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11/25/2015 07:30 AM

Chad Floyd: Music to the Ears

A fascination with public celebration ties Chad Floyd’s day job as a partner at Centerbrook Architects with his evening gig, drumming for local bands Essex Corinthian Jazz Band and the Tangerine Trio.

Chad Floyd is a jazz man; he plays Dixieland, he plays Swing, but lately he has learned how to listen to a different kind of music: classical. Chad, who lives in Essex, is a board member of Musical Masterworks, celebrating its 25th season at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme.

“Even though it’s across the river, half of our audience comes from this side,” Chad points out.

The next concert in the series takes place on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 5 and 6 and both nights will feature a seldom heard Gustav Mahler Piano Quartet as well as piano quartet by Gabriel Faure. The concert series presents additional programs in February, March, April and May.

For Chad, the concert introductions by cellist Ed Arrons are an integral part of his enjoyment.

“He’s a raconteur; he makes the music come alive,” Chad says. “He tells you about the composer, where he fits in and makes it interesting to hear.”

Chad recalls when he and his wife Brenda had houseguests, whom they took to one of the concerts. The couple was so enthusiastic about the performance that now they ask when they visit if there will be Musical Masterworks recital.

Chad’s own musical performances come as a drummer with the Essex Corinthian Jazz Band, which plays every Wednesday night at Bill’s Seafood in Westbrook and with a smaller group, the Tangerine Trio, which takes its title from the classic song of the same name. He is, by his own admission, a self-taught drum player.

“I got a set of drums when I was 12 or 13 and I just figured it out,” he says.

He played through college at Yale but largely abandoned drums until some 20 years ago Brenda suggested he might want a hobby.

“I tried golf and that didn’t work,” he says. “One Christmas this large drum set appeared. It’s all due to Brenda.”

Now Chad estimates he plays at least 75 nights a year, a schedule that is challenging for him because he travels frequently for his work as a partner in Centerbrook Architects. It’s not just his music schedule that makes air travel difficult for Chad. It is his full name: John Paul Chadwick Floyd.

“It difficult to pre-check-in when there are only spaces for three names. That’s what people expect; it’s always a problem,” he says.

Unofficially, he long ago shortened the four names to two, with Chadwick abbreviated to Chad.

Chad grew up in Washington, D.C., where as a teen he had a job that might have suggested a future career in politics; he worked as a Senate page. But at Yale, Chad became interested in drama and from there in set design. Still, he had no thought of architecture school after graduation. Instead he enlisted in the Marines, as did more than 20 of his classmates.

He spent four years in the service, as a platoon leader and company commander in Viet Nam in areas of ongoing combat like Khe Sanh and the Demilitarized Zone, which separated North and South Viet Nam. Upon returning from military service, Chad graduated from Yale School of Architecture.

One of his professors, Charles Moore, offered him a job and Chad has never left the company, which is today Centerbrook Architects. He remembers when the firm first moved to its present location in Centerbrook from New Haven in the early l970s, the building had no air conditioning, and computers had not yet become standard equipment. All the drafting was done by hand.

“When it was hot in the summer, people sweated and water dripped on the drawings and they smudged,” Chad remembers.

Now Chad still draws by hand, but younger architects in the firm transfer all the work to computer images.

As an architect, one of the areas that has long fascinated Chad is what he describes as public celebrations, anything from the local Ground Hog Day parade featuring a costumed Essex Ed to the Fourth of July fireworks and entertainment on the Capitol Lawn in Washington, D.C.

Chad has identified three things that he terms vital to public celebrations: a parade street, an enclave where people can gather, and a talisman or backdrop for pageantry. His ideas of the architectural requirements for public celebration, Chad says, have exerted an influence on whatever he designs, from museums and university buildings to private homes.

In the current atmosphere of heightened security in the face of terrorism, Chad says that people must not abandon the large gatherings that are the bedrock of public celebration.

“I don’t buy that. We live our lives by celebrating humanity,” he says.

Chad has been a participant in the ongoing Essex Library series of architectural talks and on Friday, Jan. 29, 2016, he will be speaking on the SS United States, a luxury liner built in l952 that not only set transatlantic speed records but also, he maintains, exerted a profound influence on other areas of mid-century American design. Famed naval architect William Francis Gibbs designed the liner with interiors by Dorothy Marckwald. The interior design coped with low- ceilinged rooms with innovative lighting and imaginative use of curtained walls. Chad recalls how that influence percolated down to his own home.

“My parents redecorated with a wall of curtains,” he says.

The design concepts influenced everything from the introduction of the now common gooseneck pole lamp to the design of the once-great hotels of a bygone era of Miami Beach, the Eden Roc and the Fontainebleau.

As Chad thinks about the upcoming Musical Masterworks concerts at the Old Lyme Congregational Church, architecture is on his mind as well as music.

“It’s a perfect setting, a fabulous place to hear a concert,” he says.

Musical Masterworks— Piano quartets by Mahler and Faure

Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 5 and 6 at the Old Lyme Congregational Church; 2016 concerts are coming on Feb. 13 and 14, March 12 and 13, April 30, and May 1. For more information, visit

The Chad Floyd talk on the design influence of the luxury liner, SS United States is at 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 29, 2016, sponsored by the Essex Library. For more information, visit