Jay Glerum, author, teacher, designer, consultant, family man, and friend, passed away last week. It was hard news to hear. I'd known Jay since my early days in the industry. Our paths didn't cross all that often but Jay still had a significant influence on my career and the way I thought about the entertainment industry, especially with rigging. He had that effect on a lot of people.
Jay started out as the TD at Seattle University and the University of Washington. From there, he went on to design rigging systems for Peter Albrecht Corp. He taught at Seattle University and, in arguably his best-known work, he teamed up with Harry Donovan to teach rigging seminars around the country and the world. To say that Jay touched the lives of many riggers and technicians in the industry would be an understatement. His rigging seminars, both with Harry and as a solo act, reached out to literally thousands of people, bringing them a perspective into the rigging world that they could not get anywhere else. He wrote Stage Rigging, which for many years has been the bible for riggers working in the theatre around the world.
Jay had an immense passion for his work. His teaching drew on his vast knowledge not only of the equipment and how to use it, but also the materials that went into making the equipment. Couple that with his great stories and you had a recipe for a truly informative and enjoyable class.
But teaching wasn’t his only focus. Jay knew that standards should and must be an important part of how the rigging industry got things done. He pushed for their development, first with USITT, then ESTA, and finally PLASA. Today, through his efforts and other like-minded individuals, we have many industry standards that help make for a safer workplace and a better educated workforce.
Jay was a pioneer in safety consciousness at a time when very few people thought or cared about workplace conditions and safe operations. His classes pushed people to understand the potential dangers of their craft and to adopt appropriate methods of protecting themselves from harm.
But above all else, Jay was a gentleman. He treated everyone with respect and in return held the respect of his students, colleagues, and peers. Jay and I didn’t always see eye to eye, but in each and every discussion we had, he listened to my argument with an open mind. If we didn’t reach a consensus on the topic, we agreed to disagree and carried on from there.
Yes, Jay was an icon. He helped mold a young industry at a time when it desperately needed direction. I can’t imagine where the industry would be if he hadn’t been around to lead the way. I’m pretty sure I would not be where I am today if he hadn’t been there to help.
Will he be missed? Yes, very deeply. But remember, we have the fruits of his work all around us to remind us how much he cared for the industry and the people who work in it. Thanks for everything, Jay. You were one of the best.
The Glerum family has named The ESTA Foundation's Behind The Scenes as their charity for donations from the entertainment industry in Jay's memory, noting that Jay was a huge fan and supporter of Behind the Scenes. To make a donation, please visit here.