SUU’s campus is as diverse as it gets. With a large international student community and a plethora of majors to choose from, you never know who you are going to meet in the Student Center between classes or during lunch. SUU has a giant music program which attracts students from all over the state and beyond. Jordan Nielsen, a percussionist since he was 10, has been engaged in the arts most of his life.
As part of the Percussion Ensemble, the Wind Ensemble and the Marching Band, Nielsen is your typical band nerd. “I do percussion, which is all things drums, marimba, cymbals, all that,” Nielsen said. He also said that his favorite percussion instrument is the marimba, which is similar to a xylophone, only bigger.
In professional and semi-professional bands and orchestras, people who play a specific instrument are assigned “chairs,” which are ordered from 1 to 3 according to skill level. But since percussion is such a diverse section, the musicians are ordered a little bit differently.
“I am a section leader. Basically, it’s (SUU’s) equivalent to (the) first chair. In professional orchestras, you will have a specific timpanist, and then you will have a section leader and people underneath that, but not here,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen was not always the percussion meister he is now. In fact, he started as a pianist. “I did start as a pianist when I was 8. I took lessons for 3 years: I really hated it. I quit. I still played, and then I started doing percussion in the 9th grade,” Nielsen said.
This led him to decide to major in music at SUU, a decision seen as anathema to many. “I wanted to just be in music all the time. And I’ve made some of the best friendships and connections through music. There are just so many great people. It’s a fun world,” Nielsen said.
When asked who his favorite composer is, Nielsen said, “Let’s just say, Tchaikovsky.” Nielsen is not all classical, however, and his favorite “normal” band is Panic! at the Disco.
When asked what hobbies he has that are not related to music, Nielsen said, “Reading: and then if there’s a really good TV series I’m into.” He seems to have a penchant for epic fantasy: he is familiar with the likes of The Wheel of Time series and just finished a Game of Thrones book.
Nielsen first became involved with Ask. Ponder. Educate. [X] when Dr. Lynn Vartan, who doubles as both a music director and APEX’s director, first made him aware that there were student positions available. He thusly filled the twin positions of promoter and producer, which involved him in both extra-events and intra-events. His intra-event meticulousness as a producer sometimes extends to ensuring all the independent actors of the event have water bottles.
In addition to his musical ability, Nielsen has also taken up graphic design, especially since becoming the APEX Promoter. The promoting part of his job has helped him to nourish his graphic design talents.
“I honestly just started with playing with shapes in PowerPoint. It’s really easy to just throw in shapes,” Nielsen said. Though from humble beginnings, he is now competent in Illustrator and InDesign, and his hand can be seen in all of the promotion materials for APEX; he even created the logo.
Nielsen’s only motivation to come to SUU was not a scholarship. “(It was) because of Dr. Vartan, actually,” he said. He was considering Weber State, but after having a music lesson with her during his senior year of high school, he decided to switch to SUU. Nielsen said, “I could tell that I could go in with any question, and she’s gonna help me find the answer. She’s a very selfless and amazing teacher. So that’s why [I chose SUU].”
Vartan had praise of her own for Nielsen. “Jordan’s success has so many angles and so many things that contribute to it!” she said. “He is talented, organized, passionate, and dedicated. He has the desire to succeed and the work ethic to lead him to that success. And he is always learning and growing!”
You can see Nielson, and his passion, on display at all of the APEX events, and at Percussion Ensemble performances.
Matthew House for SUU News
Photos Courtesy of