French guitarist – and now Princeton resident – Jean Chaumont released his debut album last week, “The Beauty of Differences.”
Chaumont grew up in a small village in France with a large family. His parents belonged to a theater company, where Chaumont immediately became attached to the composer of the group.
“I was always drawn to pianos and instruments,” Chaumont said. “I liked to make noise with anything. So he saw that early on and he encouraged my parents to get me into more formal lessons; so that’s what they did. I did that from 3 years old. I was not very studious, I would improvise a lot. I would make my own little ideas.”
At 16, Chaumont needed to decide what to further his education in and decided to go to music school in Paris, where he played guitar.
“It ended up being fantastic,” he said. “The teacher in the school was amazing and he saw that I was really interested. I was progressing the fastest; I was practicing anytime that I could. He offered me private lessons at his house. He got me a few gigs around town and it was pretty cool because I was 16 years old. When you have a teacher like that, you really fall in love with the music also.”
Chaumont continued his education while composing music for documentaries, advertisements and short films. He ended up meeting his American wife in France, where she was studying theology.
“When we got married in 2011, we said we would live for three years in France without kids,” he said. “Then we would spend three years in America and have children, this way we could experience each other’s culture.”
Chaumont composed his own music during his time in France and continued to do so when he and his wife came to Princeton in 2014.
Chaumont’s wife continued her studies in theology and had to do field work; this brought them to a small church in Allentown, where Chaumont met the music director.
“I met the music director there and he is a talented jazz pianist,” he said. “I went onto his website and found out he had a label and had already produced four albums at the time. We just connected. I told him that I was planning out my first album and he asked me to play all of my songs for him. He loved the songs and I told him it would be cool if he got on board. He was excited.”
The music director’s label had a different aspect than most. Any album produced has to have some sort of service aspect to it.
“His label, Misfitme Music, has an original idea that every project released has a service component,” he said. “It can take any form; the artist has to decide. We can release an album, and we can do a tour where we only perform in retirement homes or in hospitals. We can find a way to connect to the public in a different way and perform a service for the community. I found that idea awesome.”
Chaumont’s album, “The Beauty of Differences,” benefits the nonprofit Villages in Partnership, which funds the excavation of wells in the African nation of Malawi.
“Malawi is actually the poorest countries there [in Africa],” he said. “One of the most critical things is access to clean water. It was kind of prophetical because the church in Allentown, they have a strong push for mission work and they have different organizations. Around that time, I got a flyer for a Christmas donation to come and buy some mission work in someone else’s name instead of giving a gift. One of the options was to excavate one well for a village. I was blown away by that idea: For only $3,000, you could provide water for up to 300 families. So I did the math: If I sell one CD, I can provide a person water for their entire life. So I decided this is what we’re going to do.”
Chaumont stated his compositions reflect his spiritual journey and they are a celebration of the diversity that is our humanity.
“It made sense for me to give away all of my proceeds for a cause; I think it’s part of my calling as a Christian,” he said. “I thought it was a great way to combine my faith with my art.”
“The Beauty of Differences” is now on sale and is an incredible work of jazz. All proceeds for the album will benefit the nonprofit Villages in Partnership.