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Remembering the
Chapin Magic

Jim Chapin, jazz drummer and educator, died on July 4 in Florida at 89 years old.

Chapin was born in New York City in 1919. He did not begin playing the drums until he was 18 years old, after being inspired by Gene Krupa. He studied with rudimentalist Sanford Moeller, and within two years, he was playing opposite Krupa at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York.

In the early 1940s, Chapin began working on a drum instruction book that was published in 1948 called Advanced Techniques For The Modern Drummer, Volume I, Coordinated Independence As Applied To Jazz And Be-Bop. Still in print today, it became known among drummers as “The Chapin Book.”

From the 1940s through the 1960s, Chapin performed and toured with a variety of bands, including Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra, and groups led by the likes of Mike Riley, Woody Herman, Tommy Dorsey and Tony Pastor. He also performed on occasion with his sons, Tom, Steve and the late Harry Chapin, who was a hit singer-songwriter in the 1970s.

In 1971, Chapin published Advanced Techniques For The Modern Drummer, Volume II, Independence–The Open End. Some of his techniques were captured on an instructional video first released in 1992 called Speed, Power, Control, Endurance, which is now available on DVD.

During the past 25 years, Chapin spent his time traveling around the world teaching and presenting seminars. He was a fixture at music trade shows and percussion conventions where a crowd of drummers would gather to soak in what long-time student, friend and confidant Dom Famularo dubbed “The Chapin Magic.”

In 1994, Chapin received the American Eagle Award, presented by the National Music Council in Washington, and a lifetime achievement award from the Berklee College of Music in Boston. And in 1995, he was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame.