Student Spotlight: How the Little Drummer Boy Became a Music Man

Anneliese Crumley, Freelance Contributor

Growing up being a bit different can be hard for anyone. Being picked on for nonconformity can happen at home, school, or work. It can happen anywhere you go. For most, it would bring them down. But for this drummer, it did the opposite.

Jordan Johnson, the drummer for the Louisville-based band Pleaser and student at Indiana University Southeast, grew up being picked on. At home and at school, he faced adversity for being different. He was into rock music and was “awkwardly” tall. Then, after his parents’ divorce, he developed adult-like qualities at the young age of seven. Because of this, he was labeled a “buzzkill” and had a hard time fitting in. His love for music also made him stand out. “I was headbanging in a car seat since I was three,” he said.

This is where drums and music come in. After teaching himself to play the drums with chopsticks he found in a restaurant in middle school, Johnson began to use drumming as an escape. “As weird as it is, it’s almost like a shield,” he said. “I just take a step back and start playing.”

He got his start with Pleaser, a new-age pop rock band, after meeting the lead singer at a show in 2017. They needed a new drummer, and he needed a band, so things just fell into place. The band boasts a following of 56,835 listeners on Spotify and 99,500 followers on Instagram. Their most popular song, “Away from You,” currently has 868,252 plays from listeners around the world.

“It sounds a bit basic, but family is my biggest motivation,” said Johnson.

Having shared a difficult past, he and his brother have a special bond. “I went through it and got out of it, so I want to help him do that,” Johnson says.

He cares deeply about those he loves and wants the best for those around him. He hopes to live a good life doing what he loves and is undecided but unafraid about his future.

It is easy to tell Johnson has big things ahead of him. He one day hopes to do something great in the world. “I don’t want to have lived a life and not feel like I did anything,” Johnson said.

It’s a quote everyone can take to heart.

Note:  This story resulted from a feature profile assignment in Journalism J-200 “Reporting, Writing, & Editing I,” a course redesigned by and taught by Lydia Lum.