Jordan Brooks stands in front of the Orpheum Theater in New York City after learning he earned a spot in the Stomp! cast

Jordan Brooks stands in front of the Orpheum Theater in New York City after learning he earned a spot in the STOMP cast

Lake Highlands High School 2010 grad Jordan Brooks recently landed a role in STOMP, the long-running off-Broadway sensation still selling out the Orpheum Theatre on 2nd Avenue, and this week Brooks and 7 fellow cast members appeared on the Harry Connick, Jr. show to teach the recording star how their infectious style of percussion is done.

“I wanna be an understudy,” exclaimed Connick. “How do I get in on this?”

Brooks is second from the left on the show’s video here.

Wildcat fans remember Brooks from his days leading the Wildcat marching band drumline, and we’ve written on the blog about his exploits competing with the Blue Knights and Santa Clara Vanguard traveling drum corps groups during his summers off from LHHS and Berklee College of Music in Boston. He is currently on summer staff teaching the Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps and with Highland Park High School, where former LHHS drum instructor Jimmy LaBrecque directs the percussion program.

While earning a Master’s at NYU, Jordan studied and performed with various types of musical ensembles, and he performed in multiple musical theater productions at NYU including Hairspray, Catch Me If You Can, Grand Hotel and Man of La Mancha. He currently plays with a non-profit faith-based group called the SymphoNYChorus and with his rock band, Robbing Johnny, and he records and produces for both in Brooks Studios, made possible by an investment from his parents. The SymphoNYChorus Christmas album, “Tidings of Joy,” will be released in November.

From his flat in NYC, Jordan answered my emails as I tried to learn how he went from sixth grade talent show to living large off-Broadway.

Who taught you to play music?

I first picked up drumsticks when I was 9 years old. My dad [David Brooks] is an incredible musician. Most of the LH community knows him as the drummer for Wes Niles and the Texas Skeeters, but what they haven’t seen is his outstanding piano playing. He is truly an inspiring musician, and my mom [Julie, former director of the LHHS Highlandettes] is an incredible dancer. Somehow those two skills are exactly what I needed for STOMP He and my mom put me in piano lessons when I was 5 years old, so I was well equipped with musical knowledge and inspiration by the time I ran into my family’s “band room” and sat down behind my dad’s drum kit. I then began percussion at Merriman Park Elementary in the 6th grade and from there went on to the Forest Meadow Junior High and Lake Highland High School band programs.

My dad was my first teacher. I specifically remember him teaching out of a yellow book that had 2 bar drum grooves. I would try to learn 2 of them a week and put my initials on a page when I thought I had them learned enough to show my dad.  The first song I ever learned how to play on drums was “Brick House” by The Commodores.

When did you play your first show? Did the listeners like it?

My first gig was at the Merriman Park Elementary 6th grade talent show. Garret Alloway, Luke Stringer, Steven Heger and I performed a song called “Make Up Your Mind” under our band name, Arsenal, originally named Left Past Merriman. The audience loved our performance and my mom still has a video recording of the performance at home.

How did you land the STOMP role? Do you play a “character”?

I heard about the NYC STOMP auditions when my mentor and director of percussion studies at NYU, Jonathan Haas, forwarded me this audition announcement via email: “The International Sensation is looking for extremely athletic men and women that have the appearance of late teens to early 30’s for the award winning shows in New York and the National Tour. Drummers who move well, dancers who drum, and actors with these skills are ideal.”

I was on the road teaching for the Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps so I had to make special arrangements to fly back to NYC for the weekend in order to take the audition. My audition group was only one of many auditions that STOMP had around the world to cast for their productions of the national tour, international tour, London, and NYC companies. Hundreds of dancers, drummers, and musical actors lined up at the door the morning of auditions. It was extremely intimidating to see so many talented people gather in front of the doors. There was a series of cuts throughout the audition weekend until they narrowed it down to only fifteen of us. They made their final cut after we left the building, so I went back on the road to teach the Troopers while waiting for a phone call or email with results of the final audition round. That email came Sunday July 24th and I began full time 9a-5p rehearsals on August 1st to learn the entire show. At that point I was one of seventeen from around the world who had been offered a rehearsal contract in NYC with no guarantee of a performance contract. I learned the show and after ten weeks of training, I was one of nine trainees offered a full time performance contract in NYC on October 10th!

There are eight characters in the show, and my character’s name is Potato Head. He is the rock steady rhythmic center of the show. He is a no-nonsense, determined mind that shows his emotion through his aggressive and precise musical tendency.

Do you have your career mapped out or are you on a magic carpet ride, going where opportunities lead you?

I do not have a career mapped out. That is the hardest thing to do as a freelance musician. As long as I have an outlet to create music, I will be happy. I have had many opportunities this past year including going on tour with a major rock band, Mainland, and performing as a percussionist in a Broadway production of The Cherry Orchard. Neither of these opportunities worked out in my favor but they led me to the STOMP auditions where I eventually found success. Many will see my successful casting in STOMP, but they will not see all of the failures that led me here. The old adage is true, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” And as a performer it is easy to get discouraged, but you must trust yourself and pick right back up and aggressively seek the next opportunity. Opportunities do not present themselves, you must create them.

Have friends and family been encouraging on your journey? Do you hope/expect them to come see you in STOMP?

My family has been so incredibly encouraging during my entire music journey. My parents, especially, have encouraged me to take every opportunity and have supported my goals of becoming a professional musician. From driving me across Dallas from drum lessons to soccer practice, to dropping me off in Boston at Berklee College of Music, through my Masters at NYU and now as I become part of the performing professionals in NYC. They have been there holding my hand and supporting my decisions every step of the way in the most loving ways possible. Even at times giving me ideas that I would never think of, and encouraging me to create my own opportunities rather than wait for them to come to me. THINK BIG!  And when you have an incredibly stunning sister [Jenna Brooks] that has performed with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and is currently performing with the San Antonio Silver Dancers Spurs dance team, it is very easy to get the motivation to just go for it! Conversations with my sister always leave me energized and inspired by the way she aggressively pursues her dreams. I am forever grateful for such a passionate and loving family. I love them with all my heart!

I definitely want my LH fam to come see the show! I’m hoping that they are able to travel to NYC at some point, not only for me, but to experience the wonderful city. I’d love to see familiar faces in the audience and I would happily meet up for coffee before or after the show! I love catching up with old friends from LH and seeing what all they have been working on since I have spoken with them last. The LH community is changing the world in the most marvelous ways, and I am proud to call it my home!

Jordan’s answers have been edited for clarity and brevity. Tickets to STOMP can be purchased online here.

Jordan Brooks working at Brooks Studios. Photo by Ashley Coia.

Jordan Brooks working at Brooks Studios. Photo by Ashley Coia.

Jordan Brooks conducts the SymphoNY Chorus.

Jordan Brooks conducts the SymphoNY Chorus.