What Thomas Chapin Can Teach You About Your Life

“Music was a state of being; it was never something I had to consider.” Thomas Chapin

If you ever get the chance to see the documentary Thomas Chapin, Night Bird Song: The Incandescent Life of a Jazz Great, you will be inspired.

It’s not just that it’s an inside look at a gifted saxophonist/flutist/composer and how he was on the cusp of greatness just before he passed. The reason the film will move you is because getting to know this man can’t help but move you to up your game. Whatever you are doing now, you will want to do it better, because this man pulled no punches. He gave no excuses.

Until I met the Emmy-winning filmmaker Stephanie J. Castillo, I admit I wasn’t aware of Thomas Chapin’s music, even though a good portion of my music collection is dedicated to jazz, particularly all realms of the genre, from Preservation Hall Jazz Band, to Glenn Miller, to Tom Scott, to Billie Holiday. As I began to sift through the film’s links and soak in his music, I was immediately awed by his passion and dedication towards his craft.

In watching the film Thomas Chapin, Night Bird Song and learning more about him as a man and an artist, I felt that he was just like me. He steered towards the unconventional and set his own path. He would not be a cookie cut version of a specific genre — to the point that the jazz industry had trouble categorizing him.

Chapin’s sound is so distinctive, you know after you hear one song that you’ve never heard anyone else play the same way. Even when he played a classic, it was done with a unique flair and a kind of arrangement you would have never thought possible.

His music may have been unrivaled, yet he found a way to meld two separate mediums together seamlessly, and with the complete awe and support of both communities. He was all forms of jazz wrapped up into a single body of music. This is a rare gift. Chapin’s sound is truly distinctive, even to this day.

But what spoke loudly about the man was that he was into it to make the music rather than have the music make him. That is the sign of true professional. Chapin could move sound in more directions than anyone had thought possible. In fact, watching Thomas Chapin makes me want to become a better writer, to up my game on everything I do.

There is a moment in the documentary that will leave you speechless, where you will think about it until your head hits the pillow, right through to the time you wake up. It was Chapin’s last performance on February 1, 1998. That is the moment everything will change for you. You will then realize how you must use his story to become a better person, to become better at what you do.

Chapin’s friends and family were having a benefit concert for him. He wasn’t expected to be there because he was in his final stages of cancer. To the surprise of everyone, he appeared on stage. They expected just to hear words of thanks, but instead, he pulled out his flute and began one last performance.

Chapin died of leukemia 12 days later at age 40. He put everything he had into his craft. His work ethic was extraordinary. You can see it in the few performances that are available online.

This documentary will leave you wanting more — more of Thomas Chapin’s story and more of his music. It is available online through www.thomaschapinfilm.com or by contacting Stephanie J. Castillo through LinkedIn.


Originally published at www.linkedin.com.