Our Person of the Week is using her senses to find her voice

Last Saturday Jordan Scheffer won her first singing competition -- Blind Idol.(Photo credit: WLOS staff)

By any measure, Jordan Scheffer is an extraordinary young woman.

The rising senior in the SILSA program at Asheville High School has an incredible voice ... and an even better story behind it.

"I've loved music literally since I was born, I guess," Scheffer said. "My parents used to play music for me when I was in my mother's stomach."

She learned to play piano before she was 4-years-old, but it's her voice that's now gaining her national attention.

On Saturday, Scheffer entered her first singing competition -- Blind Idol, put on by Industries For the Blind. From the 75 who entered, 15 semifinalists were chosen. Those were whittled down to five finalists...and Scheffer won.

"I sensed the energy of the people, and my body and brain went into a crazy little fit and didn't know what to think. It was overwhelming. When things like that happen, it takes me a long time to process them. If I win, win an award, win something, a big honor or a huge thing happens, it takes a few days to process it. It needs to get in my head. Then I can go, 'I won this'."

Scheffer's voice is only one of the things that makes her so incredibly unique.

Blind since birth, her senses are especially suited for singing.

"I possess synesthesia," she said. "It's like an overlap of two senses. When I hear music or a voice or a word, I might smell something or feel a certain thing. When I hear the word 'happy,' it's like I sense light. Or when I hear the word 'Wednesday,' I just sense neutralness."

Scheffer also has perfect pitch, which refers to the ability to detect and recreate musical notes simply by hearing them.

Her father, Eric, demonstrates by clinging a large red wine glass--the kind you see at Vinnie's, the neighborhood Italian restaurant he owns in North Asheville.

"That's F," Jordan replies confidently.

He repeats the demo with a small metal bowl with a mallet.

"Well there's two pitches," Jordan says. "There's C sharp and seems as if there's G."

Her parents say it's not her hearing that causes some of those classic teenager-parent arguments.

"She's got very strong opinions," says her mother, Heidi.

She's also got a great sense of humor and a highly positive outlook on life. Jordan believes her blindness is a blessing.

"I think God has made me this way for a reason," she said.

Her parents believe there must have been a reason, because they were told she might not make it at all.

Born at 23 weeks, her chances of survival were not good.

"They set us up for the worst," Eric says about the doctors who cared for her. "They have to do that."

The prognosis even if she did survive was "a scary outcome."

She weighed 1 lb. 2 oz. when she was born, and was only 11 inches long.

Her parents couldn't touch her for the first two months because her skin was still developing. Her eyes were fused and never developed a fully round shape.

"But she was a fighter," her mother said. "She came here for something, and she has that same spirit still. It's remarkable."

Jordan has been blind her whole life, and says she wouldn't want it any other way.

"My blindness has let me see things in the world I might not be able to if I'm sighted," she said. "I don't judge on race, what people are wearing, whether they're tall or short. I get to know people for their personalities first. Really, i have no choice."

Eric, a former movie and music producer-turned-restaurateur, and Heidi, a former model from Argentina, say they are the lucky ones.

"I'm blessed that she chose us," Eric said with tears. "It's emotional's been a tough road. And we've learned so much about each other. It's been hard for us, and I feel like we're just now coming out the other side as so much better people."

"They're amazing people," Jordan said of her parents lovingly. "My dad's good at protecting me, keeping me safe, making sure I'm OK. My mom's good at keeping my emotional side in check and listening to me when I'm having weird days or whatever. Of course, I love them immensely. I think sometimes that can kind of be forgotten because of just how hectic things can get."

Scheffer said she loves performing but has no interest in trying out for "American Idol" when the ABC-remade version brings its judges to Asheville on August 27.

"No, I'm not into those big things," Jordan said. "I'd just rather kind of keep myself to me. I want to sing and stuff, but be tiny," she said with a laugh.

"I love performing, but when I'm done and everyone gives me their attention, it's very weird. It's different from when I'm actually performing. When I'm performing and people are clapping because they're happy, I'm happy because I'm singing. But when I'm done and they give me their attention, it's hard for me."

Jordan has been getting a lot of attention her whole life, starting with the hospital, and never really stopping.

"There's this knowing inside her," said Eric, "a confidence. She has no fear, which is amazing given what she's been through, so many operations. At the same time she's amazingly compassionate. She has a heart that melts people and heals people."

"When she sings, she's also touching people," said Heidi. "It's a very special thing that happens. We used to go to Jack of the Woods, she'd go up and sing and people would cry and come up and hug her."

"Nuns and priests would stop us in the airport," said Eric. "They didn't know why, but she just touched them in some way."

He said that kind of ethereal wonder has been present in Jordan since she was a toddler.

"She was probably 3," said Eric, "I'll never forget. We're sitting outside having dinner, and she starts moving her head around. I know she can't see, so I ask what's going on."

"Daddy, my angels are talking to me," Jordan replied to him.

"There are other incidents, like when she fell like 15 feet off the deck. We ran down there and asked, 'are you ok?!'

"Yeah I'm ok," Jordan said. "I felt somebody catch me."

Jordan is the Scheffers only child.

"14 operations takes a lot out of you," her mother said with a laugh. "I wanted her to have a sibling, but I knew it would take away some of my time and I didn't want to focus on anything else. She's mad at us for not having another," Heidi chuckled.

Jordan hopes to attend UNCA when she graduates from SILSA.

She said she doesn't know what major she'll choose.

Somehow, it feels like she won't have any problems with that, either.

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