalled.

After graduating, Jackson returned to Detroit and began substitute teaching while singing at a club six nights a week. But when his beloved mother died just a year later, he decided to waste no time in moving to Los Angeles to pursue his true passion: music.

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. When his ride from the airport didn’t show, Jackson was stranded at Los Angeles International Airport with $35 in his pocket, wondering if the move was a mistake.

“But I’m a believer,” Jackson said. “I heard the voice of God saying, ‘It’s going to be okay. Be still and think about it.’”

Flash forward to Super Bowl 2016

Alongside actor Jeff Goldblum, Jackson found himself singing on-screen in a robed choir in an ad as part of the most-watched program in TV history: Super Bowl 50. He had just finished a national gig singing the Go-Go’s “Head Over Heels” in a Honda clearance event commercial.

Performing around the world steadily since he got off the plane
 in Los Angeles 30 years ago, Jackson’s resume has continued to swell. A regular vocalist at popular upscale Los Angeles venues that include the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and the Resort at Pelican Hill, Jackson has experienced opportunities that would make
any aspiring vocalist or actor swoon. In addition to owning Full Spectrum Music and performing with the Full Spectrum band, his credits include everything from co-starring in “The Steve Harvey Show” and “Beverly Hills 90210” to touring with 5th Dimension lead singer Marilyn McCoo in the U.S. and with Billy Griffin of The Miracles in Europe.

Jackson has sung with Josh Groban, Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder. His favorite performing memory came when he contracted a condition called “Vegas throat,” signature to the desert area. A call to a friend who was in town working with Gladys Knight introduced him to the treatment for the painful condition caused by a combination of factors unique to the area.

The legendary singer herself insisted that Jackson come to her room for her cure: a concoction of cayenne pepper, raw honey and ginger stirred into hot water.

“Getting that advice from her in person was pretty amazing,” Jackson said.

He later appeared with Knight on the Cosby Show spinoff, “A Different World,” and as a singer on her re-make of “I Hope You Dance” for Tyler Perry’s “The Family That Preys.”

Successfully self-employed for 30 years in a competitive industry, Jackson remains humble in spite of his consistent success.

He credits Oakland University for much of it, even decades later. In particular, he remembers participating in a program called “Project 25” that brought incoming minority students to OU’s campus during summer to prepare them for campus life in the fall was pivotal.

“They made me feel so important — that I deserved to be there,” Jackson recalled. “I still hold that dear to my heart.”

His fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi, and two OU mentors, Ron Kevern and Manuel Pierson, have remained powerful forces in his life long after graduation.

They taught him the importance of mentoring, so Jackson now participates in an academic mentorship program through the fraternity’s Kappa League program. He is also active in Engage the Vision, a group of men in the performance industry who visit an elementary school once a week to mentor boys.

Even his marriage has Golden Grizzly ties. Jackson met his wife his first day on OU’s campus. They didn’t date then, but in classic showbiz twist, after Linda Long-Jackson visited him in Los Angeles, “a light bulb went on over our heads,” he said.

They married 10 years after meeting and now have three children. For Jackson, the beautiful song continues.

He added, “It’s very humbling. I feel very proud to be associated with everybody from Oakland University.”