AlumNow: Arts alum living her passion one string at a time

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As a student at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Jordan Cleaver, Class of 2008, found the perfect outlet to fuel her love of the arts. Today, Cleaver is a working cellist who, at a young age, has found herself in the company of royalty.

AlumNow, The Hub feature that profiles Dallas ISD alumni, caught up with Cleaver as she took the time to perform and talk with students during career day at Alex W. Spence Talented and Gifted Academy.

What are you doing now?

I am a professional cellist.

Briefly list a few of your career and/or personal highlights.

  • Studied cello at Kennesaw State University and served as both principle and co-principle cellist
  • Performed with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and many other renowned musicians
  • Opened at the Dallas House of Blues for funk legend, George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic
  • Performed for Prince Edward of England and former Prime Minister Tony Blair
  • Performed as a pit musician for many Broadway musicals and opera

What was your favorite subject or activity/involvement in high school?

Orchestra was hands down my favorite subject in high school. As students, we were given the chance to play music repertoire that was far more challenging than what other students my age were playing. Mr. Large put music in front of us that was on a professional and college level. It challenged us mentally and physically, and when I got to college, I was well prepared to play the music put in front of me.

Who was your favorite teacher?

Ms. Reitz was my favorite teacher at arts! She was absolutely phenomenal! I took Pre AP history with her and then later sociology. She made me so excited to learn. I would look forward to going to her class because she always had new creative ways to teach us. I remember she would do social experiments with us like separating the class by a partition and giving one half cookies and making the other half complete work sheets. She pushed our thinking. She encouraged us to think creatively and critically.

What lesson did you learn in high school or beyond that has served you well through the years?

The main thing I took away from high school is to always be passionate about my music. I went to school with kids who were the absolute best at what they did but never lost sight of the reason they picked up their art in the first place. Being an adult is overwhelming! I use my music to pay bills and support my lifestyle, and I often lose sight of the passion I have for my instrument. I often reflect back to high school when I just played for fun to remind myself of the deep love I have for the cello.

What advice, if any, would you offer to high school students today?

I think it is hard to give anyone advice. Especially high school students. I believe you can tell them about your experiences but ultimately, everyone has to go down their own path to learn their own life lessons. I would just try to impart on a student to try to learn from their mistakes the first time and not ignore it to the point that it is hard to bounce back from. Another thing would be to always have a passion. Something you can turn to for release when times get hard, because they will.

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