Celebrating a birthday with Jazz

Published on Wednesday, 15 July 2020 17:06
Written by Erica Drzewiecki


Husband and wife Matt and Atla DeChamplain delivered a very special birthday present to Matt’s 98-year-old grandmother Florence Deschamplain at Jefferson House in Newington last weekend.

Despite their names having different spelling, Florence and her grandson Matt have always been very close. Since the COVID-19 pandemic has kept family members from visiting their loved ones at the skilled nursing facility as often as they’d like, he made a point to perform live for her on her birthday June 13.

“I hadn’t seen her since about February and I used to go there and play for her,” the jazz musician explained. “Our whole family is pretty close.”

Matt and his wife brought a guest ensemble to the facility that afternoon, to perform New Orleans-style jazz in the courtyard as Florence watched from indoors. The concert was broadcast through video conferencing all around Jefferson House so that other residents and nursing staff could also enjoy it.

About 10 family members attended the show, including two great-grandchildren ages two and four months. All wore masks.

Florence moved to Jefferson House in 2016. Her late husband Norman Deschamplain (Matt’s grandfather) was a musician and welder.

Matt, a professional musician and music educator, credits his grandmother and grandfather with nurturing his love for music early on in life.

“Her and my grandfather were a really big part of my life; they fostered my interest in music to begin with,” he recalled. “I grew up with a player piano in the house. My grandmother would give me tape cassettes and CDS. She has always been incredibly supportive and provided a great foundation for my career as a musician.”

Matt is now well-known in jazz circles, having performed at the Monterrey Jazz Festival, New York’s JVC Jazz Festival, Jazz at Lincoln Center and many other venues. He is on the faculty the University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music and his wife Atla is a faculty member at Western Connecticut State University. The pair live in Berlin.

Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at edrzewiecki@centralctcommunications.com.

Posted in New Britain Herald, on Wednesday, 15 July 2020 17:06. Updated: Wednesday, 15 July 2020 17:08.