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Young musician takes on old tradition: spoons
Eight-year-old Jordan Altice keeps the rhythm on stage at the Lions Club bluegrass show and other concerts with spoon-playing. He has been playing spoons since he was about 3 years old and has been on stage at least since he was 5.
When Jordan Altice entered kindergarten, he announced that he would not be able to attend school on Tuesdays. That would interrupt his jam sessions.
Even at 5, the boy was a regular performer at the Tuesday morning music gatherings at the Stanleytown Hardees. He plays spoons.
Now 8, he goes to school even on Tuesdays, and he misses Hardees. However, he also now is a regular on stage at the Lions Club’s monthly bluegrass shows at the Rives Theatre, and he recently was invited to join the open mic session at the Spencer-Penn Centre.
Local musician Melvin Parcell got him his start. Jordan’s grandparents, Claude and Betty Cheshire, often took Jordan to breakfast at the Hardee’s on Bridge Street, where Parcell also was a regular.
Jordan’s mother, Janet Altice, recalled that Parcell made Jordan a set of wooden spoons when her son was 3 years old. Parcell bought Jordan a set of metal spoons when Jordan was 5.
“Mel started a lot of little kids in music,” she said.
Parcell invited Jordan to play with the Tuesday group at Hardees. By 2009, he was playing at the Rives on Saturday nights with the Lions Club bluegrass shows.
“He doesn’t fit in with all those old folks real good, but he sure does like playing with them,” his mother chuckled.
“It feels good” to play on stage, Jordan said.
Jordan said he was nervous the first time he played on stage. His mother looked surprised at that statement, countering that “at the time you said you were not nervous” and he didn’t look disconcerted.
Jordan said he prefers “fast songs” but likes “some slow songs.” His favorite musicians lately are Elvis Presley, the Oak Ridge Boys, Bay City Rollers, Kiss, the Beetles and the Monkees.
One of his favorite songs to perform on stage is “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.” He recently really got down to “Good Hearted Woman in Love with a Good Hearted Man,” his mother said.
“Those spoons were flying so fast it looked like they were on fire,” she said.
“I know one thing,” Jordan said. “I beat the tar out of them.”
Janet Altice said her son always has had rhythm. When he was just a baby, he would stand on her lap at church and wave around his arms like the choir director.
Jordan picks up on any rhythm, his mother said, and constantly is banging out tunes. She recalled a car ride. He was sitting in the back seat, beating on an empty CD case. “He got so much rhythm out of a CD box it sounds like he’s got a set of drums,” she chuckled.
She said she once asked her son how he hits his rhythm, and he responded, “Mama, it’s complicated.”
At Jordan’s last Tuesday-morning session before starting kindergarten, he came prepared. His mother had made 12 thank-you notes for the band members. Each note had his photograph and a message.
However, the notes were in hot demand. “The choir took them all,” and Jordan spent about 45 minutes autographing them, she said. She had to make another batch of notes to give to the band members and more choir members.
Jordan’s latest undertaking is guitar. He takes lessons on Friday evenings from his cousin, Rodney Smith, who works at Woodall Music. Smith is not a music teacher, and “Jordan is his first pupil,” Janet Altice said, but Smith has taught him well in this past year.
The songs he plays most on guitar so far are “London Bridge,” “Skip to My Lou” and “Three Blind Mice,” Jordan said.
He also has a set of drums, a banjo and, from Parcell, a harmonica. He tinkers on all of those instruments.
Jordan said he is not interested in singing, but his mother said he is a good singer and picks up lyrics after listening to a song only once or twice. “He sings the words to every song on every CD,” she said, “and knows all the Elvis songs.” He sings at Trinity Baptist Church.
Janet Altice is a substitute teacher at Snow Creek Elementary School, and her husband, Justin Altice, manages Bassett Country Club. Jordan is in third grade at Snow Creek.
The 8-year-old also plays basketball and soccer, both with Franklin County Parks and Recreation.
He collects Batman, Superman and Ghostbuster items. He is proud of six Zorro comic books he recently bought at a flea market, and he is interested in the Titanic, he said.
The couple have noticed their son is turning into a celebrity. He is recognized wherever they go, often by people his parents don’t know. “People in the mall holler, ‘Hey, Jordan! Hey, Jordan!’” Janet Altice said.