Young musician loses battle with cancer

Scott Jordan Schipper came from a musical background, so it was no surprise when he picked up his first saxophone in the seventh grade and never put it down.

"He just fell in love with it and played it all through high school, junior college and studied music in Long Beach," said his mother, Joyce Schipper. "Performing to him was never a job, it was his passion. The act of performing was a part of who he was."

Mr. Schipper died on Dec. 28, 2013 after a two year battle with cancer. He was 29.

Born in Santa Rosa, he grew up in Petaluma. He was active in sports, the Boys and Girls Club and was selected the Argus-Courier Newspaper Boy of the Year in 1996.

"His great grandmother on his dad's side was a trained opera singer who brought her piano over the Oregon Trail," said Schipper. "His grandmother on my side had a bachelor's degree in music. It seems to have just trickled down from there. His dad and I both have music degrees."

During high school, Mr. Schipper was active in the band, jazz band, United Anglers and was voted Most Valuable Player of Casa Grande High School's tennis team in 2002 during his senior year. He attended Santa Rosa Junior College focusing on his music and graduated with an associated arts degree. He attended California State University, Long Beach before joining Mystic Roots and going on tour with Pato Banton. He joined the Santa Cruz-based band Thrive in 2010, and played with the band until shortly before his death.

Within a month of his cancer diagnosis, Mr. Schipper founded the non-profit organization "Unify to Thrive" to support cancer awareness and education for young adults, as well as cancer research through St. Judes Children's Hospital.

"He definitely kept a positive attitude throughout his illness," said his mother. "His personality lit up the room, and people connected with him as a result, both in music and later on during his illness."

Mr. Schipper connected with young cancer patients all over the United States, providing encouragement and an empathetic ear. He started chat rooms and support groups for people in their 20s with cancer, and tried to have face-to-face meetings with people in the area who needed support. He also went to local high schools to speak to teens about his illness, how he was dealing with it and placed an emphasis on cancer awareness and education for young people.

Mr. Schipper can be heard playing on Thrive's latest album, "Relentless." His bandmate Andrew Forgy will continue to run Unify to Thrive and hopes to organize benefit concerts in Petaluma and Santa Cruz in the near future.

Mr. Schipper is survived by his parents, Jack and Joyce Schipper; brother Andrew; and grandmother Jean Ferguson.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11, at the First Presbyterian Church, 939 B St., Petaluma. There will also be a celebration of life at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 12, at the Phoenix Theatre, 201 Washington St., Petaluma.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Unify to Thrive online unifytothrive.com or checks may be sent to Unify to Thrive c/o Andrew Forgy, 1505 Fisher Ave., Morgan Hill, CA, 95037.