High achiever strikes sweet, calming notes on viola
Jordon Crawford plays the viola as if he had been born with it. When he holds his "one true love" in an intimate embrace, he is lost to the world, allowing the sweet strains of the calming notes to take him to another place.
The 17-year-old Kingston College (KC) student not only plays his musical instrument with intense passion and love, he speaks of his craft with the same emotional conviction.
"I have this love and this passion for music that there is no doubt in my mind that this is my calling," the principal violist for the National Youth Orchestra in Jamaica (NYOJ) told The Gleaner.
His natural-born talent won him a full scholarship to the United World College (UWC), Robert Bosch campus, in Freiburg, Germany, starting in September, where he will pursue a two-year international baccalaureate programme. Out of a field of 50 applicants, he was one of three selected.
Jordon's love for music started when he was a baby, thanks to his father Wilvin Crawford, an avid music lover.
"He would sit me in his lap and we just listened to music and he would talk for hours about music. When he was driving me to school, people would be looking at us because oldies music would be thumping in the car. He was determined that I should play an instrument," he shared.
Reflecting on those fond memories shared with his father, he added with laughter: "I remember he would get the comb and put the foil paper over it and we would play it like a harmonica. This was very special for me because this was one of the ways we connected - through music. My father was the real reason I started and got the love for it."
Sadly, before he was able to see his son fulfill those dreams, Wilvin, an inspector of police, died of kidney failure when Jordon was only 10 years old.
But the young man was determined to carry on his father's wishes. At age 12, a year after starting at KC, he signed up with the NYOJ.
"From the moment I joined NYOJ, it has been an extraordinary experience. On signing up, the director of music, Mr Darren Young, would assess each student, and then, based on your personality and attitude, he would suggest an instrument that best suits you. I was given the violin because he said I was a perfectionist and loved challenging stuff, and believe you me, the violin can be challenging," the pleasant young man stated.
That was his first experience playing a musical instrument, and today, Jordon plays two musical instruments with near mastery: grade six level with the violin and grade seven with the viola. Grade eight is the highest, as ranked by the Royal School of Music.
The viola is slightly larger than the violin and has a lower and deeper sound than the violin.
It took Jordon only four months to get to the grade seven level with the viola, which has become his favourite instrument because of its rarity in the music industry. He is, in fact, one of a handful of violists in Jamaica.
The NYOJ's conductor, Darren Young, found Jordon's ability not at all surprising as from the moment he started working with him, he knew he was gifted as "a great sight reader" - someone with the ability to read and produce both instrumental and vocal music at first sight.
"Jordon can take up any piece of music and read it," Young said of him.
Humbled by his gift, Jordon said: "If you want something hard enough, with resilience you will get it. I spent hours every single day practising. I also found that playing calms me down. Whenever I get stressed or the pressure of preparing for exams gets to me, I just take to Viola, the name of my viola, or Symphonia, the name of my violin, and I would just play and play. It is as if it takes me into another world. I can literally feel myself calming down as the stress just falls away. If I am stressed, sad, angry, upset, lonely, depressed, music soothes it all away. I can't explain it, but music does something to you."
He added, "Don't get me wrong, they are hard, but the love I have for it just overshadows everything."
Jordon credits the NYOJ as one of the saving graces in his life. A social-intervention programme that targets at-risk students, among its aims is to change students by using music as an instrument.
"They are like my second home. I owe a lot to them," he said.
At the age of 16 years, he became the first student instructor of the NYOJ, now teaching classes at the Windward Road Primary and Junior High School. The NYOJ has also given him the opportunity to perform for elite audiences both locally and abroad.
HIGHLIGHT OF MY LIFE
In fact, he is so gifted, the young man is not only winning awards and scholarships, he is getting calls for paying gigs.
"Being a member of this orchestra has taken me to so many interesting places and exposed me to so many people and so many things that have been the highlight of my life, and now, because of NYOJ, I am on my way to Germany on a full scholarship to UWC. Europe is like the land of classical music. This is an incredible opportunity and will give me the chance to reach great heights in music," he said.
Now sitting 10 subjects in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examinations, the constant high achiever is also preparing for a career as an anatomical pathologist.
"Medicine is something I'm very passionate about as well. Seeing what both my parents went through has changed my life drastically," he stated.
A car accident in 2006 left his mother, Lorna Hills, partially disabled, forcing her into early retirement from her job as a teacher. They share a home with other relatives in Greater Portmore, St Catherine.
"I know what I went through, and I would never want anyone to go through the pain and torture I experienced, seeing my mother suffering and losing my father at such an early age. Wanting to become an anatomical pathologist stems from that because I can study the body, know what goes wrong, where it went wrong, and how best to treat it," Jordon explained.
He added, "I am so proud of my mother. She is my driving force. I owe all of my achievements to her and her encouragement. She is my mother, father, and best friend."
With laughter, he continued, "I am her wash-belly (youngest child), so she is worried about me going off to school so far on my own, but she knows I can do it."
A devout Christian, Jordon credits the help of good friends, family, and relatives, the Church, the NYOJ, and school as having helped him make it through life.
"It has not been easy, especially financially, but God has placed some great people in my life. I couldn't have made it without them. My friend Paul Robinson's parents have practically adopted me. They have been extremely good to me. Dr Paul (senior) and Mrs Angela Robinson are like God-sent angels in my life," he said.
"I have no doubt whatsoever that God will continue to help me to get to where He is leading me. He brought me this far, and He says He will never leave us nor forsake us, and I believe that with all my heart."
Jordon is confident that he can be quite successful as both a world renowned violist and an anatomical pathologist.
"I just want to be an inspiration to others, especially young men facing challenges, and to let them know that in spite of their circumstances, with dedication and hard work, there is nothing you can't do," he said.
"I live by the motto: Do today what others won't so that tomorrow you can do what others can't."