If the parishes in Harrison County had a heartbeat Jimmy Mazzie definitely provides its rhythm and has enjoyed doing so for the last 50 years.
The Clarksburg gentleman has been playing the piano and organ at Masses since he was 13 years old.
It all started when he was a youngster and primary student at the former St. James Grade School.
“I wanted to take lessons so badly, but I had to wait a few years until I turned 9,” he said. While in his heart he was ready the age was a prerequisite set by Marie Byrnes, who according to Mazzie, was the crème de la crème of piano and organ teachers. Plus, his feet could not touch the floor let alone the piano pedals.
“She was our organist at our parish (St. James the Apostle),” he said. “She was so involved with the music and everything that went on there, it’s like she lived at the church. I wanted to be like that and couldn’t wait to start playing in church.”
When it was finally his turn to slide across the piano bench for lessons he was elated.
“I still have my piano book from her,” he said. “It’s full of sacred songs – Holy, Holy, Holy; The Church’s One Foundation; and Holy God We Praise Thy Name. Those songs became my songs. When I turned 13, she had enough confidence in me I began to play at Mass and those were the songs I played and oh, did I play them.”
He has been a lifelong parishioner at St. James the Apostle in Clarksburg. He is currently the liturgical music director at St. Ann Parish in Shinnston; funeral Mass music director for Immaculate Conception in Clarksburg; and fills in as organist not only for St. James, but also the protestant churches in the area, when he is needed for weddings, funerals or other special events. He also steps up as needed at St. Augustine in Grafton, the parish his wife Anna “Annie” (Veltri) Mazzie grew up in and where the couple was married.
He said God must know how happy he is making music for the Church He enabled him to retire at the age of 50 in 2008.
“I often say God didn’t pick perfect people to be His apostles, he picked people who had a bit of talent, whether good or bad you can work that bad to good,” he said. “I’m not perfect but I’m working to be good.”
If you ask the parishioners, they will tell you his charisma is contagious, his energy seems unstoppable, his compassion is genuine; and his love of God and the Church is exemplary.
“I’ve known Jimmy for years,” said Immaculate Conception Choir member Victor Folio. “He is definitely a people person who has a smile and kind word for everyone.”
Fr. Chris Turner, associate pastor of St. Ann’s and St. James parishes, said it is Mazzie that strengthens others.
“He possesses an incredible ability to draw out the best in those he works with,” he said. “Jimmy takes time and is present. He is a present to people, which is how Christ taught us.”
“Jimmy was my divine connection to singing the Lord’s praises,” Sharon Sears of St. Ann’s choir said.
St. James parishioner Colleen Driscoll said Mazzie’s reverence for the Eucharist, coupled with his talents that encourages the assembly to participate wholeheartedly at the Mass is an energy our parishes need more of today. Driscoll’s daughter, Brooke Driscoll, was inspired by Mazzie to cantor at a Mass and baptism when she was just eight years old. She became a lector and altar server and now at 19 plays the piano and organ at church. Through the years he has encouraged
all of Driscoll’s children. Her daughter, Ashley, plays cello; son, Kevin, has played both the guitar and drums at Mass; and youngest son, Brian, was also involved in the music program and played viola.
“Not only is he an amazing musician and music director, but Jimmy is also a caring, compassionate, and selfless individual who has used his many talents to help out his community,” Brooke Driscoll said.
This June is the official golden anniversary of his debut as a liturgical musician, but he has always had a heart of gold, Nancy Hall of St. Ann’s choir said.
“Jimmy has a very friendly yet persistently persuasive manner of getting you to step up out of your comfort zone without exerting pressure,” she added. “His encouragement gave me enough confidence to become a cantor.”
Thanks to Mazzie’s initiative St. Ann’s received a grant which enabled the parish to purchase instruments for the children to play at any time in the choir. The parish is eager for the day COVID-19 restrictions end so they can be used again.
“Jimmy has loved making music with God’s people in praise and honor of God for so many faith filled years,” said Donna Kinsey, of St. Francis de Sales Parish in Morgantown, who works with him as part of the Clarksburg Vicariate liturgical musicians.
“God is a big part of my life,” he said. “I just enjoy being around people and helping people. When I see a talent in someone, I want to encourage them, because God wants us to share our gifts and talents.”
Mazzie considers himself blessed, because he gets to do what he loves.
“When I’m at church or playing at home I can’t describe to anyone how I really feel. It has to be the Holy Spirit taking over, because I get in a zone. I feel so peaceful.”
Making his ministry even more special is his wife’s support and occasional accompaniment.
“I love when she sings with me,” he said, adding from the first time they spoke on the phone, “her voice is so sweet, kind, and mellow. I could listen to her forever.”
The tempo Mazzie likes to keep in his life is definitely upbeat. His music ministry, while certainly impressive, is only a fraction of what strengthens his faith and outlook. Serving as a Eucharistic minister, taking Holy Communion to nearly 20 shut-ins; eagerly being a prayer warrior for family, friends, and even folks he doesn’t even know personally; encouraging former students and families he taught “back in the day” at one of his baton twirling studios in Harrison, Randolph, Taylor, and Ritchie counties); reminiscing with his best friend and best man at his wedding, Tim LeFevre, on life’s priorities; or volunteering for groups including the WV Italian Heritage Festivals are the things he cherishes and make him a better person, he said.
“Fifty years! That is a long time to be such a blessing,” Fr. Akila Rodrigo, pastor of St. Ann and St. James the Apostle parishes, said. “We are so happy we have him as our blessing.”