DEB RHYMER- HEART FOR COMMUNITY, SOUL FULL OF BLUES

Deb Rhymer is the heart of the Victoria Blues scene. 

Born in Victoria, she grew up in the naval housing in Belmont Park and only left to spend kindergarten to grade 2 in Winnipeg when her dad was briefly transferred there before returning. Music has always been a part of her life and she has always been an entertainer.

Well, I always sang but I used to do it when everybody would leave my house. The only thing I had was my parents’ records, so I did all the show tunes. I would wait for everyone to leave at night and learn all these songs. When I was a little kid, I used to charge money, up on my sundeck on the side of the house. I was taking ballet at the time, and there were these twins that lived across the street, and I thought I’d have a twin on each side, and I’d be in the middle. I was 10. I would make the neighbours come, would charge 30-cents, and we would do a couple of ballet numbers and then we’d sing, and we’d do all these stupid little shows. And that’s kind where it started.

Right out of high school, Deb started playing with bands around town.  Around 1977, in the 700 block of Fort St up above where Dots Discount Designer Wear is, there were rehearsal studios and kids could rent space to rehearse their bands.

There were five rooms, each band had a room, and we would rehearse.  I had a rock band called “Hostage”.  Don Peterson and I played together that long ago, that’s how long we’ve been friends. I did a little bit of playing here and there, and then I got married and I kind of got out of it for a while.

It wasn’t until 1997 that Deb really got back into music and started singing the blues.  When she had the chance to go South, it changed her life.

“These guys came to me and said they thought I could sing the blues, so they gave me a few albums to learn.  The band was called “No Fixed Address” and we did Marcia Ball, Lou Ann Barton, Angela Strehli, people who were in the blues in the Austin Texas music scene way back then.”

There was a blues jam at Hermann’s on a Tuesday night, “Bluesy Tuesday”, and I used to phone them up because I didn’t know you just go down and sign up.  I sang “Stormy Monday” until everyone got quite sick of it, but that’s how it started.

“I was 40 years old, it was a big thing because I was just getting into it and the band was just kind of starting out and I didn’t know a lot. I went right from New Orleans up to Memphis, right through the Delta. That really changed my life because I realized the importance of blues and what it meant in history. Having not really cared about blues, all of a sudden, I cared about it a lot. And so that’s kind of where it started, and I never really stopped.  That trip made me decide that it was the blues. I knew it was really going to be important to me and it was exciting. I didn’t do it by choice, you know, it just kind of came to me.  So then after that, I really never looked back, I just kept singing blues.”

Finding that bands only stayed together for a few years before members changed and then eventually broke up, Deb decided to start her own band with her name on it.  She would never again have to throw away a band name and start again.  In the early 2000’s the “Deb Rhymer Band” began.

“I took it to heart, and I just thought, ‘I’m going to do this. I’m going to do my own thing.  Only I have to show up.’  I put out our first album as a band in 2005, and then I didn’t do another one until 2018.”

We asked Deb what led to such a big break between albums.

“I was busy. I had a whole career.  I had a heavy-duty day job, so I didn’t have time.  I was working really hard, and I was a single mom.  I wasn’t going out every night, it was hard to get childcare.  Back when I was in the federal government, we had a lot of money.  I wish I was still there, because now I’d know exactly what to do with it. If we saw something in the community, we could fund it. If you look at the extension on the Belfry Theatre, that’s something that we did. We did the first needle exchange program.  We were really cutting edge back then and that was the happiest times in my career, doing that kind of work. I could really see the benefit of these community-based projects. It was good for the people on the projects because it gave them skills and they often got jobs and went back to work. I had sort of two paths in my career. I also worked in childcare, I built daycare centres, I funded daycare centres, I got involved in building an out of school care program at my daughter’s school.  I was always in job creation federally and provincially and when I add it all up, I was there for 35 years but singing always on the side.”

It was always my love, but it was secret.  There’s people my work life who would be absolutely shocked that I played music.

After years of service, it was time for more music.  The band’s second album titled “Don’t Wait Up” was released in July 2018 and includes 6 original tunes as well as 4 cover songs. Since its release, it has reached the Top 10 in Canada, the Top 50 of Contemporary Blues Albums in the US, and was nominated for the 2018 New Artist of the Year at the Canadian Maple Blues Awards.

I thought now it’s my chance, I can do what I want to do, when I couldn’t when I had to make a living. I started to record a couple songs and then David Vest, who you all know, said to me that it would be a game changer if I could write the music. I ended up writing or co-writing half a dozen songs on the album and that changed everything because all of a sudden, it was original music.  I had some wonderful co- writers like Bill Johnson. It felt really good, and I realized that that’s what I should have been doing all along.

We were curious if Deb’s creative side had helped her in her business career or if the business side had had any benefit to the music.

“If anything, the music part made me more sensitive to different social issues I guess, because I was always working in social programs, especially on the job creation side.  We’d always deal with people with multiple barriers, so I think the music, you know there’s so many different characters and people in music, made me more sensitive to the differences that people have. 

Then I found that if we did music, we could raise money, so that was the other big one. It was good for teamwork in that I used to always have my staff do little skits.  Every one of the people who worked for me will remember.  There was a guy named Jake, and we had a band called Jake, the Snake, and the Snakettes, and I was a fabulous Snakette. And we literally wore garbage bags, and danced around. I can remember throughout all the different jobs I’ve had, I’ve always tried to bring it there.”

Deb is still really involved in community projects and fundraising, from Bitchfest to the Blues Society and the board at Hermann’s Jazz Club, we wanted to hear more. What exactly is “Bitchfest”?

“A few years ago, we decided that it would be nice to have an all-women’s event and just support women serving organizations. Through all my employment programs work, I met all these agencies, Transition House, The Sexual Assault Center, I knew them all intimately, I funded them for years, and so I thought I’d like to support some of them.  I have to give credit to BJ Cook, she was an amazing singer who sang with Skylark, a very celebrated band, and she also sang with Ronnie Hawkins.  She used to get some of the women in town together and she’d say, “I’m going to call a meeting of the bitches”. It got bigger and bigger and other people wanted to come and then one day, she said, “You know, this isn’t just a meeting of the bitches, this is a Bitch Fest!” So that’s kind of how it started. In the very first year, we decided to have a “Bitchfest”, even though it was a bit controversial.” 

We thought we’d just have one night of dancing and fun and drinking and carrying on and entertainment.  We’d get the all the women singers we knew to get up and sing and we’ll raise money and put it back into the community into these women’s serving organizations. So that’s kind of how it started. The first one was, small and then it got bigger and bigger and bigger and, we’ve had a little break because of COVID, but we want to get back into it and raise some more money.

After attending blues cruises where she met representatives from blues societies all over Canada and the US, Deb decided that Victoria needed a blues society of its own, so in 2007 she helped form one.

“I started going on blues cruises and I did five of those with everyone from Etta James to Irma Thomas. They’re on a boat, they’re not leaving, they are with you for seven days and they can’t get away from you.  I could just sit down and talk to blues people that were my heroes.  It made a big difference.”

Each level that I got deeper into blues music, the more I appreciated it, and the more I understood what it meant. I remember going to a gospel brunch in the middle of the Caribbean and someone getting up on stage and singing and to see this, it was just so powerful and so wonderful. Each of those things contributed to loving it more and more. It’s been a labor of love ever since.

“The Blues Society is really just to appreciate the blues and put on blues shows.  We used to do education and training workshops around the blues and things like that. Just all appreciation and love for the blues. We’ve been going for many years, and have a strong board. We usually do shows all throughout the year and then take the summer off because it’s festival season.  We try and do a combination of touring artists and supporting great Canadian artists like Big Dave McLean, who’s a big Juno Award winning blues guy.  Victoria has always had a huge blues community, bigger than Vancouver in some ways.”

The Deb Rhymer Band hosts the Sunday Blues Service, the longest running blues jam in the Pacific Northwest.  This very popular free event showcases some of Victoria’s best musical talent every week at Hermann’s Jazz Club.

“We’ve been doing the Blues Jam for 17 or 18 years.  Someone else was doing the jam at a at a bar on the Gorge and they quit and so we grabbed it and have been doing it ever since. It’s gone to many places, the Strathcona Hotel, it was at Tally Ho for a long time, the Red Lion, and now Hermann’s.  Hermann’s is an institution, of course, it’s an iconic venue and they were kind enough to come to us and say they’d like to have the blues and so as of August of last year, we moved.  This brand new venue, Hermann’s Upstairs is such a beautiful place but it’s missing an elevator.  It really needs an elevator to be truly accessible to people with disabilities and mobility issues, so I approached them and told them I really want to get them an elevator and I have a lot of experience in grant funding.  It started out a coffee meeting, and by the end of it, I was on the board.  I’m very happy to do that, because it’s so worth investing in. It’s such a wonderful place.  I think I can do some good because I have that background in getting money and coordinating things and organizing things, so it’ll also be our way to contribute to the venue that’s given us a new home. It’s a win win all around.”

Having lived in Victoria for so many years, we wanted to know Deb’s take on the evolution the music scene has gone through.

“The hardest part has been prices going up, rent and everything.  It’s gotten more and more expensive to live here and there aren’t enough venues. There’s lots of creativity here, there’s lots of talented people, but they don’t have anywhere to play. You know, it’s been really tough.  If you think about Swans, Swans was a huge music hub.  It was a place to dance, and there’s none of that anymore.  It’s gone.  The Tally Ho was a huge live music venue with big, big room and it’s gone. I think that’s one of the big challenges for live music.  You’re either in a big theatre, or you’re in little tiny pub and there’s not many performance spaces in between. So that’s been a real challenge.  But there’s still a lot of music and a lot of bands here. That’s why Hermann’s Upstairs was such a great a great thing, because it became a medium size venue where there was not a lot.”

“One of the reasons I got involved in doing a duo with Victor Wells was it was a lot easier to find places to play because you could be in a restaurant, you could be in a pub, you could be at private parties.  It just sort of opened up the whole thing and we could continue to perform.  It was good for me because I had been so into the blues, then for the last few years, I missed singing other types of music, and it allowed me to do pop and rock and a little bit of jazz. I’ve even actually been working with another piano player just playing jazz, because I realized I really liked that too.”

Over many years, Deb has put in an incredible amount of work to create a very tight blues community.  She has overcome many obstacles along the way and still always finds time for give more.   How does she keep it all going?

“Interest. I’m just very interested in it. I just have a big capacity for work. I like doing it, you know, I like to be really busy. I’m all about, having a project, and so it was just attractive to me.  I’m just going to keep doing it.  You do something a little different and see what it can do.  Get involved in things.  The way I feel about it is, if I see something and I think I can fix it I want to go fix it.

An example is that there was no out of school care at my daughter’s school, and I was single mom that needed daycare.  They were building the new Sir James Douglas School and I saw an opportunity to build a daycare right into a brand new school.  Because I’ve been working in funding programs for years, and I kind of knew how to do that, I thought there was a BC 21 grant initiative, so I decided to get one and open a daycare at the school. Sometimes I was driven by my own issue and what I needed the community to do for me, and then I would just get involved in it and start figuring out how to get the money and get it to happen. So often it was driven by things that I saw were missing.”

I’ve always found that there’s a great capacity in the community with people that we know to get things done.  People are very giving, and kind and they’re always happy to work on things and help out and, and nothing is achievable without a wonderful team of people around you, so we would always would put some great people together just to get stuff done.

“There’s all kinds of wonderful people in this city that will work hard for a goal and make something happen when you’re good at gathering all those people together behind the cause.  Being here my whole life, I know a lot of people and can make a lot of connections. Our blues community in particular, are some of the most loving, wonderful people you’d ever want to meet.  It’s just been a wonderful, wonderful thing for all of us. And we’re, as you said, we’re very tight.  We care and love each other very much. It’s a wonderful community.  It’s not hard to keep it going and to find people who want to be part of that.”

The blues is about getting through things and, rising up.  It came from the cotton fields in Mississippi, that’s what it was all about. It is as much about sadness, as it is about new beginnings and joy and when I realized that, that’s when everything changed for me. 

What would Deb Rhymer say if she knew the whole world was listening and would really take in what she was telling them?

Music is healing.  Music brings people together.  Music brings joy.  There isn’t anybody who doesn’t listen to an old song, and have it bring you right back to that certain person or a certain place or a memory. That’s the beauty of it.  It’s emotional, it makes you feel sometimes really, really sad or sometimes really, really happy. It’s such a big part of my life, it’s given me more joy than anything else, that’s for sure.  That’s the big thing about music, there’s something for everybody. There’s a song you will hear, a lyric, that’s going to resonate with you, and it’s going to make you feel emotional, and I think that’s incredibly powerful.

Deb Rhymer Band: https://www.debrhymerband.com/
Rhymer & Wells: https://www.rhymerandwells.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thedebrhymerband

Author: Christina Morrison
Photographer: AL Smith

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Christina MorrisonDEB RHYMER- HEART FOR COMMUNITY, SOUL FULL OF BLUES
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Glenn Parfitt – Dedicated to the enjoyment of others.

Glenn Parfitt has music in his genes.

His three great uncles came to Victoria in 1889 from England with a steamer trunk, two violins and a cello and they became very instrumental in starting some of Victoria’s earliest choirs at orchestras.

As a young child, Glenn was expected to be able to carry a tune and play an instrument, and he began taking violin lessons with a teacher through Oakland’s Elementary School. After a few months of having the teacher’s bow rapped over his fingers for making mistakes, he decided he couldn’t take it anymore, and started hiding his violin in the bushes on the way to school.

Growing up, my mother had the AM radio on, and I was always listening to country music and real early rock and roll. The first real bands I saw were at the Oak Bay Junior High dance. There was band called ‘Blues Union’ and I thought they were just fantastic. From that point on, any time there was a band playing and I had an opportunity to see them, I would go and enjoy the music, but not standing in the back and trying to run around chasing girls, I was the big, tall guy in the front row, literally in the front of the stage.

In about 1977, a friend of Glenn’s was playing with a band that was looking to get a light show. They came to him to ask if he would like to invest some money in the band, and without knowing much about music at that point, he decided they were pretty good, and he would support them.

“The manager took great offence to it and said he would just buy the light show. They said, “Okay you buy the light show and you be the light man, and we’ll make Glenn the manager.” Then I just started finding them work. In those days, disco music was just starting to get hot and all the venues in town were turning into discos because they didn’t have to pay a band, they just had to make a one-time investment and buy some albums. It was a tough sled trying to find jobs.” 

My genes and my family background tell me that if you can’t figure it, out make it, so I started renting halls, and I got liquor permits, and I made posters up and started hanging them all over the place, and just started being a promoter.

“We started putting on hall dances and it got really, really popular. Popular to the point where I started getting approached by other bands asking if I could do same thing for them, and before I knew it the whole thing just steamrolled.  Because my family was so entrenched in Victoria, I had a real network that I could work from, no internet in those days obviously, so it was a lot of word of mouth, but if there was a party and there was fun happening, the word got out quickly and everybody got the location and knew where to show up.”

Suddenly, I’m a booking agency with about a dozen bands and I’m putting on dances all over town. I’d never done this before; I had no formal training, and I was doing it by the hip.

In 1979, Glenn was formed a partnership with Ron Wright. Earlier, Ron had been grinding him about packing dances all over town with his clientele, but being an entrepreneur and having previously owned an agency, he saw an opportunity.  Before they knew it, they were really busy. Live music was starting to turn around and come back, and they had a whole bunch of bands in their roster.

“Ron also had a side business called “High Rollers”, which was a roller rink on Yates St, and at the same time, he was running a nightclub. We would finish up at nightclub and then at two o’clock in the morning, all the bands, some of the select staff, and people that we liked, all went up to the roller rink, cracked open a few cases of beer, and started to roller skate around listening to music. This was fine except as people got a little more loaded, they started thinking that they were in a roller derby and all of a sudden, the bands are breaking fingers, breaking arms and elbows. We got a phone call from Bruce Allen’s office in Vancouver saying, “No more roller skating! You’re killing our roster because everybody’s coming back damaged from all these events!” We also used the rink to set up our own stage and lighting and to put on our own events. We had our own venue, used our own bands, did everything in house, and it just kept growing and growing.”

From there, Glenn and Ron opened an agency in a retail building downtown on the 500 block of Johnson St. It had rooms where they could have meetings, and bands would come in and hang out on the couch, wanting to be part of the scene and hoping while they were there a gig might get called in and they could pick it up before anybody else did.

“We had a real sort of a scene going for quite a while. I remember one day looking up and there was a bunch of guys walking in the front door with funny hats on. They went into the meeting room with my partner and when he came out, I asked, “What’s with these guys with the hats?” He said, “Don’t worry, this is going to make us a bunch of money. It’s a blues band.” I was a hard rock freak at that point and all the bands I was dealing with were top 40 rock and roll. Blues was just right over my head, not realizing that in fact what I was listening to was jacked up blues music when I was listening to Zeppelin. They went into the studio and recorded a 45 which was released on their own label, and they were getting some mild success and some minimal airplay from it. Then they went back into the studio to record another album, this time with Tom Lavin from the Powder Blues producing it. They recorded in his studio in Vancouver, and then they went and shopped it, and sure enough if they didn’t get a record deal with RCA.”

Out of nowhere, I’m representing a recording act, “Uncle Wiggly’s Hot Shoes Blues Band.” They are still all good friends of mine to this day. Wonderful cats. They still take the band out, knock the dust off, and take it around for a cruise once in a while every few years. They are just a wonderful genuine group of guys.

When Glenn was starting out, he was not representing the best-known bands, so he got the chance to watch a lot of musicians develop throughout their careers.

“That’s probably one of the best things I enjoy today. Now I can see them 40 years later, still playing and they’re so much better, so much smoother, so much more alert than when I first saw them. At the beginning, I was recognizing potential. Because I didn’t have access to the mainstream bands that were working the circuit, I was getting in at the beginning of all these musicians careers a lot of them went on to be in recording acts to which is kind of neat.”

Glenn was being asked to represent so many young bands. They didn’t have gigs and he wasn’t willing to stick his neck out on a paid gig, so wanting to see them in advance he went out to rehearsal spaces- people’s parents houses and basements.

“The most fun one I got was when I went to this house out in Central Saanich. I walked in and there were three teenage girls there with all the equipment set up and everything else ready to go. They were sort of a punk band. I immediately lit up because I knew that punk was around, and I knew it was starting to happen. I had sort of a taste of it but wasn’t really immersed in it at that point. These girls got out and played a set for me and at the end of it I thought, “You girls are wilder and a bag of wet cats! You are just amazing! You’ve got a lot of energy and you guys should really be doing something with this.” I thought it was unique, so I’d take a chance.  My band, Telstar, had a rehearsal studio and because it was a fairly large place, we set up a pub night with a bar. We brought the girls to play the first set. Everybody turned around and looked at me and went, “What the hell was that?” I said, “That’s the future!” and they said, “If that’s the future, I’m out of the business!” Of course, we’re all laughing and joking about it and then later they said, “Don’t ever bring another band like that in here ever again!” So that was my beginning in the punk rock scene and that band of course would later go on become nationally and internationally known as “Dee Dee and the Dishrags”, later shortened to “The Dishrags.” They were essentially Canada’s first all-female punk band.”

By 1979, Glenn’s agency was starting to become known was starting to expand with the opening of three offices- one in Victoria, one in the Okanagan and one in Calgary.  All of a sudden other agencies on the West Coast started to take notice.  

“Everybody wondered, “Who are these guys, what are they doing, and what right do they have to be in the music business? They’re not even musicians and they don’t know anything!” We were sort of up against the wall right from the beginning, but we just kept going at it and it did pretty well.  I got thrown into it and learned as I went.”

I really wanted to go to Vancouver because I was told that if you want to have a career and be in the big time, they don’t bring you from Victoria, you’ve got to be living in Vancouver so that they know you’ve made the commitment.  By my third month there, I got a phone call from Sam Feldman’s saying, “We’ve had a change and we’d like to invite you to come and work for us.” I thought they were kidding, and I hung up the phone.  I got a phone call back from one of the guys I knew that worked there and he said, “Man, he just offered you a job! It’s really happening!”.  Boom! I’ve hit the big time.  I’m working for the largest agency in the country booking bands! 

When Glenn got married and started having children, he felt his life needed a change.

“I found myself in a situation where I was working for businesspeople, but I was very sympathetic to the artists.  I got to the point where I woke up in the morning go to work, looked in the mirror and didn’t like myself anymore.  If had to be one of those guys that had the reputation of what agents and promoters are really like, I just couldn’t do it anymore.  They told me I’d never work in the business again and I just walked away.”

When Glenn’s father passed away, he planned to move back to Victoria to help support his mother, and to take some of the load from his brother.  A friend suggested that since he was no longer working in promotion, since he already knew everyone, he should try becoming a salesman for “The Q” radio station.

“I phoned “The Q” and they were interested and had heard about me, so I had an interview the sales manager.  He wanted me to be a true suit-sell it at all costs, friend or foe, get the dough- the kind of guy that just cleans everybody out and then moves on to the next guy, which again was not my style, but I had a family I had to support so I thought I could probably “b.s.” my way through it.  He phoned me back said they decided they were not going hire me.  I offered to make them a deal where, without a client list, I would work for straight commission and would give them a list of all the businesspeople that I knew in town.  I faxed over the list and within about an hour, I got the phone call saying I was hired, because of course all these were guys my family had worked with in business for years.”   

That was about the same time the Rocktoria series started, so there I am right in the middle, even though I didn’t really want to be in the music business again.  It was kind of neat being around the musicians again and watching the process of all the young ones coming in and trying to get trying to get a record, and then rehearsing, and showcasing, and getting picked as one of the contestants going into the studio.

Glenn’s life changed again when, as he put it, “a newfangled invention” came out, called “the internet”.

“I left “The Q” when I got a call from a guy who had just invested a whole bunch of money and needed a sales and marketing manager.  He gave me a big cash signing bonus, and of course I blew it in one night down at a bar with all my friends from the radio station.  A lot of people were getting dial up at that time through BC Tel, but nobody was using the huge backbone that Westel had that was actually built for the British Columbia Railway communication system all through the province.  It was high-speed, huge trunk, lots of bandwidth, and I got the deal to get a chunk of that.  So, the promoter in me went to Western Speedway and said I would build them a website no charge.  They’d heard about websites but didn’t really know about what we were doing but they said OK.  It turns out they were the fourth racetrack in North America to have a website.  Hardly anybody had done it at that point.  I went and did the same thing with “The Shamrocks” and they were the first senior men’s lacrosse team in the country to have a website.  I was breaking ground once again all over the place.”     

After a few years, Glenn went back to promoting, and with all the side hustling he was doing, decided he needed a website for himself.  He had been doing some work someone with an internet company back East that, long before tools like WordPress existed, was trying to release a new product with self-authoring software so that you didn’t have to run code.  They needed an example of what it could do, so Glenn decided to use it to build a website of music history, www.rcmusicproject.com.

“I put a bunch of bands on it, and they used the website that I created to show people what they could do.  They ended up doing quite well by it.  I separated the relationship I had with the guys back East because all of a sudden it had a lot of content, was a lot of work, and was costing them money to maintain, so they needed me to find some money.  They were just paying me to promote, not sell it, so we parted.”  

Glenn went and found somebody else who owned a computer store that had a server in the back, and he ran the website for a few years from there before deciding to work with a young graduate from Spectrum who was taking Computer Science at UVic.

“He had started up a thing called “Live Victoria” and from 2000 on, they were taking care of all the bands, the history of the bands and promoting them.  Having the website gave bands a place to get on the net just by putting in all their information, and then they would post it on their website.  We sort of decided we should work together, so I was helping increase the database which in that time was still pretty small, but it was starting to grow obviously because internet was taking off and bands knew they had to be part of it.  If you were a band in the 2000’s, you signed up with “Live Victoria”, so you’d have a listing and a way to promote yourself.  What he didn’t have was anything before 2000 which I had the keys to.  It got bigger and bigger and bigger. 

In January 2022, we relaunched the fifth version of the website and our database is shared with “Live Victoria”, “Live Vancouver”, and more.  I’m not paying for it per se, other than my time and effort of keeping my part of it updated and increasing it. 

“When I started it, I thought would do bands from the 1950s to 1980s because I could sort of figure all that out.  Now the website goes from the 1800s to 1999. I’ve got 1150 bands and 180 venues on there and I get between 15,000 and 20,000 unique visitors a day and it holds over 80,000 images.”

Then Glenn had a stroke.

“It’s harder for me now to get going. After the stroke it took me almost a year to be able to get functioning. I could not speak or end sentences. I could not write my own name or form an entire sentence. I was just struggling, and the website saved me because I put my brain into it. I thought if I could get the website going again, it would help me write again, it would help me finish sentences and it would help me get my voice back, so as well as helping all these musicians along the way, it brought my life back from looking like a vegetable to where I am today. I can still tell stories. I’ve lost the sight in my right eye, and I move a lot slower, but I can still talk, I got most of my brain back and I’m still supporting music wherever I can.”

Around 2019, after Glenn suffered a heart attack and had a second pacemaker put in, he realized that he should have a succession plan.  His old friend, Ron Wright, went up to the university and asked for a meeting with the dean to let them know that the history of music in Victoria was essentially sitting in one man’s hands and that they needed to help find a place for it.  Glenn had posters, pictures, records, and documentaries that he didn’t know what to do with.

The next day I got a phone call from the archive department at the University of Victoria saying that they would like to have a meeting with me to see if I would like to donate my collection. 

“We had a meeting, and I got the first batch up there.  I had a second batch that originally was earmarked to go to the BC archives but that’s when I had a triple bypass.  That put everything on hold for quite a while and by the time I got back to the BC archives, everything had changed.  The interest had gone, so I still have a little bit of it left.  I’ve got a collection of signed guitars, and all these other memorabilia that people just kept giving me.  All the videos are all out of my possession.  It’s all gone to UVic and they’ve got it in their archives.  You can go up and look it up. 

One of the proudest pieces I had in the collection was a newspaper that ran for 1966 and 67 called Offbeat Magazine.  This was a music newspaper that came out and predated the Georgia Straight and Rolling Stone.  This guy was producing the newspaper out of his parent’s basement, and it got so popular that it was being distributed out to Toronto.  I got pictures of guys like Roy Orbison reading their copy of Offbeat Magazine.  This was cutting edge! It was the original, way before everybody else.  I ended up donating an entire collection of every volume of it to UVic. 

To this day, when media want music history, I’m more or less the go-to guy.”   

After all these years, we were curious what was Glenn’s favourite part about being a promoter.

“A full house!  Yeah, my birthday parties are amazing!

For my 50th birthday party, I had 500 people at the Langford Legion.  It only held 400, and the only reason I didn’t get busted by the cops is because at any given time, 50 to 100 people were outside smoking.

For my 60th birthday, I was at the Red Lion and it held 300 people.  I sold tickets for 400.  The cops did a walk through, but everybody was all dressed up because we’re older now, we all had nice clothes on, there wasn’t a bunch of rowdies and there were lots of people outside, so they didn’t bother doing a head count, they just walked away.  I love a full house because it shows that I can get people together to have fun and enjoy themselves in kind of a safe non-confrontational environment.  Over 100 musicians played on my 60th birthday.” 

I brought the whole community back together in one place for the whole day and everybody had fun.

Royal City Music Project”: http://onemanbandbook.blogspot.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dave.harris.75

Author: Christina Morrison
Photographer: AL Smith

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Christina MorrisonGlenn Parfitt – Dedicated to the enjoyment of others.
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Busker Tips and Etiquette for buskers, friends and audience

by: Dave Harris
– Victoria, BC, Canada

Smile! It’s amazing what a difference this makes. Part of the role of being a busker is bringing some joy to the grey world of the street.

Meet people’s eye! It helps if you connect with your audience. It makes people feel included. If you’re shy it can be overcome! I know because I am!

Say “Thank you” when people tip you. Common sense really but many don’t. People appreciate the acknowledgement. Many have told me they get a kick out of me saying it after every tip, in the middle of lines, harp solos, whatever. I may be extreme but it does work.

Don’t advertise your busking income! It is nobody else’s business. If someone has the temerity to ask (someone will!), just turn it around on them and ask what they make. Country Dave said he then said, “Well, you make way more than me!” But seriously, it is best to keep that personal info personal.

I put papers in my cases. These are useful for more than one reason. When it rains you can turn them over so as not to put your instrument on a wet case. They also can be flipped if you think there’s too much money in the case.

An umbrella is a valuable thing to carry – for rain obviously but also for shade and maybe most importantly to keep bird droppings off of you!

Case signs do get read and can slow people down, which can help in getting tipped. I post a sign saying “Photos and videos by donation.” It does work sometimes. Gigs can be posted too or online sites, CD info etc.

Fold down the latches on your cases when they’re used for busking. People can catch a pant leg and trip or spill the case.

Put your case in front of you or prominently displayed. Obviously you don’t want people tripping on it so not too far in front, but you want to make it easy and comfortable for people to get to it.

Always be aware of where you’re setting up; not too close to other buskers. Rule of thumb: One busker per block. It amazes me how, as time goes by, this rule seems to be more and more ignored.

Location is very important! Find a place that feels good and suits what you do.

Try to put your back to a wall, it reflects sound forward. Alcoves are great too.

Don’t leave garbage for others to clean up. Put your butts, coffee cups etc in the garbage. Just common courtesy really.

Don’t swear or spit where you work (not to mention drinking or drugging). It just gives us all a bad name. Again, common sense, but you’d be surprised!

Try not to be jealous of other buskers; what works for them won’t necessarily work for you. We’re all different; embrace that!

A large diverse repertoire can be helpful. Appeal to as wide a spectrum as you can. This isn’t for everyone but it does help from a financial standpoint.

Volume is helpful too. If people hear you before they get to you they’re more inclined to stop. If you’re quiet, find a quiet spot.

Respect your elders or those who were there before you. Nothing worse than a “newbie” trying to call the shots. Take the time to learn how things work in a new city or place.

Written by Dave Harris
Victoria, BC, Canada

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Dave Harris – An Ardent Devotion to Music

If you have ever walked around downtown Victoria, this man’s music has likely made you smile. You probably know him as the one-man band on the lower causeway, but did you know that for the past 45 years, Dave Harris has made his living as a busker, sometimes playing as much as 10 hours per day?

Dave grew up in Toronto, and got his musical start playing violin in the school music program but he didn’t really like playing classical music.

I didn’t have a television in the house when I was a kid. My parents loved classical music and it was on the stereo a lot. When you hear how glorious it is when it’s done right, it’s pretty daunting when you pick up your fiddle and go scratch scratch scratch, and it doesn’t sound right, so I didn’t get inspired by that.

It wasn’t until he started playing guitar at age 17 that he started thinking about a career in music and when he told his dad he was going to be a musician, he was laughed at.

It was like a light bulb moment for me. I just knew I was going to be a musician and that was all I was going to do, and I set out to do it.

“I said to my dad, ‘I’m going to be a musician,’ and he laughed at me because I froze at a piano recital when I was about eight or nine. I just sat there and blanked right out, couldn’t remember my piece, just totally blanked looking out at the church full of parents and other students all sitting out there. They got me back up at the end and the same thing happened, so my parents said, ‘well he’s not going to be a performer…’ I’m still quite a nervous person. I get stage fright every time I start but it goes away after a minute or two. I care a lot what other people think, probably too much, which is can be a real downfall sometimes you know.

Dave moved to Victoria when he was 20, knowing that he wanted to make music full time, but without really a plan of how to make that work.  He had one year of unemployment insurance to try to make it work.

“I wasn’t really ready.  I went busking in the summer of 1977 with a friend and thought, ‘Wow! This is pretty fun!’ We didn’t make a lot of money but it kind of wet my appetite and so in the winter of 77 when my unemployment insurance ran out, I started busking full-time. I would go down in front of the Eaton’s building, and I’d play there on Government St every day from maybe 10:30 in the morning until 4:30 in the afternoon.”

A good day was like $15, but the room I was renting only cost $70 a month, so I was able to live fairly easily really. It didn’t seem that hard, but I mean I couldn’t buy guitars or things like that.

“One day, I was playing my fiddle and it was near Christmas time, and an elderly lady came by and dropped a five dollar bill in my case. A five dollar bill at that time was a big tip, so I said thank you. I’m sawing away on my fiddle and she walks over to the entrance of the building. I can see her out of the corner of my eye, and she’s standing there watching me. Then she comes running back, she turns her change purse over and dumps it into my case, and this big roll of bills with an elastic around it falls in my case. I couldn’t stop, I was so awestruck. I guess I was kind of in shock, and I just kept playing and playing. I thought- “ I’ve got to pick that up. I’ve got to take it out of the case. I can’t leave that. Someone might come and grab it.” 

It was brown on the outside and I’d never seen a hundred dollar bill before. It was 562 dollars! Wow! The next day, I went to Vancouver and bought myself a better violin. That was my biggest tip ever!

“One of the things about busking that’s difficult is that there’s a quite a large segment of the population that think you’re just a beggar. You’re basically just asking for a handout but you’re not. They don’t recognize that you’re giving something back in exchange.  It’s an exchange of energy.  Their energy is in the form of cash or appreciation and my energy is in the form of the music.

My dad was proud of me after he saw that I was really serious about it. I know I told you he laughed at first, but you know my parents were proud of me, so that that was nice.

Over the years, Dave’s playing has gone in a whole bunch of different directions. From blues harmonica, to Irish fiddle, to electric guitar in a country rock band and bluegrass, Dave has played a bit of it all.

“By the 80s started a I band called “Blue Sky” which didn’t last that long. It seemed like a long time, and I went through a lot of membership. It lasted about seven or eight years. We played a lot of dances at the Fernwood Community Center, some gigs around the island, a couple of festivals and things like that but we never really made it very far.” 

We started writing our own songs and we had kind of classic rock flavor, but I don’t know, nothing’s ever really quite taken off for me. I’ve always just sort of gone along under the radar.

Dave’s transformation into a one-man band stemmed partly from inspiration on a roadtrip around 1990, when he was out touring the prairies as part of a country band.

We weren’t really a country band but we learned the appropriate material. We’d always try and slip blues tunes in and the management would come over and go, ‘You can’t play that in here!’, to Caledonia or something like that. We thought, well it’s pretty close, but it wasn’t close enough to Garth Brooks and whatever was on the radio at the time.

In the hotel room, we wanted to practice. The drummer had not played a lot of country and he wasn’t too sure of some of the beats, so we were trying to rehearse him, and we didn’t want to set up a whole drum kit in the hotel room. We had a suitcase, and we got the idea to put the suitcase up against the couch and just put the base pedal on that, and then use the hi-hat and the snare, and you know you’ve got a basic little practice kit. I thought, ‘Hey! What a great idea!’

When I came back to town, I thought since I was busking by myself a lot of the time anyway, I thought I could probably add drums to my setup. I got a suitcase and a high hat from Charles Gates, a fabulous drummer here in town. It was it was a fold-up hi-hat, so I could put it in the suitcase so that everything was self-contained. It was heavy but it all fit. I started bringing the fiddle, and I’d play fiddle and harmonica and drums and maybe sing and bang on the wood block.”

One of my big innovations I feel as a musician, is playing fiddle and harmonica together. I’ve never seen anybody else do it. I know I’m not the only person in the world that does it, but it’s not common at all. It was harder than it sounds actually, but I’ve played so much harmonica that it is kind of muscle memory, so combining it with the fiddle, it was harder trying to figure out where the fiddle went with the harmonica rather than the other way around.

“I guess around 2000, I had a friend build me a foot operated bass where piano hammers would hit the strings. I used that for maybe 10- 12 years or something like that. I it was funky, it kind of broke down a lot, and it wasn’t real loud, but the bass was fun. I really enjoyed it. It was really challenging trying to play fiddle and change notes with your feet. I gave up on it after a while when I felt like people weren’t really noticing it and it wasn’t grabbing the attention that I was hoping it would.

I got pretty big crowds for a while on the causeway in the in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Bravo Television had a documentary about me. I that was probably the peak of my career in some ways, I hate to say that but it probably. I’ve written maybe 150 songs or something like that over the years, Not all of them are good. I was doing an album every year and selling it on the causeway.”

At the height of my one-man band show, I had the foot operated bass, my foot drums, two fiddles with different tunings, a viola, a mandolin, a banjo, at least two guitars- sometimes three. I mean it filled the back of our station wagon. My ex-wife would drive me to work all the time. I don’t drive, I ride a bicycle. I couldn’t haul all that on a bicycle, hence that’s why I’ve scaled it back to carry a couple of instruments, a suitcase and hi-hat but not much more.

Dave was fascinated with one-man bands and when he started researching them, he discovered that there wasn’t much written. He embarked on a passion project, and spent three years writing, “Head, Hands, and Feet: A Book of One Man Bands.”

“My mom always said I’d be a writer. She was surprised when I went into music. I loved creative writing when I was in my teens. I was familiar with a fair number of blues one-man bands and so I started looking around and there wasn’t really anything much written. There had been a magazine about it in the 90s that I had nobody had really tried to bring the whole thing together into a book.” 

I felt passionate about it and so I started writing. I would busk all day and I’d come home and I’d do research at night and then in the winter months I wrote it. It took me three years.

“After I finished, I discovered there’s way more one-man bands and since I wrote it there’s been even more. I probably could have written a second book. I’m not going to. Part one didn’t sell well enough. I’m not good at marketing. I’m not good at knocking on doors and saying can you give me a gig, or do you want to buy my book. I’m just not good at that kind of stuff, so I self-published the book and there’s still 500 or something copies in in the garage at my ex-wife’s house. Every so often, I’ll do a little promo and I’ll sell another 20 copies or something but I just want to move them. I don’t want them to end up in the landfill. I tried putting them in the book boxes around town too for a while. I put a little thing in the front saying if you want to donate, you could and gave them the option of e-transfer. That worked a little bit . I mean a lot of them went away for free, but that’s okay. It’s better that they go into somebody’s house than into the landfill for sure.”

Dave is clearly passionate about all things music- playing, song writing (he has written over 150 songs!), researching, educating (he wrote a piece about Busking Etiquette you can read here), learning and listening. We found out that over the years, he has curated a collection of over 12,000 LPs and we needed to know more.

My ex- wife used to say, ‘It’s just music- music- music! He’s always music- music- music!’ I have about 12,000 LPs. I’ve just collected records my whole life. If it’s not playing music, it’s listening to music. I don’t know what it is, it’s just a passion. You understand I’m sure. It just takes hold of you.

“I went out on a few tours, mostly in country bands and in all the different places, there’s always be a record store. I would go through the whole record store and I would find every single record, especially blues, that I didn’t have and I’d just take them up to the front, they’d give me a deal, you know $400 or something like that. There goes that week’s pay. I come back with no money two feet of vinyl and my ex-wife was fine with it. She understood. We weren’t broke, and I’d go right back to work busking again as soon as I got home. I used to order from catalogs and from a couple of places in England and even in Australia and all over the U.S.

Right now, I’ve got records where I live and records at my ex-wife’s house. It’s too much to put them all where I live, so she’s allowed me to keep a room there. I’ve got between four and five thousand blues LPs. My real focus was the blues but then you know I’d buy collections from people too and they’d mostly be rock or country, so I’ve got a very large rock collection as well, probably three or four thousand, as well as probably a thousand country albums. It just all adds up. We all have passions, it’s just some people are more passionate than others I guess. I’m a pretty passionate person and I wear my heart on my sleeve. It gets me in trouble sometimes.”

Having spent 45 years in the scene, we were curious what has changed since Dave got his start.

“I’m sure everyone here is aware that there’s no work for musicians these days.  It’s like there’s almost nothing.  Clubs are folding and becoming other things or not having live music anymore.  In the 90’s, I was working three nights a week at Swan’s Hotel.  I played with Al Pease, Clark Brendon and Charles Gates in Barrelhouse every Monday night.  Wednesday night I was there with the Chance Brothers which was a Bluegrass band.  Sunday was Little Marty playing straight up Chicago Blues.” 

There was seven nights a week live music and now there’s zero nights a week at Swans, Steamers folded up, Hermann’s is still going but they’re struggling, Logan’s closed.  I mean the music scene here has just gone down the tubes.  I don’t think it’s just here either, I think it’s probably a lot of places.  

“Everybody’s got their phone in their hands.  There’s so much available online and so many ways of enjoying entertainment at home that you don’t have to go out, and of course it’s expensive to go out.  It’s also hard to get people to focus on something actually happening.  It used to be that on the lower causeway, people would come sit down on the steps and they’d be paying attention.  We’d be talking in between the songs and I’d be putting on a show.  I’ve watched that change so that now, they sit down on the steps and they grab their phone and they might film you but they’re not really present in the same way. They still tip when they leave but there’s a more demeaning element to it than there used to be and I stopped talking between songs because what’s the point if nobody’s paying any attention.  I lost that drive to try and grab people’s attention I guess. Maybe I just felt like I couldn’t anymore.

I feel lucky to even have a gig really to be honest because there’s so few available, so busking has become almost more important for me now with even less of work available.”

I went busking a lot during the pandemic and people were surprisingly much more generous. Nice local people stepped up and were very supportive.  I’ve never gotten so many 20 bills as I’ve gotten since the pandemic.  People have really stepped up. I have got to hand it to the citizens of Victoria. They’ve been absolutely wonderful and super supportive.

It takes a lot of heart and a lot of energy to do what Dave has done for so many years and we wondered if given the chance, he would do things differently or would do it all again.

“Well, as I said before, t was like a eureka light bulb moment for me.  I just knew I was going to be a musician and that was all I was going to do, and I set out to do it. Some of it was out of necessity because I didn’t want to go out and get another job and really I have no real other skills. I mean I didn’t go to university, I didn’t get a degree of any sort and I didn’t really take any training courses or learn how to do other things. I mean I have learned how to do other things obviously but they’ve mostly been music related, like I did my own recording studio for a while and recorded other people. You have to have lots of revenue streams to make a living as a musician and so my main one was busking so it was a kind of a necessity.  I loved it and I still do but you know it was also necessary.

Maybe I wouldn’t recommend people going into a career in music anymore. I hate to say that that, it seems so negative, but I just don’t recommend it. Have a back-up plan if you’re a young person that’s driven to do music. Have a back-up plan.  I didn’t have a back-up plan and I’m lucky I came along when I came. If I came along now, it’d be a lot harder.

I turned 65 this past year, so I’m starting to think about slowing down a little bit.  My hands are paying for it now.  I’ve got problems with my fingers folding in on me, they just naturally want to go like that all the time.  It’s a little disconcerting and I’m trying to adapt and learn to play through it.”

Things have gotten tough at times and I have kept going. You just have to dig deep in yourself.  I guess you just have to have enough belief that what you’re doing is the right thing for you. Follow your passion and do what makes you happy. Happiness is worth more than money.  

Dave is currently playing every Tuesday night at the Loft and he would love to invite you to come down and hear him play.  If you get the chance to go and see Dave or any other live music in the coming months, spread the word, bring friends, support the musicians by paying cover and tipping, buy something to eat or drink to help support the venue. The only way our arts community can survive is with your support.

Purchase “Head, Hands & Feet”: http://onemanbandbook.blogspot.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dave.harris.75
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvT4tzXiYlEqEkzejvXlQtw
Victoria Buskers Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/332760573487823

Author: Christina Morrison
Photographer: AL Smith

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Christina MorrisonDave Harris – An Ardent Devotion to Music
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Ian Chisholm – Moving from successful to significant

Ian Chisholm, or “Chiz” as he is known to those close to him, served us coffee, from handmade clay mugs featuring the Roy Group logo, at the boardroom table of his leadership development firm headquartered on the Saanich Peninsula.  Headquarters is a cozy converted garage, just steps from the main house and surrounded by pine trees.  The walls are covered in photos of his team, laid out like magazine covers, with headlines detailing what makes them each unique.  There are cozy blankets on all the boardroom chairs, and in the background, you can hear the sound of the fire in a wood stove.

Ian Chisholm co-founded Roy Group in 2004 as a bespoke leadership development firm.  Their team members have each been hand-selected through longstanding relationships and deep trust, and they only work with a select group of clients at any given time.  Through in-person and virtual programs, their goal is to change the way organizations view leadership and give them the tools and knowledge to continuously improve, through learning experiences and coaching practices that are easy to adopt and apply.  They are known for quality, and for inspiring others through their own conduct.

Ian was born in Edmonton while his parents were still attending university but moved back to the family farm in Saskatchewan in time for him to start kindergarten.  They were one of only four or five farms in the area that had been the same family for five generations.

Surprising right?  It all started with a land grant from the Canadian government, which I always thought was kind of cool until the last few years with reconciliation, but I’m super proud to be from Saskatchewan and super proud to be a farm kid.  When I think back to the risk we took as kids with snowmobiles and quads and pellet guns, it was a stupid amount of risk taken as a child, and really awesome.  It would be unacceptable today, but it was awesome back then. It was just go for it- and we’re still alive.  I’m sure statistically there was a price paid by our generation for that.

Every second Christmas, Ian and his family would come out to Victoria to visit an aunt and uncle who worked at Pearson College, where they would have the entire campus to themselves.  He knew immediately that he wanted to apply at a United World College.  At age 16, he applied to Pearson College to represent Saskatchewan but received, what he described as the first heartbreak of his life, the news that that he wasn’t accepted.  Two weeks before school started in grade 12, he got another chance.  A North American boy turned down his spot at the United World College in New Mexico, so Ian was in.

“It was awesome.  That’s the best two years of my life really.  It was the first time I had ever felt healthy.   I had really bad asthma as a kid and there was something about living in the desert and mountains of Northern New Mexico that my asthma just disappeared.   I went from being somebody who wasn’t very active and was, you know, kind of a bookworm and just not called to activity to having so much energy I needed like four hours of sleep a night.  Yeah, it was transformational. It was awesome to feel that good at 17.  To all of a sudden be in a place that has 90 plus countries all with different values and norms.   You learn a lot about the way you really want to be with people from around the world, not just what does it mean to be a 17-year-old from Saskatchewan.  Up until then, I thought I was doing a pretty good job. 

We asked Ian what the main thing his experiences in New Mexico taught him was, and here is what he said.  “It was probably the introduction to the power of inquiry.  You’re all part of this community, there’s only 250 people even with faculty, and when you make a mistake in that setting and you hurt somebody’s feelings who you really care about, those lessons are very short and sharp and stay with you for a long time and you don’t do that again.  I can think of a number of mistakes made where I was probably a little bit insensitive, or made an assumption that, you know, caused damage.”

I can think of a number of mistakes made where I was probably a little bit insensitive, or made an assumption that, you know, caused damage. The safest thing you can do in any given situation is probably ask a question about something that you’re curious about rather than leading with an opinion or a conviction or a position. 

Even though most students remained in the States after college, Ian felt it was time to return to Edmonton to be closer to home.   He enrolled in the same university his parents had attended to study biology and chemistry. “I think the expectation of my family was that once you do this thing, then you’ll come back and go to university we went to.  There was a certain amount of weight in that that I didn’t push against, so I came back to Edmonton.   Sadly, I didn’t really love university.  If I map out the theme of learning in my life, there is like this five-year low that sadly represents my time at university.  I wanted to be overworked and a generalist, a prairie doctor, that was like the only goal I ever had.”

In third year, Ian had the chance to study internationally again and through a university exchange program, he got to take a year of pre-med in Scotland. “They let me study gross anatomy physiology and biochemistry and I loved it. There was something about the way they do university in the UK.  It’s more discussions, more get your own work done we’re not going to spoon feed you- less memorization, more discovery.   I did really well, so I thought I was on track.” 

Ian had the chance during the final year of his degree to be in the surgical theatre for open heart-surgery.  He thought he would be behind glass up in a balcony, but he got to be right next to the action. All I paid attention to was the teamwork.  The teamwork of the anesthesiologist and the nurses and the intern and the more experienced surgeon was the facet that captured my imagination, not the science.  That was boring.  I was like, I desperately want to do this for a living, because I want to do that.”

Ian experienced the second heartbreak of his life when he was told there was no chance of getting into medical school as his marks were not good enough.

That was my daydream- being with people when they were at their most human, feeling very vulnerable and somehow being a source of something for them in those moments that would be a really positive influence, good news or bad news, and helping them figure out the way forward.  I really wiped out, I mean it was not pretty.  I was really heartbroken.  I wish so much that there was an adult in the equation who found me fascinating enough to go for a coffee and help me distill down what all of my dreams had in common.  It would have been invaluable to me, and it would have saved me years of heartache, to have an adult help me pivot and take stock of this gift that has shown itself all the way since I was little.

Throughout university, when he wasn’t working on the farm, Ian had been working his way up through Operation Enterprise, a leadership training and career development program held on college campuses.  Even though it wasn’t something he was interested in at first, his father felt strongly that it was something he needed to participate in, so not wanting to push back on authority, he attended first in grade 12.  He ended up having a great time and returned first as a camp councillor and later as a program director.  When they found out that Ian was at a bit of a loose end in his life after being rejected from med school, they offered him a job with their New York office picking up speakers from the airport setting up meeting rooms. “It wasn’t glamorous, but it was the start of a number of really deep patterns in our work now.  Connecting with those speakers on the drive back from the airport was go time for me, making sure that when people walked into that room that we had set up, that they would kind of stop for a second and realize that something special was going to happen in this room.   You’re meeting all these incredible people who are the kinds of adults that we just talked about.  They intercept your life, and your evolution goes through a little quantum leap.

There will be people that step into your life and, all of a sudden, you are capable of like a thousand times more because of their belief in you and the time they invest in you and whatever they see in you. They were choice people and that was my entry into this field of executive leadership development.

All of Ian’s experiences have clearly culminated to shape where he is today, and he is visibly very passionate about what he does.  We were anxious to learn what exactly it is about leadership development that excites him the most. “The moment that I will never get tired of is when somebody who’s wicked smart, like wicked accomplished, maybe they’ve been a doctor, maybe they’ve started a multi-billion dollar venture, maybe are a person that the world pays attention to, and they suddenly hit that moment where they realize that what they know is valuable, but it’s not the whole picture. They see there’s a piece of the puzzle that they have ignored their whole successful life.”

It’s about making them the focus of my full attention, being fascinated with their experience, where they are at, the options that they have, and knowing that somehow, the way that I conduct myself could change what’s possible inside this person.  I mean that’s not magic, but it is the closest thing to real magic that human beings get. 

To wrap up our time, we asked Ian how he feels about what he has accomplished so far and how he would like to be remembered. “ I didn’t realize that what I do now was even a job.  Who in high school says- I think I want to do leadership development? Nobody.  I think is interesting is that there is usually a thread that’s already in your life, but you just thought it was extraneous.  I do think my life would probably be easier if I chose to sell expertise and not a practice.  When what you’re selling is a practice, there’s really no end date.  You don’t stop practicing, so I doubt that I will ever retire.  Some days that makes me sad.  I could slow down I guess.  It doesn’t work for me if it’s not personal somehow.  That doesn’t mean that I have to be involved, it just means that for whoever is involved, there’s a torch that’s been passed on.  If I ever commission a piece of sculpture on a university campus, from this end, the sculpture will be all jagged and sharp and chaotic, but from the other side, it’ll just be like a jetliner- so smooth and exact- like the writing was on the wall the whole time, but I just couldn’t decode it.”  

Although hard to discover through the fog, Ian clearly found his unique ability.  What we find the most inspiring about him, is how hard he now works to help others find theirs.

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Christina MorrisonIan Chisholm – Moving from successful to significant
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Inspiring Features Coming 2022!

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