Composer Takes A Low-key Approach To Music Industry

PEOPLE OF MERIT

December 29, 1991|By Dolly Merritt

Jeff Order leaps and bounds between the keyboards and the computer in his studio. His latest New Age music album, "Keepers of the Light,"is in the works, and the Columbia resident exudes energy with animated conversation and hands in perpetual motion.

Order, 30, has composed music since he began piano lessons at age 4. All three children in his family studied music early, a practice their parents were convinced would help them in school. At 6, Order's parents enrolled him in the New England Conservatory in Boston, where he began to learn music theory.

Since 1988, under the label Order Records, he has composed and produced eight New Age music albums, three of them national releases --"Sea of Tranquility," "Isis Unveiled" and now "Keepers of the Light." Earlier this year, Laurie Records, an independent record company with offices throughout the country, began manufacturing and distributing Order Records. The albums, cassettes and CDs are sold in Recordmasters stores and Andie Music-Musik.

Order also has written commercial music, including radio jingles for Pizz-a-Boli, and songs for an assortment of artists -- local bands, singers and a vocalist and former Miss Maryland who is recording an album.

His Towson-based studio, Order Productions, is a home away from home where he spends Mondaysthrough Saturdays usually working "non-stop" on several projects.

"I work until 2 or 3 a.m. and sleep four or five hours; I sometimes end up falling asleep in the chair," said Order, a bachelor. Sundays find him at home in his Wilde Lake condominium watching football.

In a studio filled with state-of-the art equipment -- a computer, three keyboards, and a mixing board -- Order describes the rigors of hiswork and the creative process.

As owner of Order Productions, hisclients include singers, rap groups, rock bands, dancers and even educators. He does everything from writing and arranging scores to working with vocalists and advising other musicians about ways to developtheir craft.

"I am writing and producing for my clients most of the time. . . . It's wonderful to come out with a song that will work for somebody. I get joy from others who want to create a certain something," he said.

When Order isn't creating for others, he is creating for himself. And he says he can write "any time I sit down."

Inspiration often strikes outside the music studio, coming during an event as mundane as a stroll through a department store or as dramaticas the sight of dolphins in the ocean. If an idea hits outside the studio, Order has been known to go to the nearest phone and sing a tune to his answering machine.

But composing is only one aspect of the creative process. Putting an album together is another. Details such as "mixing" the elements of the compositions until the sound is right, choosing the title of the album and artwork for the cover, and sending the finished product to the record company to be manufactured, distributed and promoted are part of the job.

Getting radio stations to play the music is another hurdle. "The average Joe can't get airplay. You have to build on it," he said. A record promotion company in Maine handles that work for Order.

Another problem, he says, isgetting people to understand what New Age music is. He defines it asinstrumental, but not jazz, with elements of both rock and classicalmusic. It also includes dynamic elements of percussive and rhythm instruments and a very strong melody.

Order says New Age music originally was composed for meditation, and was "very flat, droning" without much melodic content. But the music of such artists as Yanni, George Winston and Vangelis -- with their rich melodies -- has helped popularize New Age.

Because Order's previous albums have been receiving increased exposure, and now that Laurie Records is behind him, Order is confident that his new album will make it to Billboard magazine's Top Adult Alternative Chart.

Although Order admits that the hectic business of recording can be consuming, his goal is to "make the world a little bit better." One way he hopes to accomplish that is through helping the homeless.

In 1986, Order organized 110 musiciansto record a song he wrote about the homeless. It was played simultaneously on 35 radio stations.

"We didn't make any money from the project, but at least it brought some awareness to the homeless issue,"he said. So far, Order has performed three concerts and made six recordings -- two of which he says netted $35,000 -- to benefit the homeless. Last year, he put out a Christmas album, "Home for Christmas," which raised several thousand dollars.

"I became involved in the homeless issue because I never had any idea of what it was like to live on the streets," said Order. His father, a physician, raised the family in comfortable surroundings in Owings Mills and Cherry Hill, N.J.

After spending some time on the streets of Baltimore talking to the homeless and observing their needs, Order was appalled.

"They needed help. They are people, and I wanted to do something for them. I wrote a song, 'Giving Hands,' because I wanted to make people aware," Order said.

Besides these involvements, Order manages to find time to rehearse with his New Age band, Jeff Order & Co. The six-person group rehearses at least once a week and has appeared at the Fells Point Festival in Baltimore, Goucher College, Harborplace and on Channel 2.

"We don't have fun jam sessions; we have a disciplined practice, and we are drained and tired when practices are over," Order said. But the band is a way to spread New Age music to new listeners.

"The celebrity thing I don't care about," he adds. "I will be happyto be able to write and perform music that I like and that people will enjoy. I don't care if people never say my name on national TV.

"I love what I do. If you are not doing what you like to do in life,why do it at all?"

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