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,