Violin virtuoso in D.C.: School of the Arts student Jordan Elum performs at Kennedy Center

Jordan Elum, a student at the Charleston County School of the Arts, is participating in the National Symphony Orchestra Summer Music Institute in Washington.

A rare opportunity, and a feather in his cap.

Violinist Jordan Elum, 16, of North Charleston was one of only 55 students from 27 states selected to participate in the National Symphony Orchestra Summer Music Institute in Washington.

As that program ends July 25, Jordan, a rising junior at the Charleston County School of the Arts, looks forward to the capstone of his experience: a series of performances at the Kennedy Center.

"I'll be performing in the two SMI orchestral concerts, and my chamber group's concert on the Millennium Stage," Jordan said during a brief respite Friday. His first concert was Sunday evening in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. "It is very exciting to be performing on the stage of the home of the National Symphony Orchestra."

A component of the Kennedy Center Education Department, the NSO Trustees' 19th annual Summer Music Institute is an intensive four-week course of study and performance. Included are side-by-side rehearsal with orchestra members, master classes with orchestra musicians and a series of student competitions.

"We're still preparing and looking forward to the side-by-side rehearsal, and the master classes," Jordan said. "But the ability to be in almost constant contact with NSO musicians is very informative and inspiring."

Jordan is one of five South Carolinians chosen this year. Joining him are Benjamin Chen (clarinet) of Simpsonville, Joshua Dieringer (viola) of Greenville, Charles Weston Olencki (trombone) of Spartanburg, and Daniel Peterson (horn), also of Spartanburg.

Jordan's mother, Anne Elum, couldn't be prouder of her son's latest accomplishment, which follows noteworthy victories in spelling and oratory competitions.

"When Jordan was in the 5th grade, a music teacher came recruiting for middle school," she recalled. "Jordan asked to join, and has been self-directed and self-motivated ever since. More, he's very passionate about the violin. The year before, he had asked to take piano lessons, which he is still doing, but he is devoted to the violin.

"The pace of his development has accelerated. And he always strives to be the first chair, as in the All-State Orchestra this year "

Yet Jordan, who aspires to attend the Juilliard School of Music in New York, considers himself a late starter.

"I did not begin playing until age 11, and the notion of auditioning for prominent conservatories in a couple of years is daunting at best. But I do aspire to become a professional orchestral musician. My other interests are in neurology and psychology."

Jordan is accustomed to a demanding schedule, but the institute has proven to be even more challenging. It took some time to adjust to the constant drumbeat of rehearsals, lessons, concerts and personal practice.

"But there is a great variety in the scheduling," Jordan said. "The program is designed to introduce new aspects like conducting, competitions, seminars, concerts, master classes and sightseeing throughout, so that there is always a new activity to look forward to. But yes, playing through one rehearsal to the next can sometimes be hectic."

Drawn to the late 19th-century works of such Romantic composers such as Tchaikovsky and Brahms, as well as to the baroque compositions of Bach, among others, Jordan approached his participation in the institute optimistically, even though he admits to having been overwhelmed by the caliber of musicianship he encountered.

"For me, this is a special opportunity to learn and improve all aspects of my musicianship in orchestral, chamber and solo settings. Also, this is a chance to experience being an individual musician in a metropolitan setting in which all the arts are a thriving and vital part of the culture."

None of his teachers are surprised by the exceptional progress demonstrated by Jordan, a featured soloist with the Spoleto Festival Orchestra in May.

"Jordan has been my student for the past several years, and in this time I have seen him advance from young student to an advanced virtuoso violinist," said Megan Molina, a musician and associate assistant concertmaster for the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. "Jordan is a very talented student, energetic, confident and organized ... with a total commitment to hard work and a huge love for music and the violin."

Reach Bill Thompson at 937-5707.