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Elmira’s piano man takes it outdoors

It is hard to think of a time in your life when you walked into the local grocer or stood waiting on an elevator without being accompanied by music – it’s everywhere. In such settings, it’s not usually live, however.

Enter Jim Recchia, who’s known for providing musical accompaniment shoppers at the Woolwich Community Services thrift shop.

“Quite a few years [ago], I started to play here at the WCS store inside all the time. And then with the COVID situation, I couldn’t play inside anymore – I would count as a customer,” he said of the occupancy limits that forced him outside.

He played inside the thrift storefront for approximately eight years until the pandemic bumped him from the gig.

With a limited number of persons allowed inside a retail store at any one time, Recchia was no longer able to play his keyboard, from which he offers up a collection of original songs and some covers. Forced to make a change, he found a new love for performing outdoors.

“I started to approach different outdoor patios, and I found that people weren’t too interested in it, maybe still nervous about the COVID situation. So, I finally went to the library.” Setting up camp outside of the Elmira branch of the Region of Waterloo Public Library, he began drawing the attention of passersby who’d stop to take in the sounds, honk as they went by or kept their heads down and simply smiled to themselves.

“I got my confidence up playing at the library. So, I thought I’d ask them to get here, if I could just play outside,” explained Recchia, sitting at his portable keyboard and chair on the lawn outside of the thrift store on the corner of Church Street and Memorial Avenue. Now into the second weekend of his outdoor WCS residency, Recchia has been competing with the noise of traffic coming off Church Street.

That hasn’t daunted him one bit, however – “I just love playing.”

The idea of performing to retail customers running errands is not one he claims to be his own. “[It] kind of goes back to when I was young. I used to be able to go to stores locally like HiWay Market or in Toronto like Eaton’s or Simpsons. And often they’d have live music, usually an organist or pianist, playing before piped-in music.”

The biggest challenge Recchia faced entering the world of retail performance was switching to solo artist.

“It was a big step for me to play by myself because I’ve always played in bands, as a rule. So being by myself, I was a bit nervous about it. … I kind of bit the bullet and decided I gotta do this, I got to get over my fear and get out and do it by myself.”

A K-W native, Jim Recchia has called Elmira home for the past eight years. He remembers a time as a child when instead of stores having top-40 tunes gleaned from the airwaves and spewed from store speakers into your ears, businesses would host musicians on site adding to the customer satisfaction and providing a platform for the artists at the same time.

Although the Elmira-based musician does not have any social media or streaming services where his music can be explored, he continues to play in front of Elmira’s library twice a week and on weekends outside of WCS. He encourages people to come by, enjoy his music and say ‘hello.’

Recchia said he hopes as the leaves change colour and frost hits the ground, he will one day soon be able to play inside the store again.

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