Jazz musician Jim Clayton set for 250th live performance of online Piano Bar to beat the COVID-19 blues

East Toronto jazz musician Jim Clayton's 250th episode of the Piano Bar, an online hour of live music, is set for Monday, Dec. 28. Photo; Jim Clayton Facebook.

By ALI RAZA, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Perhaps a little jazz will help the COVID-19 blues.

Canadian jazz musician and local resident Jim Clayton’s nightly online Piano Bar has attracted thousands of followers for just that reason.

Since March this year, Clayton’s has been livestreaming himself playing the piano (occasionally with his daughter Lenny) on the Jim Clayton Jazz Facebook page.

On Dec. 28, he’ll perform the 250th episode of 2020. His page has now grown to 27,000 followers from an initial 250 from across the western hemisphere. He also performed the Piano Bar on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to help lift spirits.

“It’s one of those years there’s gonna be folks by themselves over the holidays,” he said. “There’s a bit of a community that’s grown up with the Piano Bar.”

For his first 125 performances, Clayton included a virtual tip jar on his page, allowing viewers to donate any amount of money to a fund that he dedicated to a series of causes. He raised money for Glad Day Bookshop’s emergency fund, the New Orleans’ musicians’ clinic, the ACLU, and the Legacy of Hope Foundation to raise awareness of residential schools.

Because COVID-19 restrictions slashed his source of income, Clayton set up a Patreon account for the virtual tip jar. But soon after when he heard the Daily Bread Food Bank’s holiday food drive cancelled, he decided to split the tip jar 50/50 with the food bank for the month of December.

He takes two days off a week now, performing five days a week online.

“I’ve never had a Piano Bar where I wasn’t delighted at the end of it,” Clayton said.

He recalls getting positive messages from people all over the world, including a frontline nurse in Argentina.

“She wrote to say thank you,” Clayton said. “She would listen to me during her long shifts at the hospital.”

“That cheers me up, and it keeps me going,” he added.

It all started with an “Ask Me Anything” session on his personal Facebook page with his nine-year-old daughter Lenny. After a couple days of livestreams behind the piano, he noticed there was a demand for his performances. He swapped the livestream to his Jim Clayton Jazz page, invited people to watch, and has been at it since.

Clayton played almost every night of the first 150 nights, save the industry-wide blackout Tuesday that occurred following the death of George Floyd on May 25.

He now takes plays most days except for Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

“I’m grateful anybody watched,” he said. “It keeps me playing, and if I didn’t have this for a sense of routine, the days would blur together.”

To watch Jim Clayton’s Piano Bar, visit his Facebook page: facebook.com/jimclaytonjazz

Ali Raza is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.

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