Hornist Jeff Scott Appointed to Oberlin Conservatory Brass Faculty

March 4, 2020
Erich Burnett
horn professor Jeff Scott holding his french horn.
Photo credit: Shervin Lainez

Multitalented musician brings extensive experience on stage, in studio, and in teaching.

Jeff Scott, a versatile musician and teacher who has performed on the world’s most celebrated stages and collaborated with luminaries across the worlds of classical, jazz, and beyond, will join the Oberlin Conservatory of Music faculty as Associate Professor of Horn.

His appointment begins July 1.

Jeff Scott performing with Imani Winds at Oberlin
Jeff Scott performed with Imani Winds at Oberlin in 2014.
PHoto credit: Walter Novak

Scott is the French hornist of the ensemble Imani Winds, a position that has brought him to Carnegie Hall, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Kennedy Center, and countless other prominent stages—as well as the stage of Oberlin's Finney Chapel for an Artist Recital Series performance in 2014. With Imani Winds, he leads master classes with hundreds of students every year, and he has taught horn at Montclair State University since 2002.

Scott has been a member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Dance Theater of Harlem since 1995, and he has performed numerous times with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra under the direction of Wynton Marsalis. He was an orchestra member for The Lion King’s Broadway run from 1997 to 2005, as well as the 1994 revival of Show Boat.

In the studio, Scott has performed on movie soundtracks by Hans Zimmer, Terence Blanchard, and Tan Dun, and has collaborated with the likes of Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, Chris Brubeck, Jimmy Heath, and others. He has toured with the backing ensembles of Barbra Streisand and Luther Vandross.

Insatiable in his appetite for all aspects of the creative process, Scott has served as composer or arranger for a multitude of projects, including an Off Broadway production of Becoming Something: The Story of Canada Lee and the staged production of Josephine Baker: A Life of le Jazz Hot! in addition to many original works for solo winds and ensembles of all kinds.

“I don’t just want to play the music,” he says. “I want to write it. Commission it. Arrange it. I want to be a part of the successes—and the failures—of music. I want all of it!”

Perhaps more than ever, conservatory students find themselves thinking in much the same ways.

"Jeff is extraordinary not only in the depth of his accomplishments—particularly as a performer and teacher—but also in the sheer breadth of his skills, and his unparalleled versatility as a musician,” says Dean of the Conservatory William Quillen. “He brings to Oberlin extensive experience as a teacher, chamber musician, orchestral player, composer, arranger, studio performer, and Broadway musician. He is at home in a multitude of musical settings, and his broad range of experience speaks to the increasingly diverse set of skills required of professional musicians today. We are beyond fortunate to welcome Jeff to the faculty, and our students are unbelievably fortunate to benefit from his expertise, his wisdom, and his unbridled enthusiasm for every phase of the creative process.”

Scott is a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied under David Jolley. He earned a master’s degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook under William Purvis, and he continued his studies with Scott Brubaker and Jerome Ashby.

A French hornist since age 14, he was united with his instrument like so many other youngsters: during Music Appreciation Week, when everyone took turns selecting their instrument of choice.

“My last name starts with an S, so I got to pick later than most kids,” he jokes.

“So I decided I’m going to do something really different. I had no idea what a French horn was. Not even a clue. I said, ‘I want to play French horn.’ And so they gave me something that looked like it had tumbled onto the floor a few times right before they handed it to me.”

Long before he was an accomplished player on the New York scene, Scott earned a foothold in music through the kindness of teachers—most notably his first teacher, Carolyn Clark—who made a music education possible when others like him found it out of reach.

“I owe a lot to a lot of people,” he says. “It’s the kind of debt you can’t literally repay, so you try to pay it forward, and there’s a lot of extremely wonderful, giving people who saw some potential in my talent and went the extra mile for me that average people wouldn’t do.”

His enduring sense of gratitude and his own generous spirit unmistakably inform his teaching.

“I can see myself in my students. It’s almost like you’re a parental figure to them,” says Scott, who happens to be the father of a 3-year-old son. “They look to you for so much more than just how to play the notes. If you really, truly care about complete pedagogy and about taking care of every individual need of every student to the full extent that you can, you’ve got to feel like something is missing when you only see them one day a week for an hour. It doesn’t work.”

For Scott, the magic starts to happen when students learn to let go.

“I try to take the thought process out of music-making as much as possible,” he says, noting that young musicians often obsess about technical factors like finger position and air flow to the detriment of their artistry.

“Because of this, there are reaches of your imagination and your creativity that you tend to dampen and you never get to explore or express. If all of this is going into your thought process while you’re trying to play Mozart, it’s going to be darn hard for you to spin a phrase!

“It’s important to let your imagination go and allow students to be themselves.”

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