Deb Scott, a professor of trombone and the director of the first Jazz Ensemble at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, is our next featured artist for the ‘Inside Story,’ a blog series exploring what makes our artists tick. Read on and get to know her!
What was your most unusual performance or the most embarrassing thing that happened to you during a performance?
One of my most memorable performances was the day that I accidentally slept through my alarm. It was Easter Sunday morning, and I had a performance with an orchestra that was a few hours from my home. At the time, I had really been burning the candle at both ends: working full-time, finishing up my doctorate, and caring for a three-year-old, all while my husband worked in another city. When I suddenly awoke, I realized that I barely had enough time to drive to the performance. I hurriedly dressed and then grabbed my young daughter along with her Easter clothes and my trombone. Somehow I dressed her on the way, even putting tights on her as she rode in her car seat in the back. Admittedly, not the smartest thing I’ve ever done! Thankfully, I arrived safely where I kind of tossed her into the church nursery on my way by to the sanctuary just in time for the downbeat. It was a comical nightmare for me. –and I really am a better mother than this story leads you to believe! It does demonstrate how incredibly busy my life was at times, especially as I tried to complete my doctorate and have two children along the way.
When did you realize that you wanted to be a trombonist?
When I was twelve-years-old, I was heavily involved in gymnastics, even attending state competitions, but I was growing too fast and getting too tall. (I’m now 5’ 11”.) I was also headed to middle school at that time where my mother was insistent that I play in the band. The trombone had always looked like a fun instrument to me, I think because of the physical nature of it, so when my best friend from my gymnastics team called me up to ask if I wanted to play trombone with her, I immediately said yes.
My middle school band director was not happy with my choice, however. He recommended that I would be better suited to a more “feminine instrument” like flute or clarinet. Fortunately, my mother forcefully interceded for me, “Let her play trombone if she wants to!” My second year in the band also proved to be quite influential on me when a female band director took over the program. Barbara Lovett became quite the mentor to me; she was brilliant and imposing. She taught the band to really play out and also started a jazz band at the school. The first time I played Battle Hymn of the Republic in my school band with Ms. Lovett conducting was when I decided that I wanted to play trombone for a living. I was fortunate to have a school that could foster my playing at an early age in the band, orchestra, and jazz band.
If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be? And why?
Traveling is one of my favorite pastimes. I’ve been fortunate to visit about 25 countries, and I think I could be happy performing most anywhere. My good friend and colleague, composer Stephen Lias, has worked out a wonderful way to spend his summers as an artist-in-residence for some of the U.S. National Parks. He stays in out-of-the-way cabins in the parks so that he can be inspired by the beauty of nature and hiking. I’m pretty jealous of that! I love nature, and it is very inspirational to me as well. I spent about ten days camping in Yellowstone National Park once. Of course, as a brass player, you have to take your instrument with you everywhere and practice every day to keep your embouchure in shape. I really enjoyed practicing there; the problem was, every time I started playing, a bison would get curious and come into the camp!
What is your guilty pleasure?
For me, it’s a wonderful escape to go snow skiing. It’s a little difficult to get to good places from East Texas, however. I’ll sneak off from time to time with family or friends. I like to ski fast and as a result, have had a few injuries that should probably make me rethink this hobby. Once when I was skiing with my best friend, I was basically plowed over by a snowboarder and hit my shoulder on the ground incredibly hard. I ripped my collarbone from my sternum, which left a bump protruding under the skin unnaturally, and dangerously close to my thorax. For a while, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to play again because of how it affected my breathing, but fortunately, I was able to get it repaired by a fantastic surgeon.