Rick Chamberlain - 1952-2015

 Donations to Delaware Water Gap Celebration of the Arts (COTA) are being accepted in order to create a scholarship for young musicians in Rick's name. Please click here to give...

Rick ChamberlainRick Chamberlain was born in 1952 to the late Richard Earl Chamberlain and Audrey Baxter and raised in Yardley. He began playing at age 5, learning from his dad, an amateur trombonist with a love for all kinds of music. As a youngster he had performing opportunities with local dance bands and youth orchestras and studied with Ed Cook in Trenton, New Jersey. His first professional job was at age 13. As a member of the Pennsbury High School Concert Jazz Band, he won numerous awards which included a scholarship to the National Stage Band Camps. On the suggestion of the late Johnny Richards, who frequently rehearsed the band, he began studies with Wayne Andre in New York City. While in high school, he attended Phil Woods' jazz camp — Ramblerny — for two summers. At age 16, he became a member of the Trenton Symphony Orchestra.

During the summer after graduation, Rick worked with Bob Newman's house band at Mount Airy Lodge, with the likes of Al Cohn and Dave Frishberg, where he got his first taste of the jazz scene in the Poconos. Boston and the New England Conservatory were next. He received a degree (BM) in 1975 studying with John Swallow and playing in the orchestra, wind ensemble, the jazz bands of Jaki Byard and George Russell and a brief stint with the New England Conservatory Ragtime Ensemble. Among his other mentors were Phil Wilson, Gunther Schuller and Joe Maneri. A 1½-year hiatus was spent performing throughout New England with a Berkshire-based band, Goodfriend Coyote. While in Boston, Rick played with numerous freelance orchestras, chamber and contemporary music ensembles.

He also played in clubs, Your Father's Mustache, The Sugar Shack, The Empire Room with Herb Pomeroy and John LaPorta, and spent one summer at the Red Garter in Wildwood, New Jersey, and one as the euphonium soloist with the Nantucket City Band. After graduation, it was back to the Poconos and full-time employment at many of the resorts with such acts as Cab Calloway, Tony Bennett and Steve and Edie.

In 1978, Rick co-founded with Phil Woods and the late Ed Joubert the Delaware Water Gap Celebration of the Arts (COTA), an annual jazz and arts festival. He served in local government for 12 years, and he was the 1989 recipient of the Fred Waring Award in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the arts and the community. He also created an educational branch of COTA and created COTA Campjazz, a weeklong summer camp for students that is now in its 10th year.

Rick ChamberlainIn 1976, Rick toured with Paul Lavalle and the Band of America, and his life as a New York freelance musician began. The early years included lots of jingle sessions, Broadway shows such as "Sugar Babies," "Showboat" and numerous others, subs at the New York City Ballet, tours with Bill Watrous and his Manhattan Wildlife Refuge, Englebert Humperdinck, Chuck Mangione (recording "Live at the Hollywood Bowl," "Tarantella"), a European tour with Louis Bellson's Big Band (recording "The London Sessions"), Gerry Mulligan, with Mel Torme and George Shearing, and at home formed Asparagus Sunshine and played with Water Gap Brass, The Gaptime Ensemble, the Dixie Gents, the Jazz Artists Repertory Orchestra (JARO) and the Northeast Pennsylvania Philharmonic.

Rick recently retired as the principal trombonist with the New York City Ballet Orchestra, the American Composers Orchestra and the Westchester, New York, Philharmonic. He also performed with the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the New York Pops, Joni Mitchell and Harry Connick Jr. and Broadway shows such as "Cats"; he was the last trombone sub before the show closed. He was the lead trombonist of the Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Festival Orchestra (formerly the late Dick Cone's Grandma's Soup). A CD of the Festival Orchestra with the Phil Woods Quintet titled "Celebration" was nominated for a 1998 Grammy Award, and they recorded a "New Celebration" in 2013. He was also producer-performer-composer on the CD "Jazzmass: A Celebration of the Spirit in Delaware Water Gap," which was re-released this year through COTA. He can be heard on several CDs by the American Composers Orchestra, Leon Redbone, Tashi and Philip Glass, Bob Dorough, "This is How I Feel About Quincy" with the Phil Woods Little Big Band, and "Bob Dorough Duets."
Rick was the Lafayette Jazz Ensemble director up until his death and was a mentor and teacher to many students over the years. In April, Pocono Arts Council is honoring Rick with the Performing Hall of Fame Award. Rick's career is testimony to his love of music and the belief that a complete musician should be able to perform in any style.
Rick is survived by his wife, Darcy Chamberlain; daughters Emelia and Lauren Chamberlain; a son, Douglas McCoy and his wife, Cherilyn; a grandson, Ryley McCoy and a granddaughter, Lorna Lee McCoy. He also has two daughters at heart, Melissa McCoy Billingsley and Jessica Pierson Tressler. He was preceded in death by a son, Jamie. He is also survived by his sisters, June Chamberlain Auger and Janet Fisher and her husband, Steve; and many nieces and nephews.
A Celebration of Life will be held in May with date and time to be announced. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Delaware Water Gap Celebration of the Arts (COTA) in order to create a scholarship for young musicians in his name.