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Singer, Songwriter and Social Activist Jen Chapin Will Offer Free Performance

September 22, 2004

Category: Alumni, Events, Music


The late Harry Chapin’s daughter is all grown up and blazing her own trails as a performing songwriter and social activist.   She’ll share her considerable talents and selections from her major-label debut album, Linger, during a free Homecoming Weekend concert in Catawba College’s Keppel Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Friday, October 8.

Chapin’s free performance is jointly sponsored by the Catawba Alumni Office, the Lilly Center for Vocation and Values, Wigwam Productions and the Catawba Music Department. And, although the performance is free, seating is limited to the first 1,400 people. Attendees are encouraged to bring donations of non-perishable food items to the performance to benefit Rowan Helping Ministries.

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According to Catawba College Music Professor Dr. David Fish, those attending Chapin’s concert will be “catching a glimpse of an artist on the way up.”   Her musical depth, he says, assures that she’ll be in music a long time.

Jen Chapin has worked to overcome “being Harry Chapin’s daughter,” Fish contends and to prove herself a musician of the highest order.   Although her musical talents and her social activism mirror those of her father, she has proved she has the talent and ability to radiate her own shadows.   “She’s also quite different musically.   Her father was influenced by American folk music.   Jen’s songs, while still in the popular vein, display more of a jazz sensibility.   She brings new musical meaning to her family name,” Fish adds.

A liberal arts graduate of Brown University, the 32-year-old Chapin attended the Berklee College of Music.   Since the mid- 1990s, she has lived in the New York City area and worked to sharpen her musical style, songwriting and voice with the help of her husband, bassist Stephen Crump, who plays in her four- piece band.   Her third album release,   Linger, is earning rave reviews from such media outlets as Entertainment Weekly and the Boston Globe.   It is released under the Hybrid label, distributed by Sony.

The 12-tracks on Linger were all written by Chapin and incorporate folk, elements of jazz and her love of old school R&B into Chapin’s own eclectic style.   Her alto voice and clear enunciation ring true in each track and the messages in those tracks are underscored with clarity.   In “Passive People,” she croons, “…we let the outrage melt away, it seems that life is so much easier that way.”   In “Manchild,” she draws on her own background as a middle and high school teacher to describe a generation of men who see their futures through the barrel of their guns or define themselves only in terms of their material goods.

Chapin’s other albums include Live at the Bitter End in 2000, an independent release, and 2002’s Open Wide, a collaboration with her husband.

Known in entertainment circles for her ability to rally other musicians behind good causes, Chapin practices what she preaches.   Her father co-founded the organization World Hunger Year (WHY) in 1975 in an effort to do battle with poverty and hunger worldwide.   Twenty-six years later in 2001, Jen Chapin was elected chairwoman of that organization’s board.

Under Jen’s leadership, WHY has established the highly successful Artists Against Hunger and Poverty (AAHP), which enlists performing artists to help raise funds and awareness for the most innovative and effective community-based organizations working to combat hunger and poverty.   The program works with such name acts as Bruce Springsteen, Phish, Kenny Rogers, Melissa Ethridge, Natalie Merchant, Pete Townsend and Harry Belafonte.

Through her songs she examines social issues and their impact on the lives of everyday people, but she does not depend on the songs to change the world, she believes instead those changes come about through the efforts of everyday people, like herself.   As she tours the country promoting her new album, her performances benefit worthy philanthropic causes at each stop.   Twice a month, she teaches a Saturday class for Girl Scouts on “Black Music in America,” and she also instructs older students on “Music and Social Action.”

Her concern about injustice and righting social wrongs and the idea of using her vocation as a songwriter to help effect positive change were what motivated administrators at Catawba College to invite Jen Chapin to perform on campus. “Our students need to be aware of the impact one person can have,” says Fish.   “When they see a performing songwriter who still gets involved in their local community, who has as her goal the idea of helping others, and who strives for success in her profession, perhaps they’ll use her as a model for their own lives.

“A vocation is not just a job – it’s a way of living a life that combines the gifts you have in a special way to help not only you, but others.”

Advance tickets to the Jen Chapin concert are available at the Catawba College Music Department in the Williams Music Building on campus or you can reserve yours to pick up by calling 704-637-4345.

Additionally, Chapin will offer an informal talk on performing artists working with non-profit organizations prior to her concert on Oct. 8.   That talk, sponsored by Catawba’s Lilly Center, begins at 6 p.m. in Hedrick Theatre on campus and is free and open to the public.