Jordan Rich: From Atlanta Marching Band drummer to New York Times star jazz musician

A new campaign from New York Times highlights some of their most notable readers. rich jordan is a jazz trumpeter who graduated from Lakeside High School here in Atlanta. He now plays in the funk-soul band Chanda and the passengers. Jordan’s story is among those highlighted in the Times campaign, and he joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to share his snapshot of the life of a musician who inspired the New York Times.

Rich’s story leads him to grow up in Decatur and join the high school marching band until today, where he lives and plays his music in Montreal, Canada. He shed light on many of his influences and mentors, but his first and most important influence may well have been his grandmother.

“Grandmother Velma. She was playing gospel music and she was always singing…just songs,” Rich recalled. “In her house, right by the window, she had a Yamaha keyboard with a green music book that had all these notes, these foreign notes that I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it had something thing to do with the music. And from there, I was just going to play, and just play and play and play, and pretend like I was reading the music.

Grandmother Velma noticed her young grandson’s enthusiasm. “And lo and behold, one day in the mail, a very familiar keyboard and book appeared in a box just for me. As a little kid, you think, ‘Okay, a box is coming for me? What is it? what is it?’ And it was that keyboard,” Rich said. “I immediately set it up, turned it on, and was just crying about going to town. I probably drove my parents crazy.

A student at Stevenson Middle School, Rich joined symphony and jazz bands. He then enrolled at Lakeside High, where he joined the marching band. Fast forward: After leaving school and emerging as a professional musician, Rich played with rental bands at weddings, parties and events with musicians from all over jazz, blues and more Atlanta music communities.

Rich’s journey eventually brought him to Canada, after he met his later wife and collaborator, Chanda Holmes of funk band Chanda and the Passengers. Their long-distance relationship and growing history of gigs together sustained them for a while, but as Rich says, “We realized, ‘Hey, I want to be with you, and you want to be with me. How can we close the gap? This was “Operation Close Gap”.

Although Montreal is a new stage for Rich, he joins a well-established group within a vibrant and diverse music community.

“Canda and the Passengers are like the United Nations of funk; that’s what we like to call ourselves…and we play with many other very, very good musicians here in Montreal. I never cease to be amazed at the amount of talent that is here,” Rich said.

Rich was discovered by The New York Times while researching his subscribers, aiming to feature a series promoting independent journalism by putting readers first; highly individual, story-rich readers with unique backgrounds and personal reasons for supporting journalism. The Times campaign includes a video interview with Rich and a featured article on their website, listing a collection of articles chosen by Rich and meaningful to him. It is also lit on a billboard in Times Square.

While Rich’s story as a musician helps inspire readers seeking gems in news and journalism, he shared his gratitude for the work of The Times and other independent news outlets, in saying, “I have so much more respect for the people who make any type of media, and the team. Everyone who worked with me, they were all wonderful and really wanted to make sure I was just who I was, just authentic…I really felt like I was in good hands the whole time.

Jordan Rich’s article in The New York Times’ new campaign to promote independent journalism can be found here. Rich’s billboards are in NYC, DC, LA and Atlanta.

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