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Volunteer of the Month: Jen Chapin

The singer-songwriter and mother of two has raised thousands of dollars for P.S. 9 arts programs through four-times-a-year concerts hosted at her home.

 

When singer-songwriter Jen Chapin first decided to host a house concert two years ago, she thought it would be a good way to have fun performing while raising money for .

Little did she know the concerts would become four-times-a-year events that not only have raised thousands of dollars for the Underhill Avenue school’s arts programs but also a powerful vehicle for building community among the parents.

“They give parents a chance to get to know each other in a way you can’t do at school, said Jessie Fleischer-Black, who is on P.S. 9’s PTO. “They started out as fundraisers but they’re really much more than that.”

The concerts include dinner, wine and dessert, as well as a pizza and movie party for the kids in an apartment in the same building.

 “It’s sort of grown as an event,” said Chapin, who moved to Prospect Heights from Manhattan in 1999 and has two children, first-grader Maceo and 2-year-old Van.

“At the school we see each other at drop-off, but we’re often in a rush," Chapin said. “But here it’s just a different context. You get to relax, and drink a little, and eat.”

Not only do Chapin and her husband, Grammy-nominated bassist Stephan Crump, perform and open up their home. Jen also cooks the vegetarian chili, making enough to serve up to 45 guests.

But others pitch in, too. James and Judy Fowler host the kids' party while one or both of their teenage daughters oversee the babysitting,  donates the pizza,  has donated wine and P.S. 9 parents make the desserts. 

Each concert includes the Jen Chapin Trio (Chapin, Crump and guitarist Jamie Fox) and another professional musician—who also is a P.S. 9 parent.

Past performers include Pyeng Threadgill, Sean HickeyCandice Anitra, John Caban and Brother Hijinx, and Jeremiah Lockwood of Sway Machinery.

Chapin, who has released seven albums and performs across the country, said the shared performances are a nice change.

“It’s fun to sort of play, but have it be not about me,” she said. “It’s liberating to just kind of be a bonus, opening up for the main act.”

The  takes place Saturday, June 16 and will feature Andy Friedman, whose music The New Yorker has called “hard-tack country,” and who has two sons at the school.

Chapin is also on the board of the non-profit WhyHunger, an organization started by her father, Harry Chapin, in 1975.

She brought that interest to P.S. 9, co-founding the school’s wellness committee, which this year secured a $2,500 grant for fitness equipment and is working on bringing a salad bar to the cafeteria.

“My unpaid career is as a food justice activist,” said Chapin, “I’ve kind of been involved with it my whole life."

Know a Prospect Heights volunteer who deserves recognition? E-mail Amy.Clark@patch.com.

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