A Portland Icon: Ms. Janice Scroggins 1955-2014

The word is spreading through Portland like flesh eating locusts with devastating effect, Ms. Janice Scroggins has given up the ghost leaving mourners grieving the woman and her legacy. Janice gave so much of herself and her talent, she performed everywhere and with everybody.

Janice Scroggins, Portland’s and the world’s piano giant began playing piano at the tender age of three. Like most Black artists, her relationship with music began in church where, according to Janice,”…you can feel like yourself.” Her mother and grandmother taught her to play the piano. It is reported she liked playing the piano such much she often lost track of her bedtime.

Originally from Oklahoma, Janice arrived in Portland sometime during the 1970’s. As soon as she came to Portland she began playing music and never stopped. She didn’t work at fast food joints, hotels or any other menial jobs to supplement her income, Janice was music. She lived it, played it, taught it and enjoyed it. She’s played with the likes of Linda Hornbuckle, Thara Memory, Curtis Salgado, Esperanza Spalding and so many, many more. She is well known in Portland and beyond for her Blues, Gospel and Jazz style music.

Grammy nominated, in 1991 Janice was inducted to the Cascade Blues Association Hall of Fame. In 2013, she was inducted in the Oregon Music Hall of Fame. Her most recent album is Piano Love.

She didn’t seek the bright lights and Big City. She remained here in Portland where she cultivated her own fan base. Her spirit was so warm and so humble. Beautiful Black last saw Janice at the Red Door Project’s August Wilson Monologues Competition where she played during intermission. She was leaving the competition when we stopped her and asked for a photo. In her quiet way, she stopped, posed for the photo, smiled and continued on. That’s another thing about Janice, she supported her community. If entertainment was needed at a community event, she was there. For those who don’t know the artist, the person, it’s almost impossible to live in Portland and not know her name. Portland’s musical landscape is forever changed. Condolences are pouring in via social media.

“WHAT???Say it ain’t so!!”

“She meant a lot to Portland and the music world, she will be missed. Much love Janice.”

“I had the pleasure of seeing Janice play just a couple months ago. It was the first and only time I saw her perform, but I was mesmerized at her talent. The spirit she had can’t quite be put into words. You just saw it in her.”

 “How very sad.  I have felt blessed by Janice Scroggins and her music for decades.  I will miss her music and her spirit.”

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A benefit concert takes place Monday June 9th, 2014 at the Alberta Rose Theater beginning at 7pm. Tickets are $26.

Janice passed on Tuesday May 27th, 2014 from a heart attack.

Janice is survived by her daughters Arietta Ward, Nafisaria Scroggins-Thomas and Francis Scroggins. Her funeral takes place June 4th, 2014 at Vancouver Ave Baptist Church located at 3138 N Vancouver Ave,  phone: 503 282 9496. Donations can be made to Ken Berry at The World Arts Foundation Inc. by calling 503 816 9001. Donations can also be made at any Wells Fargo bank in the name of Janice Scroggins.

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