From the President and others– Remembering Jim Chapman (June 12, 2011)

Dear Colleagues,
I feel compelled one last time to make a few comments on this man that we all knew as “Jim” Chapman. I found myself steeped in thought, filled with emotion and admiration, and at times stunned by the impact this most wonderful man had on so many individuals as I sat in the Recital Hall at UVM yesterday afternoon at his memorial service.  I found myself in another similar unique situation this past week when we (the BHS Chorus) threw a small and personal party for another extraordinary musician and teacher, John Henzel, who will be retiring at the end of this school year. As I made some opening remarks about John, I tried to bring a lot of information to the students about this most wonderful man so that students could have a “feel” for his accomplishments and maybe ask some questions of him, which indeed they did! During those remarks I mentioned to the students a James Jordan book I had read where the author asked the reader to make a list of the p eople that had been most important and influential to them in their life. I did this for myself, and had saved the list on a piece of paper in the book, and Jim Chapman was one of the first 10 individuals that I had listed! I told the students that in my life I was amazed at my good fortune to have so many extraordinary musicians and others be a part of my life, and so here we are again, returning to thoughts of Jim.
I think my point here is that we as teachers and musicians and mentors have such an incredible influence on those that we work with. I would not ever want to think that maybe there will be a day when Jim will not be remembered, but 50 years from now that may be the case? Indeed, it will be that way with most of us, and yet as I looked around the Recital Hall yesterday I saw many, many individuals that are also in the John Henzel and Jim Chapman club; college professors, high school educators, elementary music educators and conductors. People that nurture the creative proclivities of young musicians of all ages. However, Jim was unique and special, and if I may use a word that was used a couple of times yesterday, elegant. I would also like to add that this man represented a human being that had a high sense of honesty and personal integrity. THAT is what may have driven him to succeed, to “insist” on perfection, and might have sometimes driven him into a fury o f anxiety as he pursued his forward motion to represent the music and the composer in as honest a manner as possible.
Quite a few years ago Jim had written me a letter in which he stated (concerning the representation of a composers intent) that if one gave attention to the notes on the page, the written expressive markings, and was honest about notes and rhythm and intent, that the meaning of the music would virtually jump of the page! Of course this is a paraphrase of his words; his wording was much more “elegant.” I have found myself going back to that thought many times over these many years of work in the public schools.
Which brings me to a point that was made by someone yesterday about how important Jim had insisted that music “theory” was to the formation of a musician. The import of the statement was that music theory was vitally important and should not (could not) be avoided in the formation of a strong musician. I do remember how strongly Jim felt about that subject, and as a result it did not always endear him to others when he insisted it was the “only” way. But as time has passed, and as we see less and less of this work being done in our schools as we teach our young musicians, we can also see that Jim was right, and we knew he always was! I think that one of the best ways we all could honor Jim Chapman’s legacy is to recommit to the “truth” that we must start giving our students more theory training. Our students must know how to read, how to count, and they must know the basic tenants of notation, chord structure and have an understanding of the “language” of music. How we w ill be able to do this within the often shallow and short sighted curriculum design that many schools give us is problematic for sure, but I know I am going to try!
Jim was a complex man for sure, and yet packed into that lean body of an individual was a compassionate man with emotion and a sense of family. A loving man of deep commitment, a mentor and teacher to all that wished to partake of his experience and knowledge, an interpretive musician that relentlessly was driven to produce his very best work, a man that was constantly seeking knowledge and enlightenment, and a man of deep humility and humbleness in the light of recognition. His own wishes to not have any kind of memorial service in his honor came as no surprise to me, and yet I know that he would be deeply pleased to know that he had an impact on so many, and in so many ways. I can hear him saying “gaaaaawdd” if he were here to witness the comments and see the obvious love that was lavished on him yesterday.
It is hard to figure out how to move on without, as Jim might say, “continuing the drivel” about him and his influence. But like many great individuals there is the compulsion to somehow place him somewhere in our own small world here in Burlington where he will not be forgotten and where we will be able to honor his life and work. I found Phil’s parting comments yesterday an understatement of his importance, and yet completely satisfactory for the occasion. Indeed absence makes the heart grow fonder, and for all those that knew Jim Chapman, the letters “JC” will always jog the memory, because for us he really did walk on water. He shaped a part of the music history at the University of Vermont and in this state, and he shaped a part of our personal lives as well. His legacy will live on, because we will make it so.
With Deep Respect,
Frank Whitcomb


I would like to take the opportunity to thank Frank for this and so many other thoughtful writings over this past year.  I, too, was fortunate to work with Dr. Chapman as an undergraduate and beyond, and in the Memorial Service presented yesterday, was reminded of Jim’s committment and passion for the music he loved so much, but also of his committment to each and every one of his students he worked with.  He took a deep pride in our accomplishments and was always there to lend his support in our work.  He will be missed.

Lastly, to Frank, my very good friend and colleague, thank you for your thoughtful insight, deep passion for this work we do, and unending support for all who hold choral education so near and dear to them.  Bravo tutti!
Gary A. Moreau – Past President
Vermont Music Educator’s Association
39 Drury Drive
Essex Junction, VT  05452


Dear Frank,

Thank you so much for the time you have devoted to informing us  on concerts, to inspire thinking about the role of music education,   the latest developments in choral music education and music in general.   Your role as President has been phenomenal for you have provided many moments of intellectual inspiration on music and life;  informing and sharing your knowledge and wisdom with grace and passion.

The beautiful reflection you state so elegantly (yes, Frank YOU are blessed with the gift of expression  and writing!) on the legacy of Jim brings memories of a conversation with him about two years ago. I asked of him the key to the sound produced by the Choral Union and one immediate response was “intervals.”   His r esponse was interesting for it connects to the founding of music education in our country,  and to the research and writings of today on music and the brain.

Frank, you have done something remarkable requesting to honor Jim’s Legacy. With thoughts of Jim’s Legacy,  I am pleased to share two documents:

The first is from the Annual Report of the School Committee of the City of Boston, 1865.


“The third subject was the formal introduction of scientific music instruction into the Primary Schools.  Indeed the beginning of this sphere of instruction at this time was perhaps due to what were believe to be the peculiar qualifications of a gentleman who had given, in some o f our schools,  practical illustration of his talent, more than to any other cause.  In theory, therefore, the matter was launched into full operation.   For many years, music had been properly taught in the Primary Schools, refining and beautiful efforts.  The higher humanities of teacher and pupil blended and came to one in the interspersions of song, with the happiest results.  It was now to be taught as a science, and the corner-stone of our musical education was laid with these younger scholars of the city.”  (So as we can see, Jim engaged in  the teaching of singing as a science.)

The second bit of interesting information is found in  writings by Prof. Robert Zatorre at the Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He with two colleagues on: WHEN THE BRAIN PLAYS MUSIC: Auditory-motor interactions in music percep tion and production (With his permission, the following  is printed)

“Music performance is both a natural human activity, present in all societies, and one of the most complex and demanding cognitive challenges that the human mind can undertake.  Unlike most other sensory-motor activities,  music performance requires precise timing of several hierarchically organized actions, as well as precise control over pitch interval production, implemented through diverse effectors according to the instrument involved.”  

How fascinating for principles inspiring the founding of  music education in 1863 are evidenced and alive in  research  in this Century.  The  founding principles  are vividly  stated and appear to be crucial in the study of music to nurture   ;brain and human development.

So many meaningful reflections of Jim and his work were expressed  yesterday.  What can we do?  How about forming something to honor Jim’s Legacy that might benefit children and young people  in Vermont;  today and in the future from Kindergarten through college. As you stated he shaped part of music history at the University of Vermont,  in the state, and in personal lives.

Jim was loved dearly.. here is a thought to continue his legacy. How about The James Chapman Society for the preservation of the founding of music education in America.  Your thoughts?

With thoughts of appreciation,

Constance Price (Connie)

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