James Jordan’s passion for music began back in 1963 when he discovered the piano in the basement of his family’s home in Bergenfield, New Jersey, a blue-collar town of about 30,000 people, located 25 minutes from Manhattan. After a few lessons from an elderly neighbor, “Jimmy” immediately started pounding out the strains of “Boogie-Woogie”, and he quickly learned “this is fun”! Soon after, his parents purchased a small spinet organ for him, and Jim began playing all of their favorite songs, which were primarily from the “Big Band Era”, as he gradually began to hone his musical skills. Jim would play the organ whenever he had free time, usually in between some kind of sports activity or a game of “kick the can” with his friends; but, he always found the time to play beautiful music for his mom, Victoria, whenever she was preparing dinner, or performing other household chores. (Jim frequently helped his mom with chores, especially with vacuuming the floors, and polishing the furniture…but mom really loved “cooking to the music”.
In 1968, Jim began playing the trumpet, during a summer music school program at Bergenfield High School. Having been a big fan of Herb Alpert, Harry James, Louis Armstrong, and Al Hirt, Jim was very excited with his new hobby, and he practiced the trumpet on a daily basis. The Bergenfield School System boasted (then and now) one of the best music departments in the country, and Jim quickly learned how to play the trumpet, frequently playing solos with various musical performing groups from 1968 to 1978. These groups included the concert band, orchestra, brass quintet, marching band, theater performances, and high school concert choir, under the direction of his favorite teacher, Mike Benard. Jim credits Mike with showing him how to embrace everything you do (especially music) with an intense passion and gusto, and to approach everything in music with love and dedication. According to Jim, Mike Benard instilled this love and devotion in each student whose life he touched, and Jim embraced this philosophy. Jim has been very successful in applying this love and devotion to each activity in his life, especially those involving music. Jim’s enthusiasm, which he gleaned from Mike, has proven to be quite contagious in each activity that he has embarked upon during his life. According to Jim, “Mr. Benard was a giant of a man, and an amazing musical talent, and he was the nicest person that you could ever hope to meet on this Earth”. From 1999-2012, Jim worked as an educator in various capacities (General/vocal/instrumental music/Basic Skills and Classroom Teacher) in the Irvington, NJ School District, Dumont, NJ School District, and Weehawken, NJ School District. Jim loved working with “his kids” at five different schools (K-12) and was very proud to serve as a teacher; Jim added “I always felt that if I could be half the teacher that Mike Benard was, I would be very successful!”
Jim’s musical education was quite extensive; having studied music in the Bergenfield, NJ School System and one of his earliest influences was his middle school band director, Marie Phelan. Jim credits Marcie with leading the way toward achievement and self-fulfillment through hard work, and self-discipline, yet having fun while doing so. Jim has kept in touch with Marcie through the years, and is always very happy to see her. He is extremely grateful for the valuable lessons which she taught him and his classmates. According to Jim, “We had one of the best middle school bands anywhere!” Jim also studied trumpet privately with Claude Fontanella, from the Julliard School in New York; Cecil Collins, former Principal Trumpet for the Metropolitan Opera in New York; Jeff Kievit, nationally-renowned trumpet player and composer; and Dorothy Heier, Professor of Music at William Paterson University, Wayne, New Jersey.
In 1989, Jim decided to form a 17-piece big band, a childhood dream of his since the age of four or five years old, when he first heard recordings of Harry James and his Orchestra, the Glen Miller Orchestra, and the legendary Count Basie Orchestra. From 1989 until 2014, Jim and his bandmates had the pleasure of playing hundreds of “gigs” in the New York/New Jersey/Pennsylvania area, with many wonderful artists including; Jerry Vale, Christian McBride, Buddy Greco, Joe Piscopo, Al Martino, Julius LaRosa, Cristina Fontanelli, and Steve Lippia. Jim recently formed a new version of the Jordan Thomas Orchestra in Vero Beach, Florida where he and his wife Cindy have resided since July, 2014, along with their three dogs, Paco, Baby, and Maya. The “JTO” has already formed a strong presence in Vero Beach, and on the Treasure Coast, and Jim hopes that this positive trend will continue for many years to come.
One of the most prominent experiences in Jim’s life has been his involvement with the drum and bugle corps activity. Jim participated in this exciting musical activity from 1976 through 2016, a 40-year period, as a musician/marching member, drum major, instructor, and administrator. Jim served as the drum major for the Bayonne Bridgemen Drum and Bugle Corps from 1978-1980, and again from 2005-2010. According to Jim, “My drum corps experience was incredibly fun, enlightening, and educational, and it helped me to develop as a musician, performer, and person, in so many different ways.”
Jim formed the “JTO” in the image of the “Count Basie Orchestra”, his favorite band of all-time. “Count Basie and his musicians personified big band music at its best” says Jim, “and no other band performed the music with more energy and passion. Basie’s arrangements, and soloists were some of the best ever, and my goal is to help perpetuate the memory and ardor of this incredibly talented orchestra.”
Having played several different sports, and having been a member of numerous teams/musical ensembles, Jim understands the importance of teamwork, and chemistry. He is a strong proponent of team unity, and working together toward a common goal, and is always trying to improve the bonds between the members of the JTO, and other groups with which he is connected. Shortly before leaving New Jersey, Jim took an early retirement from teaching, having taught in the Irvington, NJ School System for fourteen years, and he is now employed as an Employment Consultant for Easterseals, Florida. Jim assists people with disabilities, and U.S. Military Veterans with obtaining employment. Jim “loves his job with Easterseals”, and hopes to continue to work in this role “for as long as possible!” He adds, “I’m not interested in retiring anytime soon!” In his spare time, Jim loves to go rollerblading early in the morning, while listening to great big band/jazz music, and he and his wife Cindy enjoy kayaking in the local waterways which provides them with “a wonderful peace and tranquility”. “We adore Vero Beach and the wonderful lifestyle that it affords us”. “The JTO has been fulfilling a lifelong dream for me since its inception in 1989. Combined with living here in Vero Beach, my wonderful wife, fantastic job, and three amazing dogs, and I realize that I am one very lucky guy. I am truly blessed, and I count my blessings each and every day.”