ramblings201306BNGreg Johnson / CBA President

The City of Portland shed a collective tear on Tuesday, May 27th when the word spread that one of our most beloved musicians, pianist Janice Scroggins, had moved on to Heaven’s gate after suffering a heart attack. Things just seemed to come to a sudden halt within the music community in disbelief. Janice Scroggins? How can this be? Her playing had touched us all. It did not matter what genre of music you preferred, she had graced her magical presence on it all. Her passing has left a tremendous void that can never be replaced and the early weeks of June found us all paying tribute to the legacy she had left us. Though she may have seemed so quiet sitting behind her keys on stage, it was her playing that was the glue that bound every performance she was a part of. She had a natural ease that came from years of practice beginning when she was still yet a toddler, begging to be placed on the piano bench. She was determined to be the best. And she was. Local musicians from the time word spread that she had passed began dedicating their shows to her. Everybody came out, musicians and fans alike to share their sorrow. Her memorial at Vancouver Avenue 1st Baptist Church was attended by a standing room only crowd that the Fire Marshall had to request the service find room to keep the aisles clear. That hours long service was an emotional gathering with memories, tears and joy for the gift that she had brought us. It was followed the next Monday with a tribute concert that sold out quickly to help her family make ends meet and had so many artists from the world of jazz, blues, gospel, funk and African rhythms that each was only allowed to perform one song. And still it was not enough time to feature all those who wished to be there. If everyone who wanted to be a part of the event had been permitted to take the stage that night, it would have lasted days. Janice Scroggins was the ultimate artist that everybody wanted to work with. She had that rare quality that made everybody sound better. You never had to question what she was doing, even if she had not rehearsed with the band, it just came across perfectly the first time. Every time. Inducted into the Cascade Blues Association’s Hall of Fame and the Oregon Music Hall of Fame, she was nominated for a Grammy for her recording of Scott Joplin rags. She knew that she was talented. But she did not come across as a prima donna. Her faith, family and music came first. That was the same story that was said over and over from everybody who paid her tribute. Stories were told how she would come into a studio to record and if she heard something that she felt would improve the music, she would just offer her thoughts and give an example of how she felt it would sound better. And it always was. She could do it the first time from the top of her head leaving everybody in awe, leaving no questions as to whether it was right or not. Janice Scroggins did not request or seek praise. Education and the continuation of music was what she sought most, especially with younger musicians looking to learn. It is evident in her daughters Arietta and Nafisaria, and the many others she help guide to the musical world she loved. She worked with many of the best in the city and beyond. And she made them all better yet. We were all blessed for having Janice amongst us. And in her music and the legacy of those she touched it will live on and she will forever be loved by those who knew her and had the pleasure of hearing her piano. Thank you Janice Scroggins for making all of our lives richer and more enjoyable with your presence.