By Jonathan Okanes
Cal Bear Blog
BERKELEY - Sometimes, impatience has its benefits.
Cal wide receiver James Grisom isn’t necessarily a big fan of waiting around for things, so he decided to turn his passion for music into something he can take care of on his own.
Grisom has been exposed to music since he was in the womb. His father, Jerry, is a talented musician and music producer with a studio in the family’s house in Lynwood, Calif. From the time he was a fetus, Grisom heard music just about every day of his childhood.
Not surprisingly, music has become a huge part of James’ life. He has a special interest in musical scores for films and video games. At first, he attempted to copy other pieces he heard on the piano. But that ended up being too frustrating. So he started just composing music himself.
“I realized I could try to learn other people’s stuff on youtube, but I realized I didn’t have the patience to try to learn other people’s stuff,” Grisom said. “So I started making my own. That’s when I realized I just wanted to make my own music.”
Grisom has never really had any formal lessons, but when he was in middle school, Jerry taught him a few chords and debriefed him on music theory. James took it from there, playing piano whenever he could and soaking in all different kinds of music.
When Grisom got to Cal, he spent every free moment he could playing the piano, either in the music building or the dorms.
“It’s in the DNA. It runs in the family,” Jerry said. “A lot of time children have passions other than what their parents have. But this was already in the genes.”
That same impatience Grisom exhibited with music was put to the test when he arrived at Cal. He thought he would have a chance to walk on to the football program when he arrived on campus in 2010, but the opportunity didn’t come until 2012 when he was invited to a tryout. He made the team, and then earned a scholarship before this season.
Grisom had his biggest football highlight yet in the Bears’ last game against Ohio State when he caught a 61-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jared Goff.
“When I made the team, my mindset wasn’t to just sit around,” Grisom said. “I wanted to do what I can to help the team win and I wanted to be a part of helping the team win. I always visualized playing out there. I came to all the games and cheered them on. Now I want to do exactly what the coaches think I can do to help the team win.”
Grisom actually dealt with the impatience of not playing football for two seasons pretty well. He did so by immersing himself in a lot of other aspects of life. He worked at a computer center at one of Cal’s on-campus dorms, mentored a young student in Oakland and was a bible study leader.
And that doesn’t even count the role music played, and still plays, in his life. During his freshman year in the dorms, he and a few friends that lived on his floor put together a 10-minute remake of the movie, Inception, using just is iPhone. Although he is a Religious Studies major with a minor in Philosophy, he has taken film classes on campus as well. And he currently has an unpaid internship composing music for a documentary on human trafficking.
“I always liked video games and movies, and I started really paying more attention to the music,” Grisom said. “That started blowing my mind. I started really getting into music on a more passionate level. Whenever I go to a movie, the first thing I notice is the music. Sometimes the music will make or break the movie for me.”
Grisom has another year of athletic eligibility left after 2013, which works out because he declared his major and minor at a fairly late juncture. After the 2014 season, Grisom has his sights set on spending his last semester of college abroad, perhaps in Thailand or India. Grisom is considering declaring his Religious Studies emphasis on Eastern religions.
“I’m just a guy that loves life in general,” Grisom said. “I find those religions very interesting, but a lot of religions are very interesting. I’m really into the meditation aspect of it. I just think it’s a beautiful thing. I’m just always willing to learn. I just want to always grow as a human being.”