Roger Jordan experienced success with several musical instruments, going back to his middle school band days. Then in the summer of 2011, Jordan tried something different and found a little magic in the process.
Jordan became involved in music in the seventh grade while living in Knox County. He moved to Evarts later that year and continued in the band where he played trumpet under director Mike Shepherd.
During his first band camp at Harlan County High School as a junior, Jordan switched to French horn and then baritone.
“Then I found tuba,” he said. “I kind of saw it on the ground and I asked if I could play it. I was a lot happier with it.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
Jordan soon established himself as one of the best tuba players in Kentucky, first by participating in a regional competition at North Laurel High School to qualify for the state trials.
“The judges told me I shouldn’t have any problems being the top. They said it was the best audition they had ever heard,” Jordan said.
Jordan participated in the state auditions on Dec. 8 at John Hardin High School in Elizabethtown but wasn’t at full strength due to an illness that led to respiratory problems.
“I was sick,” he said. “I had a really bad cough and couldn’t hardly breathe. I don’t know how I got through it. I know I could have done better. I beat the guy who was first before.”
Even though he wasn’t at his best, Jordan was good enough to earn the sixth chair out of 53 qualifying tuba players from around the state.
He heard from James Adams, one of the HCHS band directors, on Dec. 9 and was told he made the cut this year.
“I was very happy to hear that,” Jordan said. “I think it will be really neat. I think I will learn a ton, and I have learned a ton already.”
He will participate in the Kentucky Music Educators Association state conference on Feb. 6-9 in Louisville. The performance is set for Feb. 9 at the International Convention Center.
Jordan is the first instrumentalist from Harlan County High School to make state honor band, according to school officials, and is first low brass player from eastern Kentucky to advance to the state honor band in the last 19 years.
“It’s very difficult. You take maybe the top 100 kids in the state. It’s quite an ordeal. You have to go through two auditions before you are accepted in the state honor band,” said HCHS director Mike Shepherd. “They only took 13 tubas out of 53 this year and Roger was sixth, even though he was sick.
“He has always been a kid who works hard. He wants to be good. He puts in the time he needs.”
Jordan credits Adams for teaching him the finer points of playing the tuba when he was a junior at HCHS. He tried out for the state honor band later that year and fell just short of qualifying.
“One of my teachers sent me an e-mail and told me I didn’t make it,” Jordan said. “I was kind of down and said I couldn’t let that happen again.”
Jordan added two-hour practice sessions at home to his practices at school, often one hour for the marching band and another for the jazz band.
“I pushed myself a lot harder than I ever have to get to where I could be in it,” he said.
Jordan is the son of Roger and Bernice Jordan, of Teetersville. His brother, Josh, is an eighth grader.
Jordan has caught the attention of school officials, including HCHS Principal Bob Howard, who stressed the importance of music when he took over as the leader of the school before it opened.
“I’m really proud of Roger. I’ve watched him since his first day here carrying that big tuba box around,” Howard said. “It’s a good indication of how well around our program is going that our kids are getting recognition of their work like Roger. I’m proud that we’re being recognized statewide for our band in the first five years of the school.”
After graduating from HCHS, Jordan plans to attend Eastern Kentucky University and major in musical education and performance.
He will try out for the EKU honor band on Feb. 21 where he hopes to earn a scholarship. He plans to continue playing after college and perhaps work as a band director.