A Trifecta of Talent: North Salem’s Jordan Juan seeks connection through language, music and skating
A flutist, an ice skater, and a linguaphile. Jordan Juan is all of these, and he sees a connection among his three passions.
“I think it’s interesting how they all come together,” said Juan, 17, a senior at North Salem High School. “Music and skating are both arts and both convey emotion. They are kind of like a language. There’s a common theme in the three of these.”
Juan appreciates how he can express himself in these similar ways.
“The whole point is to learn the technique, perfect the technique – your edges, your steps,” he explains. “You learn how to make sound on a flute – how to hold your fingers and play all the notes. Then you learn the grammar of the language.”
Music has played an integral role in Jordan’s life since he was in fourth grade. “I was super-excited to play in band and my first choice was the flute,” he said, never realizing he’d become an award-winning flutist. “I don’t know why but I really wanted to play the flute more than anything else. Looking back on it, I’m very happy. Immediately I loved it so much.” Juan is a member of the NSHS Honors band and has been named to Area All-State, All County, and All-Eastern.
After a year of playing flute, Juan began working with a private tutor. “She said, ‘You can get somewhere with this.’ ” Since then, he switched tutors and has been working with Daphne Sasson for the past six years.
“Every time I learn a piece with Daphne, I always get something new out of it,” said Juan, who likes giving compositions his own spin. “It’s important to take work for what it is and give an authentic performance. The flute is a tool and the piece of music is a vessel for me to express whatever I want to say.”
In November, Juan performed as principal flutist with the Westchester Area All-State Symphonic Band, selected from a competitive audition in the spring. The judges identified him as the top flute player in Westchester County. He was also co-principal flutist with the All-State Orchestra and a 4-year member of the Western Connecticut Youth Orchestra.
Juan sees the flute as an extension of himself. “It has its challenges, but since I’ve started so long ago it’s ingrained into my brain. I can speak through it once I get past the technique,” he said, preferring to play compositions written for solo flute without accompaniment. “It gives you so much more freedom and you can say whatever you have to say, unencumbered by anything else. It’s very rewarding.”
Similar to his journey in music is Juan’s pursuit of ice dancing. “I went ice skating a couple times with my friends and I realized I really liked it; then I decided I wanted to figure skate. One thing about me is when I decide I really like something I dive headfirst into it. I like playing the flute and I like ice dancing, so I want to focus my time on becoming the best at those two things,” said Juan who had never skated until his mother, Alanna, purchased skates for the family for Christmas when he was fifteen years old.
Juan immediately took to skating. “It’s the best thing in the world. As soon as I started, it was constant and I knew this was going to be a big thing going forward,” he said. Skating seven days a week, Juan learned freestyle skating and has landed axels and double toe loops. Last March he switched to ice dancing. “Slowly but surely, I fell in love with it a little bit more.”
For the past three years, Juan has trained with four coaches, at both the Brewster Ice Arena and Evarts Rink in Katonah. “It’s fun. I love it. Ice dance is about skating skills and choreography so it’s more artistic in the same way that flute playing is an art. The only difference is the tool: instead of being the flute, you’re using your body,” he explained.
His third passion is language. As an elementary school student, he downloaded different language learning apps. “There’s something about language I thought was so cool. Then in high school I enthusiastically picked French and have been going strong with it ever since,” he said. “I really love the French language. I love learning it. Last year I took one year of Spanish and I like that, too.”
With many career options. Juan remains undecided about his future. “If I go off to college next year I have to plan out where I’m headed with everything. I know I’m going to go to a college but I have no idea where or what I want to do,” he said. For now, he’s focused on ice dancing. “Competition is definitely on the to-do list. Give me a couple years,” he laughed.