Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Surprise from trumpeter Chris Botti is music to Clearwater jazz fan's ears

Jazz musician Chris Botti, left, with Clearwater fan Nancy Blacklin. They’ll meet again Friday.

Special to the Times

Jazz musician Chris Botti, left, with Clearwater fan Nancy Blacklin. They’ll meet again Friday.

CLEARWATER — Nancy Blacklin recently got the surprise of her life while watching jazz star Chris Botti in concert.

Blacklin, a huge jazz fan, was up in the balcony of a concert hall in Ohio. The Clearwater grandmother had recently lost her husband of 46 years, and her granddaughter had persuaded her to fly up North for a visit and to see Botti perform.

Midway through the show, Botti stopped and said, "Where's that beautiful grandmother from Florida? Nancy, where are you? What are you doing way up there?"

This had been set up by Blacklin's granddaughter. Botti had Blacklin come down and sit in the middle of the front row. The versatile jazz trumpeter then dedicated a song to her.

"I think I was in a state of shock," Blacklin recalls happily.

Then he said he'd see her in Clearwater.

Botti (pronounced BO-dee) is the Friday night headliner of this year's Clearwater Jazz Holiday. Blacklin will be in the VIP seats up front, watching her favorite trumpet player perform one more time.

• • •

Nancy Blacklin, 77, grew up to the sound of jazz. Her father, a Baltimore steelworker, always played Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and other big-band jazz greats.

In 1963, she married her sweetheart Roy Blacklin. They raised three sons. They played jazz records and supported live music, even attending the first Jazz Holiday in 1980. They went to countless concerts together — until Roy began to suffer the symptoms of post-polio syndrome.

This is a little-understood condition that sometimes strikes people like Roy Blacklin decades after they first contracted polio. It weakens and paralyzes people. Roy started using a wheelchair. He moved his orthodontics lab into the south Clearwater home where the Blacklins had lived since 1978.

This January, he died of lung cancer.

"He was my whole life because I did everything for him," Nancy Blacklin said. "Sometimes I wonder what I'm going to do now."

Emily McCord, the oldest of her eight grandchildren, had a thought.

McCord, an announcer on a public radio station in Ohio, scored some passes to a Chris Botti show up there. She knew Botti was one of her grandmother's favorites.

Blacklin has all of the musician's CDs and DVDs and has seen Botti every time he has performed at Jazz Holiday or at Ruth Eckerd Hall.

McCord lured her grandmother up for a visit. Unbeknownst to Blacklin, her granddaughter had been reaching out to friends of friends, secretly arranging for her to meet Botti in person.

Blacklin got to meet the musician just before his Sept. 26 concert at Clark State Performing Arts Center in Springfield, Ohio, a venue similar in size to Ruth Eckerd.

But the biggest surprise came during the concert itself, when Botti called her down front.

Blacklin took the steps two at a time. Once she took a seat, he played a song for her.

"He's the best trumpeter I've heard in my life," Blacklin said. "This has all been mind-boggling, especially coming on the heels of Roy's death."

The song: My Funny Valentine.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at or (727) 445-4160.

If you go

Clearwater Jazz Holiday

When: Thursday through Sunday

Where: Coachman Park, downtown Clearwater

Bring: Lawn chairs, blankets, sunscreen, still cameras

Don't bring: Coolers, food, drinks, pets, tents, backpacks, umbrellas, audio or video recording equipment, laser pointers, skateboards


5 p.m.: Gates open

5:30-6:30 p.m.: Tom Brantley Collective

7-8 p.m.: Mike MacArthur & Nate Najar

8:30-10 p.m.: Al Jarreau


4 p.m.: Gates open

5-6 p.m.: The Organic Trio

6:30-7:30 p.m.: Joe Baione Quartet

8-9 p.m.: Nicole Henry

9:30-11 p.m.: Chris Botti


2:30 p.m.: Gates open

3:15-4:30 p.m.: Gumbi Ortiz and the Latino Projekt

5-6:15 p.m.: Les Sabler

6:45-8:30 p.m.: Jazz Holiday 30th Anniversary Extreme Tribute Band

9-10:30 p.m.: Boney James


2 p.m.: Gates open

2:30-3:30 p.m.: Youth Jazz Band with BK Jackson

4-5:30 p.m.: Marcus Roberts Trio

6-7:30 p.m.: Brian Bromberg's "It Is What It Is" Band

8-10 p.m.: Neville Brothers

For information

Visit or call (727) 461-5200.

Surprise from trumpeter Chris Botti is music to Clearwater jazz fan's ears 10/13/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 13, 2009 7:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Authors R.L. Stine, Neil DeGrasse Tyson coming to Tampa Bay this week


    AUTHORS: Neil deGrasse Tyson, R. L. Stine, Finn Murphy

    NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 12:  Author R.L. Stine attends “Goosebumps” New York premiere at AMC Empire 25 theater on October 12, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)
  2. Brothers' fatal shootout at Plant City ranch draws lawsuit from survivor


    TAMPA — George "Terry" Long escaped with his life last spring when his wife's ex-husband tried to gun him down at Plant City's Rocking V Ranch.

    This Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office photo shows part of the scene at the Rocking V ranch in Plant City where two brothers were shot dead April 15 during a family confrontation. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Florida Gators' Jordan Sherit out for the year after hip surgery


    Florida Gators defensive lineman Jordan Sherit will miss the rest of the season after undergoing hip surgery earlier this week, coach Jim McElwain said Wednesday morning.

    "It's a bad deal, man," McElwain said.

  4. 5 things to do under $5: Wiener dog racing, Streetcar Festival, Clearwater chalk art, Dia De Los Muertos


    1Wienerfest: They had us at wiener dog racing. This day devoted to dachshunds features racing, a dog costume contest, food trucks, photo booth and raffles at the Florida State Fairgrounds on Saturday. Leashed dogs of all breeds welcome. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. Free admission. (407) …

    An entry in the costume contest from 2015's annual Dia de los Muertos Fiesta, or Day of the Dead Festival, hosted by Casa Tina's Mexican Restaurant.
photo courtesy Mikell Herrick
  5. Locale Market changes yet again, rebranding the restaurant as FarmTable Cucina

    Food & Dining

    When Locale Market opened in Sundial St. Pete in Dec. 2014, it was the most-hyped, most-anticipated gourmet market/food hall/culinary playground Tampa Bay had ever seen. Since then, celebrity chef-owner Michael Mina has done what every entrepreneur does in the face of challenges: tinker.

    Chef Michael Mina and chef Jeffrey Hileman work in the kitchen at Farmtable Kitchen in 2016. EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times