Moonlighter: John Terpin hustles jazz jams by night, lawyers by day
Jazz musician John Terpin can be found at all hours of the night, sitting in on a Joe Doria concert at Ballard’s Tractor Tavern, commanding the stage with his own Terpin Time quartet or sitting in at Ronnie Pierce’s jam at Café Amore in downtown Seattle. He plays beautiful music on his trombone and has often brought the house down — closing in on 2 a.m. The guy never stops. But did you know he can play steel drums, keys and bass too? Oh, and he’s also an attorney for the Gary Grotz Law Firm?
You are a lawyer by day and jazz musician by night. Which came first?
Jazz musician. My undergraduate degree from Miami University of Ohio is in music. Law school and becoming a lawyer was a shock to my system! For a long time, I did not know how to concentrate on both music and law, and music unfortunately suffered. But music nourishes my soul and could never take a back seat for long. These days I absorb as much music as possible for I cannot help myself!
A lawyer’s job can be hectic, stressful and busy. How in the hell do you find the time to hustle for gigs and sit in on so many?
Lucky for me there are 24 hours in a day. Also lucky for me, playing music is my antidote to the lawyer’s plagued existence. As for the hustle, that just comes with the territory. And a wise musician once said, “Don’t sound anybody for a gig — just be on the scene.” It gets a little hairy at times, but for the most part, the relationship is symbiotic.
You’ve only been in Seattle a short time. How would you characterize the music scene here, compared to where you came from and other places you’ve gigged at?
The Seattle music scene is awesome and wide open! We have a true community of musicians here who are, with minor exception, all accepting, encouraging and supportive of one another. Sure it’s still a little cliquey, but not among any of the musicians that matter. You had to really travel to gigs and hustle hard for them in the Midwest, and in Boston, there are a million gigs, but also a million musicians. Not to mention the fact that the music scene in the Northeast seems to survive on hegemony.
What’s your favorite kind of night and what do you do to relax, or is it always go go go?
GO GO GO!!! And that’s my favorite kind of night. I’m high strung and staying busy is a form of relaxation. Plus I’m a social addict. I do need to crash about once or twice a month, but not for long, because I soon get anxious to get back out there!
Interview first appeared in Examiner May 11, 2010.