Quick Take:

Jim Greiner, master percussionist, thinks we are all too stressed. He implores us to find our inner child and offers quick techniques to connect with our individual life rhythms. He also teaches us how to transform cat food into a musical instrument.

Jim Greiner wants us all to relax and groove.

We’re too stressed, and we’ve become consumed with what he calls the “gottas” of life. The jobs and responsibilities we’ve “gotta” do to support ourselves and our families. He wants us to start to focus on our “gettas,” the activities we “get to” do, that get us out of bed in the morning with a feeling of “Today, I get to … “

“Our ‘gettas’ are the things that uplift and energize us,” Greiner says. “They are what help us focus on who we want to be, helping us reinforce positive patterns of attitude and action … positive life rhythms, within ourselves, and our communities.”

For him, that’s percussion.

Percussion inspires him, makes him feel connected to his true self and part of the larger rhythm of life. He has made a life of his “getta” by creating a business – Jim Greiner’s Hands On! Drumming – through which he teaches drumming and rhythm principles to corporate and community groups locally, in Silicon Valley and worldwide.

In these two videos, Greiner invites us into his Soquel home studio and lavish garden, where, surrounded by his fascinating array of instruments and seated in front of a yurt with butterflies fluttering around him, he helps us understand the power of the beat … how to use rhythm as a positive and powerful life practice.

He also gives us a mini lesson in how to use household objects – including a plastic container of cat food – as percussion instruments.

YouTube video

Jim literally brings the spirit of Santa Cruz over the hill and beyond by teaching simple drumming and vocalization to corporate and community groups as a form of stress reduction and team-building and to reinforce what he calls the “three C’s common to all thriving communities” – communicating, collaborating and celebrating.

He believes the fundamentals of drumming – finding a foundation rhythmic pulse and building a groove around it – are a mantra for life.

“Stress does so much damage to us and to our communities. It eats at us and makes us less communicative and appreciative of others. It makes us insecure and fearful. Drumming empowers us and connects us to others.”

Clients often quietly tell Jim they can’t succeed because they have no rhythm.

He has a ready answer.

“I say, you just don’t know how to start. What else in your life do you keep yourself from doing simply because you don’t know how to start?”

Jim has won multiple local and worldwide awards in his five-decade global journey as a percussionist. He spent two years in Africa, where he was profoundly moved by the power of intentional and focused group drumming to uplift and unify communities.

He brought that power to Santa Cruz in the mid-1970s. It happened by accident.

He was on his way to San Francisco to get his possessions out of storage after two years in Africa and stopped off in Santa Cruz for lunch. He peeked into the original Catalyst club on Front Street, saw the eclectic decor and the “equally eclectic groups of people” under the expansive glass-domed ceiling, and said to himself, “I’m home.”

Jim performs, records and teaches a wide range of musical styles including, rock, funk, R&B, soul, Latin, reggae, blues, jazz, contemporary and traditional Caribbean and African, and pop.

He plays congas, bongos, timbales, djembe, ashiko, frame drums, cajon, udu, shekere, tambourines, cymbals, gongs … shakers, strikers and scrapers… pretty much anything. He can – as in the video – even transform a plastic flower pot into a drum.

He and his wife, Evelyn, bought a solid, but in-need-of-some-serious-TLC, house in the 1990s and have spent decades transforming it into a home-studio-office-family compound filled with fountains, abundant fruit trees, a hot tub, sauna and, of course, a yurt.

He made his passion into his life.

He thinks we all should.

“Make the time to do what you love. Find and follow your passion. Nourish a creative and playful spirit. As children, we learned by playing. As adults, we get more responsibilities and we forget to continue to learn, and to grow, by playing. We do call it playing music for a reason.”

Videos shot and edited by Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz.

Don Lane is a former mayor of Santa Cruz. He serves on the governing boards of Housing Santa Cruz County and Housing Matters and has been a homeowner for 40 years.