the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way
EvenJocelyn Rheaume will admit it’s the right word to describe her life. “I’ve been in the right place at the right time so many times,” she says with a shrug and a little lift of the eyebrows. How else to explain going from a high-school drama teacher, to Alanis Morissette’s personal assistant, to media coordinator for Lilith Fair, to successful independent video producer. Gazing around her office, you don’t even have to be a music junkie to recognize the many famous artists staring back at you from the wall. Alanis, Sarah McLachlan, Paula Cole, Chantal Kreviazuk, to name but a few. There are signed records, signed photographs, handfuls of backstage passes to concerts hanging from hooks – fame everywhere you turn.
And yet to get to this piece of Jocelyn Rheaume’s world, you have to walk down some rickety stairs, past the furnace and into the deep, dark recesses of her basement. It’s all a little incongruous. Particularly when you come back up and look down her quiet, tree-lined street with children scurrying to schools in the west-end neighbourhood.
School, in fact, was the springboard to Jocelyn’s path in life. She turned her love of drama into an eleven-year career as a high-school drama teacher at Glebe High School – and she loved every minute of it. One of her star students was Alanis Morissette.
I’ve been in the right place at the right time so many times.
— Jocelyn Rheaume, video producer
“She came to my house with a cassette on which she’d recorded the first few songs from Jagged Little Pill. It actually sent shivers up and down my spine,” remembers Jocelyn. Within a few short years, things would change dramatically for both Jocelyn and Alanis.
When Jocelyn’s husband James Gillissie decided to take early retirement, Jocelyn took a year’s leave from teaching. They were going to bike around the world. The plans were made. They got their shots.
But then came the phone call that would change Jocelyn’s life path. She’d kept in touch with her former star student who had since moved to Los Angeles and recorded Jagged Little Pill. When Alanis began a tour in support of the album, beginning in small clubs in London, Paris and Amsterdam – at her side was none other than her former drama teacher.
“She was just starting to skyrocket,” says Jocelyn. “So I said to Jimmy – let’s put the bike trip on hold. Then after the first tour ended she wanted me to stay on for a world tour. So in 18 months, I circled the globe twice.”
It was not on a bike, and not with Jimmy, but it definitely had his support. “Jocelyn bought me a subscription to Fine Homebuilding, told me to get busy with our falling-down house and promised to check on my progress every three to four months for the next nine years,” he laughs.
While at Alanis’ side, she saw the rock concert world from the star’s point of view. Jocelyn went from personal assistant to the production side of the show, and, just as she was coming up for air when the tour finally ended, she got a call from the Lilith Fair organizers who asked her to come on board as a media coordinator.
She didn’t even realize it, but once again, she’d been swept up into another “Alice in Wonderland” phenomenon. After three summers of successful Lilith Fair tours, the music bug was pretty much a part of her and she left teaching behind when the school board rejected her third leave request.
For the next seven years, one band just seemed to lead to another – The Pretenders, the Goo Goo Dolls, Barenaked Ladies. Jocelyn even flew with Paula Cole to the Gulf for a concert for the troops. Being catapulted off a destroyer and going from zero to 200 mph in two seconds, was a scary experience, she said for someone who doesn’t even do rides at the Ex!
And while she admits that it was a crazy life change, it was all a good fit. “My high-
school teaching set me up to be highly organized and disciplined. And because there weren’t a lot of females doing this kind of work, I developed some wonderful relationships with the artists.”
Like the popular singer Chantal Kreviazuk who says, “Jocelyn is not only one of the best people I have met in the business and had on my team, but she is an incredible person. On a professional level, Jocelyn brings something refreshing and magical to ‘the office.’”
But at some point, Jocelyn recognized she had to go back to the other side of the “looking glass.” There was a husband, a house and a life that had been left behind. When she was asked to produce a show for the 30th Annual Congress of Aboriginal Peoples at the Congress Centre, she jumped at the opportunity and produced a multi-faceted show that combined live acts, multi-media and video.
While there continued to be a bit of overlap between her music life and her other life, the call of home and the video business grew stronger. By 2003, Jocelyn was the video producer of her own company Bossy Jossy Productions, with much of her work coming from Ottawa video firm Affinity Productions.
“Having Jos on the team is peace of mind,” says Affinity’s vice-president Mike Wetmore. “When I put her on a project, I pretty much forget about it because I know she has it completely under control. Her exceptional way with people ensures the clients keep coming back and asking for her.”
Growing up in an aboriginal culture (her father Gene Rheaume was one of Canada’s first Métis MPs), Jocelyn has also focused a lot of her video work in the aboriginal community. It involves more travel (more renovation time for Jimmy) and access to some of Canada’s most remote areas. To cap it all off, she’s currently working on a project with Mountain Road Production, an Ottawa TV production company that is collaborating with her on a TV network series about indigenous housing across the world.
“I’m throwing myself off a cliff – again,” she laughs in reference to the new project which both excites and terrifies her at the same time. And, yes, she misses some of the heady days of hanging out with rock-and-roll stars, but that was about other artists. “Now I get to have artistic vision and I love it,” concludes Jocelyn who describes her directing, writing and video producing as “soul satisfying.”
CLOCKWISE: Jocelyn working from her west-end home. Jocelyn with Alanis Morissette on the Rideau Canal. Jocelyn with Sarah McLachlan at the Lilith Fair. Jocelyn taking a moment for herself at Lilith Fair. Jocelyn aboard a military destroyer. Jocelyn with Paula Cole and crew aboard military helicopter. photo collection supplied by jocelyn rheaume.