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'I just let it flow ... Music runs through my blood'

By Greg Gelpi

Jordyn Speakman says that music "flows" through her body and pours out her fingers as they press against the strings of her cello.

"I don't think about the music that much," Speakman, 14, said. "I just let it flow, let the music come to you. Music runs through my blood."

Her face emotionless, her eyes focused on her sheet music as her fingers deftly located the notes along the neck of the cello.

"I knew I wanted to be in orchestra because I always liked string instruments," Speakman said, going on to describe the vibration of the strings. "(Cello) wasn't common. I wanted to be different. I wanted to make cello the cool instrument."

The midrange of the instrument enables her to produce both the lows of the bass as well as the highs of an upper instrument, she said.

And what sets her playing apart is the feeling and moods she draws from the black and white notes on pages of music and puts into her playing, Adamson Middle School orchestra teacher Bridget Long said. She doesn't just "run past" the notes on the page.

Growing up in a family in which everyone was musical in some form fostered her musical talents and musical drive, Speakman said, pointing to her father, Vernon Speakman, who plays piano at Bethel Baptist Church in Decatur.

Although she plays classical music in class, Jordyn Speakman said she prefers jazz, and artists like Diana Krall and the late Nat King Cole. She attributes her jazz "touch" to her father.

Vernon Speakman, 40, who plays a jazzier style of piano at church, said he recognized his daughter's talent as he taught her how to play the piano at the age of 10. And although her playing has yet to surpass his, her playing does impress him.

"I learn a lot from her just watching her play," he said of the father-daughter time spent at the piano, adding how proud he is each time he sees her play, whether at home or on stage.

Along with playing, she also writes music, hearing sounds that she "admires" on the radio and figuring out the notes on the piano.

Her ability to both play by sight and by hearing is "rare," Long said.

"I normally every year choose someone to audition for All-State Orchestra, but it has to be someone to work hard," Long said, adding that Speakman is her first student to be named to the Georgia Music Educators Association All-State Orchestra. "She's definitely beyond an eighth grade style of playing. She's probably on the level of a high school student."

The Adamson Middle School student was selected as the only Clayton County student to perform as part of the All-State Orchestra, Long said.

"It's a feeling you can't really describe in words," Jordyn said of the honor. "The first thought was just 'wow.'"

Speakman will join other middle school students from around the state when they perform together as the All-State Orchestra March 5 in Savannah.

She will be one of only 16 cellists across the state in the orchestra, GMEA Orchestra Division Chair Sydney Mellard said. The cellists were selected from a group of 69 who auditioned at the state level.

Beyond Savannah, she wants to go to college, earn her teaching certificate and master's degree and ultimately join a symphony orchestra to continue her musical endeavors.

If you know an interesting person who should be profiled, send us the name and some information and we will consider featuring that person in a coming Friday. E-mail to bpaslay@news-daily.com .