Toronto jazz musician Jim Clayton turned a personal Facebook account of 250 into an international audience of over 30,000 during the pandemic

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After rocking the world with his own brand of jazz for the past 18 months, Jim Clayton has been looking forward to his first live concert in a long time.

But it’s what the award-winning veteran jazz artist has done throughout COVID-19 that has earned him the applause of a grateful international audience.

Not long after the pandemic effectively shut the world off in March 2020, Clayton’s area home in Danforth – more specifically his dining room – has become Jim’s Piano Bar, with Clayton recording over 425 performances, transforming a Facebook following 250 in an international audience of more than 30,000.

Clayton admitted he was getting “agitated” when he and his daughter Lenny, 11, decided to entertain their friends via Facebook, answer questions and respond to requests. The family’s cat, Fry, has also made an occasional guest appearance.

“We did it (live show) twice and had fun with it. The third night we were watching a movie and I got a message on Facebook saying, “Oh, you’re not here tonight? I thought it was fun, why not give people what they want? Clayton called back.

“After a month, I was going to take a night off. That day I got a message from a nurse in Argentina saying the music had helped her get through her night shift during COVID. I thought, ‘Oh my god, if she can do that, I can play for an hour.’ That’s why I continued, ”he added.

Clayton’s wife, who works in digital marketing, helped him run ads first in North America and then South America. And after moving from his personal Facebook page to Jim Clayton Jazz’s Facebook page, his audience skyrocketed.

“All of a sudden, it was 15,000 or 20,000 subscribers. In the spring, he broke 30,000 people following the page. It doesn’t mean that if you log in there are 30,000 people watching. People come in and they come and go, ”Clayton noted.

Clayton has learned to greet his audience in both Spanish and Portuguese, thanks to one fan in particular: a hotel owner in Ilhéus, Brazil, who wants him to fly out for a few shows next year. He also set up a virtual “tip pot” to support a variety of worthy causes, including the Glad Day Bookstore Emergency Survival Fund, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the American Civil Liberties Union and the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic.

He also reconnected with old friends, including a high school classmate and another musician who lives in Dubai – “he watches before he goes to work in the morning. Tomorrow is already where he is ”- as well as a wide range of new fans and friends.

Fans in turn let Clayton know how appreciated he was via testimonials online.

“We are very social people, but suddenly COVID has become a very quiet time for us. When we found out that Jim was doing an online gig every night, we were ecstatic! Jim Clayton Jazz became our party theme, something we looked forward to, and whether we were playing cards, reading or enjoying nature on our patio, Jim filled our lives with soothing and refreshing music. We are very grateful to him for sharing his talent and his music (and even his endless stories) with us! wrote Sue Huson, 65, a retired teacher from London.

“I listened to over a hundred shows every night,” wrote Marcio Roberto Bueno Fernandes, 45, of Santo Andre, Brazil.

“The idea of ​​being part of this community of music lovers, with a great player talking to us, playing our requested songs and even putting us in touch with other great people in the same situation, in the same ‘piano bar’. It was all very exciting and calming at the same time. It was absolutely necessary for me. I would spend the whole day in anticipation of Jim’s piano bar. It helped me a lot to forget about dark places, ”he added.

“I find the music soothing and during the pandemic it was always nice to hear a familiar voice. I loved the music and listening to the stories. Can’t wait to do it live again, but the Piano Bar was definitely a treat, ”wrote Charlene Winger, Project Manager in Toronto.

Clayton, who worked for more than a decade as music director for the Second City national touring company, has made a decent living working in business in recent years, at least until the pandemic struck. His trio also won the Canadian Smooth Jazz Award twice in 2005 and 2006.

He returns to the Jazz Bistro at 251 Victoria Street on September 15 for a two-set performance, a place he last performed on his 50th birthday a few years ago. Clayton will reunite with former jazz colleagues, Peter Telford on bass and Jeff Halischuk on drums, and looks forward to the experience.

“The most important thing for me is to play with other musicians. Playing solo is very different. It’s more work too. At the very least, I prefer to play with a bass player because he keeps the groove going. I practiced with a metronome to make sure I can always keep the beat, ”Clayton said with a laugh.

Clayton plans to continue performing on Facebook five evenings a week for the foreseeable future.

“I was just trying to make my kid laugh most of the time. And this thing just popped up. I am surprised and certainly delighted. It has been incredibly rewarding. They (the fans) all know my daughter, they all know my cat, ”Clayton said.

“There’s no real reason to stop even when things are normalizing. These people are helping me too. As I often end by saying, on behalf of my family, thank you for removing my hair for an hour a night.


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