There is a scene in the blockbuster film Drumline, where the drum major, Sean (played by Leonard Roberts) is leading the incoming drummers in a slow, measured tempo clap, the tip of his fingers resting on the neck of one of the drummers. Slowly, he raises his other hand, prompting the drummers to clap faster. Then, just as quickly as it starts, he signals a cutting motion, and they stop…
Sean explains that the drumline is both the pulse and pace of the marching band.
My name is Jordan Jetson, and this is my Crystal Stair.
An Angel Left Me; An Angel Came to Me
During the second semester of my freshman year just two weeks before my final exams, my great-grandmother passed away. I’d grown up in her house in smoldering Atlanta, Georgia. Education had been very important in my family as my great-grandmother was a graduate of Rust College and an educator for several years. Her influence led my grandmother and my mother to attend Howard University, and then ultimately for me to attend Howard so many years later. She was an abundant source of love, care, and support. Her passing left an immense and confusing void for me, but I used her many lessons to lead me along my way. Growing up, before I left for school or summer camp, she would always tell me to “be good”. I didn’t know then, but those two words would have more of an impact than I could have ever expected.
That semester ended, and my GPA was held together due to a number of understanding professors. I tried using a summer job to take my mind off things, but once I returned to Howard for the next semester, I realized the confusing void was still there. I was failing tests & missing classes, in a downward spiral, unsure of my next move. Unsure if the path I was taking was the “right choice” after being reminded of the fragility of life.
One day, after another failed test, a woman in a FedEx uniform was delivering packages and saw that I was down. She asked me “what’s wrong”? At that moment, I responded, “I’m not sure, I think —everything”. She then told me, “ figure out what you want to do and make sure it’s something that you want to do. Do it, and make sure you’re loving it while doing it”. To this day, I still view her as an angel in a FedEx uniform, an extension of my great-grandmother telling me to “be good” once more.
Being a DJ
The next semester, I did exactly what my angel told me. I changed my major, got more invested into what I wanted to do, and started ‘being good’ to myself. My lifelong love for music started leading me on the right path. Well, that and my friend Izzy. He took me to my first house party, where he was hosting. That’s where I saw DJing up close and personal. Do you remember that scene in Drumline where Devin is dancing with Laila and time starts slowing down? It was like that, but without me dancing with Zoe Saldana.
I decided that being a DJ was what I wanted to do. I asked Kam, the DJ from that party, to teach me the basics, and then I got some equipment. I’ve always had this love for music and never knew where to place it. It usually led to me drumming on tables and walls with my hands, or beat-boxing a pattern, anything to make music in real-time. DJ’ing became that release. It was an expression of art that felt the most real to me. I could feel the love I had for my craft, and that kept me going. It also led to other callings, like branding and graphic design. Being a DJ even helped me create a network of people that I call my friends and family. It’s given me more than I could’ve ever imagined. That’s how I knew that what I wanted to do was exactly what I was supposed to be doing.
In the same way, the drums control the pace of a band, so the DJ does to events, and I’m that DJ. I get to help create experiences for people. Seeing the faces of people light up when I mix two (or three) of their favorite songs together and watching them freely express themselves through dance and knowing that I created that experience…is a beautiful thing. It’s much more than music, you are a creator of moments, master of reminisces, and curator of nostalgia.
5 years later, I’m still in love with the art. I’m not the best, but I’m growing and learning every day. Perfection isn’t the goal, progress is. I’m comfortable knowing that I am doing what I want to do. Controlling the pace of my life, the pulse of my passion, and being good to myself.