Professional Profiles

Instructor shares lifelong love of jazz with liberal arts students

Neil Ritchie. Photo by Greg Ehlers.

By Amy Robertson

Neil Ritchie says he doesn’t have “that many” music albums—only 3,000 CDs and 1,000 LPs or so.

The former CBC Radio producer, who teaches music history at SFU Continuing Studies, doesn’t consider himself a true collector—he buys only what speaks to him. Some of his former colleagues have collections five times as large.

Ritchie, whose primary loves are jazz and classical, began collecting music as a teen—while his friends listened to the Beatles, he was enchanted by Ella Fitzgerald.

After university, Ritchie found a job cataloguing records at the CBC—and it turned into a 33-year broadcasting career.

Alan Aberbach, who founded the Seniors Program (now the Liberal Arts and Adults 55+ Programs), convinced Ritchie to teach his first jazz class in 1997—and he’s been teaching ever since.

In many ways, he says, he likes teaching even more than broadcasting. In radio, he rarely connected with his audience. But in the classroom, he says, “you can watch them—you can see them listening and closing their eyes.”

Related story: Liberal Arts student, 66, has a new lease on life.