Rich Greenspoon : Remembering Jim Blackley

Jim Blackley -

Rich Greenspoon : Remembering Jim Blackley

I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to study music with Jim. Now, many years later I look back, and am amazed by how many people he touched. What I took from my lessons gets deeper as time passes. A lifetime of homework. As Jim would say, "an endless endeavour".  

I remember that when I would arrive at a lesson, Jim would often already be practising. That was very inspiring for me. His humble nature left a big mark on me. The idea of listening intensely, on and and off the bandstand. The idea of being a part of something. Being patient and understanding.

Jim always had a nice thing to say about somebody. It seems to me the Jim was just as concerned with inspiring me to be a good human being as much as being a good musician. 

My first lesson was on a Saturday morning at 7am. That early start was very challenging for me and I'm pretty sure that it was all part of the lesson. I didn't know how long the bus ride would take so I left my self extra time. I arrived a bit early and decided to continue past Jim's house and find a coffee shop. As I passed the house I heard my name being called out. I turned around to look,  it was Jim's wife Aishah. She asked me where I was going and I told her. She said no need, come on in. I'm not even sure how she knew it was me. She made me a tea, she made me feel very welcomed. My lesson was very challenging, lots of practice to be done. A life times worth of practice. I was a little scared, but mainly inspired. I felt like I was in the right place.

I remember a gig, way back when, with Oliver Schroer. Oliver had gotten to know Jim and had invited him to see the band.  Just about time to play and in walks Jim. Wow was I nervous. I'm sure he knew, I'm sure he sat way at the back to ease my fear. I have a memory of feeling honoured that he came, mixed with worry that I was holding my sticks wrong.

For me, Jim was a gigantic inspiration. I always felt encouraged by him. When I was studying with him and beyond. I felt like I was in the best of hands. I felt lucky. I remember his kind nature. I remember calling in sick a few times. Leaving a message that I would have to miss my lesson. He would call and chat with my mom, checking up to make sure I was ok. He would always ask how my family was doing. Over the many years since I studied with Jim, he would keep popping up in my life in the most uplifting ways. Kinds words from him would make there way to me and my ego would be boosted. He would refer students to me, he would recommend me for gigs. I couldn't have been more honoured when he asked me to teach his grandson. The pride I feel when someone asks me who my teacher was. I get to say Jim Blackley. 

Thank you for everything Jim,

Rich G.


4 comments

  • Wayne Tarling

    I met Mr. Blackley when I was six years old ….in Vancouver ….at his house (studio). It was 1957. I had had one year of piano lessons by then, and been introduced to violin …which was never going to work.

    My parents were both accomplished musicians. Dad a trombonist, mom a pianist. It was inevitable that I was to become a musician with all the music in the house. A toy drum set indicated this might be my instrument, which it did, along with the keyboards.

    I studied with Mr. Blackley from 1957 to 1967 when he moved away. I studied at his home near 33rd and Knight Road (I think Dumfries St.), then over to his first commercial location on Commercial Street, then over to his best-known studio, “Jim Blackley’s Drum Village” on Broadway, right beside the original, “old”, Academy of the Arts.

    From the first days of practicing “pick-ups”, for what felt like 10 minutes, and my forearms aching, to the many very serious sessions of syncopated rolls and other complex riffs, to my first and last drum set, Gretsch, Leedy, and Zildjian which I have to this very day ….there is nothing I will ever forget about Mr. Blackley, his wife, or son. My formative years, six to sixteen, as I reflect back, I was very lucky and blessed to have had this opportunity of knowing and learning from such a man.

    How come no one has mentioned that Jim and wife were ball-room dancing champions in the motherland?

  • Chris Bodegraven

    Rich, Jim must have been an amzing teacher, he taught you well, I wish I could have been a better student! I was hugely influenced by an interview with Jim I read a few months back, he advised practicing at 40-50 beats per minute. His book may be the finest drum book I have ever used. Lately I have begun studying with another of Jim’s disciples: Adam Fielding. Peace, Chris

  • Marc Pizer

    Rich

    With tears I thank you for your post, and for introducing me to both the man and his teaching.

    For opening up the path.

    It’s Impossible to imagine what life would be like without either of you.

    To reflect on Jim’s life, and contribution to not just drumming, or even all of music (as he mentored non drummers maybe even more than drummers)… but as you say, to humanity itself, is to be immediately awe struck and humbled.

    Worldwide, there has never been anyone like him.

    The peace felt and the love given in Jim’s household, is a priceless touchstone held in perpetuity by all who were fortunate enough to encounter it.

    Thank you for all your efforts lighting the fires in young and old alike.

    Thanks to Paul and Doug and all at Soul Drums for providing a great environment for this precious study

    May his legacy continue to grow.

    Love
    Mp

  • chris cawthray

    Rich – you were my connection to Jim, through you sharing and explaining his book and concepts to me (gasp!) 30 years ago. I am grateful for that, and so many other things you taught me! Best – Chris Cawthray

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