A wondrous grin stretched across the face of musician and entrepreneur Jim Duffield Saturday afternoon as he rolled up the door of the moving trailer and gazed at the contents within.
He signalled to a crew of eager musicians who, like concert roadies, quickly began moving amplifiers, effects racks, mixing boards, microphones and other music-making gear inside.
“Leadership is very important to me,” said Duffield. “In order for me to get ahead in my life and be a leader I want to build something that lasts and has meaning. That led me to go back to my passion and add something to the community that has value.”
Duffield is the owner of Royal City Studios a newly opened arts and music facility on Woodlawn Road West.
“I didn’t call it Royal City Music Studios because I would like to support other arts as well,” he said. “You can have arts studios or dance studios. You could even have pottery studios. My vision for the perfect world is to have an arts hub with all the different arts in one place where they can all have everything they need to express themselves and grow.”
Duffield has established himself as a talented and versatile musician playing clarinet, saxophone, piccolo and other instruments for a variety groups including the Eclectic Vinyl Orchestra, a swing and dance hall-inspired quartet.
He grew up in Bramalea and discovered his passion for playing music in Grade 6 when his older sister brought a clarinet home from school to practice during March Break.
“She wasn’t playing it and I asked if I could try it,” said Duffield. “I had already been playing piano and stuff like that so I thought I would pick it up and give it a whirl.
After about half an hour I was further ahead than she was in Grade 8 so, I played it all through middle school.”
His decision to pick up the saxophone in Grade 9 came more out of obligation than choice.
“There were so many clarinet players my teacher said, ‘you have to play sax',” Duffield recalled. “I asked, ‘Do I have to? I love the clarinet'. She said, 'yes you have to', and it became my passion.”
His skill and love for music grew but his pragmatic side convinced him to earn a degree in civil engineering at the University of Toronto.
“That was part of my life when I was trying to figure out what was important to me,” he said. “Music was important at the time but I had a lot of student debt.”
He worked for a year as an engineer before moving into the growing field of information technology. The work provided the financial security he needed as a dutiful husband and father of two but something vital to his happiness was being compromised
“I realized that if I was going to get ahead in that corporate world I would either have to be really lucky or I would have to become somebody I didn’t want to be,” said Duffield.
“I like to be authentic, straight up and say it like it is. That doesn’t fly well in many corporate environments.”
He recognized a need in Guelph and surrounding communities for quality rehearsal space and recording facilities and the concept for Royal City Studios slowly began to develop.
The facility has one large, two small and four medium-sized rehearsal studios as well as a music hall for CD release parties and other cultural events. A coffee station and lounge provides musicians with a place to relax and network between rehearsals and recording sessions in the fully equipped, professional recording studio.
“The recording studio has all the gear, Pro Tools and everything ready to go,” said Duffield. “I don’t want to make a killing. I want to support my family and I want to help musicians. That’s my whole goal to just make it accessible. I want it to be fully equality based, accessible and diverse. Any kind of music. It doesn’t matter. It’s welcome.”
The public is invited to visit Royal City Studios during an open house Saturday, April 20 from noon to 6 p.m.