You never know who around you has incredible talents waiting to shine. Meet James PJ Spraggins, a local Jefferson County school bus driver who doubles as a talented jazz drummer in his free time. Recently, he got to show off his skills to the kids he sees every day, and their reaction was priceless. Read on for more on this inspiring Birmingham musician, including his new album coming out soon.
Driver by day, drummer by night
Are you ready to smile? Witness pure joy in the video above as these elementary school students discover their school bus driver, PJ, is an amazing jazz drummer. You can see their faces light up as he takes the stage with his long time friends, The Eric Essex Group, for a special performance.
“Playing for them was just so great because before that performance, none of them really had a clue what my other job was. To see that up close and personal and have them respond the way they did, we loved that. It was just a pleasure to get a chance to do it with The Eric Essex Group. We’ve been performing together for decades.”PJ Spraggins
PJ is on his third year working with Jefferson County Schools as a bus driver. With the flexibility of the job, he’s left with plenty of time to pursue his main passion: creating music.
“The majority of my income is from music. Although I’m a drummer, I also write music and I’ve been releasing self produced projects, mainly Instrumental Jazz, since 2006. I’ve played with a lot of different artists over the years and driving the school bus really fits with the schedule. I can use the time in between to work on new music or practice music for a show.”PJ Spraggins
Rooted in music
For PJ, music is something that’s deeply rooted with who he is. He got his start with drums when he was just eight years old, when his mom bought him a professional drum set (which he still has today).
“Music is something that’s been with me my whole life. I started playing at eight and I’m pretty much self-taught. I would listen to the radio and play along with whatever would come on. Eventually, I got good enough to work and play in church, so that was my first time playing along with other musicians.”PJ Spraggins
At his local church, PJ got plenty of experience learning how to perform. He started learning how to read music as part of the high school band at McAdory High School.
He went on to attend Alabama State University, where he earned a degree in Broadcast Communication with a minor in music performance. There, he got involved in all the ensembles he could, from the marching band to jazz and symphonic band.
Following his passions
Through it all, PJ has garnered impressive multifaceted experience in the music industry. A song from his self-produced 2006 album Light of Day has over 5 million views on YouTube!
In 2023, his dreams of performing internationally and touring for a national artist came true. His career has taken him all over the world, from touring with Grammy Award winning R&B vocalist Peabo Bryson to showcasing his talents at the Bahrain Jazz Festival.
When he’s not touring or producing beautifully-crafted music, he provides the backbeat for a host of highly acclaimed artists from jazz guitarist Eric Essix to, most recently, the dynamic, chart-topping jazz flutist Kim Scott.
As for the highlight of his career, PJ had to give a shoutout to performing at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of The World Games 2022 last summer.
“Stick it out”
Taking inspiration from legendary drummers like Lil’ John Roberts, Buddy Rich and Billy Cobham, PJ has one goal in mind with his music: spreading inspiration and joy.
“Knowing that a lot of other people enjoy music that I’ve created from scratch—that’s the best feeling in the world. On YouTube, a lot of the comments under my songs say how much my music has really touched them, and it feels amazing.”PJ Spraggins
Stick It Out, the title track from his upcoming album of the same name, is available now anywhere you stream music. Keep up with all the amazing things PJ is going to do next—check out his website and follow him on Instagram and Facebook.
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