For the last eight years, Lucy James has lived her dream.
The Prince Albert-born singer, songwriter, pianist and music teacher founded Jam Street Music two years after returning to Prince Albert in 2010.
Since then, she’s watched her music school produce bands such as The Wolfe, and train other musicians who have found local success in groups such as Between Bridges, Jetfire, Friends and Method to Madness.
But, it’s time for James to move on. She and her husband, Marcus, are moving back to his home country of Switzerland, a country James, too, called home for ten years.
“It’s absolutely bittersweet,” James said of the move.
“My dream was to do this, I got to do it. Awesome.”
But just because Jam Street’s founder is moving, doesn’t mean the music school is going too.
Jam Street Music Sessions will continue, with James managing, training and taking care of the administration from halfway around the world. Two of her students will be stepping up to teach in her absence.
“That is a dream come true,” she said.
“When I thought about leaving, I thought, this is my baby. I can’t close. There are so many students who depend on it, and who enjoy it. I didn’t want to break that service.
“To have something that you love and built from scratch carried on by students — They’re my students who known me and love me and I trust them. They;;l be doing an excellent job.”
But Jam Street won’t just be a home for music lessons.
Adreanna Boucher, founder and operator of Off the Cuff Improv and Interactive has a vision for Jam Street, and it’s one James is fully supportive of.
Boucher, with the help of Mathew Derworiz, will be transforming the music school into a space for musicians, actors, comedians and more to practice and perform for smaller audiences.
The vision is to build to the point where something is happening one or both nights every weekend.
Monday, James handed the keys to Boucher.
“I thought for a long time that the city needed a space for artists, for community theatre groups, for musicians, for comedians,” she said.
‘We needed a space for smaller audiences as well, not just for performances but also for rehearsal, just as an alternative space.”
Boucher knows the city’s theatre scene well. She’s been involved both onstage and off with Odyssey Productions as well as Spark Theatre and Off the Cuff, and has performed at Plaza 88, on a train, at restaurants and on the E.A. Rawlinson Centre stage.
“The Rawlinson is a beautiful arts space, but it’s not perfect for every sort of entertainment. We need another option.”
The smaller Jam Street space also works well for rehearsal, workshops, poetry nights, meetings and other uses, she said. A full crowd, at about 40 people, feels packed in. The experience is more intimate than it would be on a larger stage, Boucher said.
“When I found out Lucy was moving back to Switzerland, I thought, we could use that space.”
It will also serve as a sort of permanent home for Off The Cuff, which has resorted to partnering with restaurants, booking corporate shows and finding other performing spaces. Boucher said Off The Cuff has been looking for a space to call its own for some time.
“It would open up a lot more doors for us because we could work on our own terms,” she said.
While those new uses will be adding to Jam Street, Boucher is dedicated to ensuring music lessons will continue. Boucher’s daughter takes lessons there, and knows how valuable it is to its students. Boucher said she’s a little nervous, but also excited. Community groups she’s contacted have supported her vision.
James is also excited about what has become of the business she started eight years ago.
“Running the stage, promoting the shows, that’s also a huge dream, but I don’t have the capacity to do it,” James, who did host some small performances, said.
“Somebody else can take that over and take on that part of the whole job. This is exactly what I wanted it to be.”
Boucher will have some help, too. Derworiz, who has appeared on stage and has directed shows in Prince Albert, will be helping to manage the business.
“I’m excited to be part of the arts community in Prince Albert and to work in partnership with the other venues here in town and with the community,” he said.
“I think it’s super important that we explore and develop the arts relationship with downtown and we build upon the success of the Rawlinson Centre and other venues on Central Ave.”
Derworiz has gone through the struggle of finding good rehearsal space himself. He knows how valuable the future version of Jam Street could be should all things go to plan.
“Affordable rental space, affordable storage space, these are things that all theatre clubs need. Performance venues are another important thing for small showings,” he said.
“It’s very hard to do a one-act or one-person show if there is a need to sell 200 tickets to turn a profit. This allows for smaller shows that can make smaller profits, but allow the opportunity to do new and experimental art.”
As for James, she will see her legacy, and her dream, continue on as she goes back to the country she called home for a decade.
She found success in Switzerland, playing and performing and touring, before moving back to spend time with her parents, who live in Prince Albert, and brother in Saskatoon.
With Jam Street in good hands and a move back to Bern on the horizon, James now has the best of both worlds.
“I started (Jam Street) without knowing if it would even work and it built and grew and grew — the Wolfe was a good example of my vision of where it could go,” she said.
That band, made up of three musicians from Prince Albert, found success on the provincial and national scale, landing at the top of the CBC Searchlight competition and earning fans from coast to coast.
As for Switzerland, James said she had an “amazing” musical career there. She’s excited for herself and her husband to go back, and for her kids to experience something new.
“It was out of this world, the best experience. I was so sad to leave that to come here, but I knew it had to be. Now it’s time to go back. The kids get to experience it. I love living there — it’s a good place to be. It’s all good, but it’s hard.
“I’m sure it will be amazing.”