A lot of kids get into music at some point in their lives — taking music lessons, perhaps, or joining a children’s choir.
For a lot of young people, that’s as far as it goes.
Not so with Jordan Owen, now a senior at East Rowan High School.
“Music has always been a really big part of my life,” Owen said.
That’s an understatement, when you consider that she plays nine instruments, and has been taking voice lessons for about 11 years now.
During her four years of high school, she’s played in the marching band, wind ensemble and jazz band. She also sings in her school’s honors chorus.
And, if you’ve been to an East Rowan football game this season, you’ve probably seen her conducting the marching band as drum major.
All this takes hours of practice, plus a good deal of dedication and determination.
Those who know her best say Jordan has both.
And, about six weeks from now, she’ll be performing for a much bigger audience.
Last week, Jordan was officially invited by the U.S. Army to perform with the All-American Marching Band at the Jan. 4, 2014 U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas.
Army officers came to East Rowan High for a special assembly announcing her selection.
Jordan was one of over 1,300 students who auditioned for the All-American Band.
Only 125 are chosen from across the United States for that honor.
Students don’t have to be in Army JROTC, or even related to a service member, in order to be selected.
They do have to have superior musical skill and marching ability.
In addition to a personal interview, Jordan sent in a video of herself marching and playing both a piece selected by the audition committee and a piece she chose herself.
The Owens were on vacation at the beach when the good news came in.
Emily McNeil, East Rowan’s band director, called Jordan’s mother, Cheryl, to deliver the good news.
Cheryl said she’s proud of Jordan, especially because of how much effort her daughter puts into not just music, but life in general.
“Anything she sets her mind to, she seems to be successful at,” Cheryl said. “She’s had a lot of success, but there’s been some disappointment, too. But that just makes her try that much harder.”
“She amazes me,” said David Owen, Jordan’s father. “Once she reaches one goal, she sets another, and she’s always striving to improve herself.”
Jordan has played in front of big crowds before.
She’s taken part in the all-county band for the last five years, and was first chair clarinet during the last two years. She’s also been in the all-district band for three years.
And, this past January, she performed with the All-Star Invitational Marching Band at the Orange Bowl.
This honor, she said, “feels amazing.”
For having been selected, Jordan will get an all-expense paid trip to San Antonio, including flight, hotel and food.
She’ll also be provided with gear for her rehearsal and performance.
In addition, she’ll spend several days rehearsing and performing with top-class high school and college musicians, as well as musicians from the U.S. Army Field Band.
“So far, we only know of nine (students) in North Carolina who made it,” Cheryl said, although official announcements are still being made.
Nettie Loflin has been Jordan’s voice teacher since the age of six.
In a phone interview Sunday, Loflin said Jordan’s vocal ability is impressive, and that she consistently gets superior ratings.
“She can do opera just as well as she can sing sacred music,” Loflin said.
And Loflin said she’s proud of what her student has accomplished in marching band and instrumental music in general.
“She is going to amount to a lot,” Loflin said.
Throughout her years at East Rowan, McNeil said, Jordan has grown to her potential.
“She was very quiet when she first got to high school, but she was a very hard worker,” said McNeil, who’s been band director at East Rowan for five years.
Jordan had been in band as a middle-school student, and showed enough promise that McNeil placed her in the wind ensemble during her freshman year.
Jordan’s musical knowledge carries over in the way she conducts the marching band.
“When I was working with her, I told her that her objective is to conduct what she wants the music to sound like,” McNeil said.
And Jordan’s vocal ability has also helped her bandmates, McNeil said.
“She sings just the right pitches, she sings with the right inflection and articulation,” McNeil said.
The result is that she can help model music for other students.
McNeil said she was “incredibly excited” to get the e-mail saying Jordan had been selected for the All-American Band — the second time in recent years that an East Rowan student has been chosen.
“It’s great to see kids earn that honor, because it shows the kids that they’re all capable of doing that,” McNeil said.
When she takes the field at the Alamodome, Jordan will be playing her clarinet, the instrument she said she plays most often.
“It has a beautiful tone, (and) it gives you opportunities to play more technically complex music,” she said.
That’s important to her. Although she’s played softball in the past, “I’m not really the most sporty person,” Jordan said. “So, being able to play music has given me an outlet to express myself.”
She also said music has helped her grow as a person.
“When I was in middle school, I was really, really shy,” Jordan said.
Being in band got her used to performing in front of others, and helped her open up.
“If I hadn’t been in the band, I probably wouldn’t be able to talk to you. I’d be choking!” Jordan said during her interview.
What Jordan said she’s learned from music, and what she said she’d want others to learn, is the value of determination.
“If you fail the first time that you try, you try again,” Jordan said. “Once you set that goal for yourself, you can’t give up on it. You’re going to miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”
And there have been times Jordan auditioned and didn’t get picked.
More recently, Jordan has had to balance her musical interests with schoolwork and a part-time job, which makes for a very busy schedule.
“The other day, I sat at home and I had free time,” Jordan said. “It felt weird!”
Meanwhile, Jordan said she’s looking forward to attending East Carolina University next fall, where she plans to study biology, but also hopes to join the Marching Pirates band.
She is thinking about a career in occupational therapy, but said she expects music to be a part of her life no matter what she does for a living.
“Even if I can’t be in some big orchestra, I see myself teaching private lessons, being in a community band,” Jordan said. “I’ve put so much time and effort into music that I can’t see myself quitting.”
As Jordan’s high school career winds down, McNeil said she thinks Jordan will continue to be an example for her bandmates.
McNeil said Jordan set the bar high by auditioning for so many different opportunities to play.
“I hope that carries through for some of the younger students who want to succeed,” McNeil said.
Auditioning for the All-American Band took Jordan Owen hours upon hours of practice, with no guarantee of getting in.
But when you talk to Jordan Owen about her love of music, you get the idea that bright lights and flashbulbs aren’t the reason she does this.
It’s the sense of accomplishment that comes from doing something very well.
Or, as she put it: “That feeling you get after doing a really good show, it’s the best feeling in the world.”
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.
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