Stephen A. Scott
10 October, 1944 – 10 March, 2021
Stephen Allen Scott, an accomplished composer and longtime music professor at Colorado College, died on March 10, 2021 from complications of dementia. Scott is known internationally as a pioneer of the “bowed piano,” a technique using nylon filament, rosined horsehair, and other implements to create an orchestral sound from the inside of a grand piano.
Scott was born in Corvallis, Oregon in 1944 to parents trained in the sciences. Early study of music included playing woodwinds in school bands and private study and transcription of recordings by modern jazz greats. After high school, he enlisted in the United States Army and was stationed at Fort Ord, California. Following his service, he enrolled at the University of Oregon, where he graduated in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in Music. He went on to earn an MA in music composition from Brown University in 1969, and then joined the faculty at Colorado College, where he taught courses in jazz, composition, and electronic and experimental music. After his formal training in composition with Homer Keller at the University of Oregon and Gerald Shapiro at Brown, he met and studied informally with Steve Reich in Ghana, and later collaborated with Terry Riley. These two composers became his most important influences outside jazz. At Colorado College, he founded the New Music Ensemble, dedicated to the performance of avant-garde and experimental music, including Scott’s own work. This group would evolve to become the Bowed Piano Ensemble, in which ten musicians, most of them CC students and directed by Scott, explored a diverse pallet of sounds using rosined bows, plastic tape, guitar picks, and mallets to evoke music from the innards of a prepared grand piano. The ensemble gained international fame and toured widely over the next several decades including performances at Carnegie Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and the Sydney Opera House.
Scott retired in 2014 as Professor Emeritus of Music at Colorado College. During his tenure, he also served on the faculty of The Evergreen State College and as visiting composer at Eastman School of Music, Aspen Music School, New England Conservatory, Princeton University, University of Southern California, Cal Arts, and at festivals and conservatories in Germany, France, Italy, Estonia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Ireland, Norway, England, Canary Islands, Bermuda, New Zealand, and Australia. He was named 2008 USA Simon Fellow by United States Artists, and in 2004 he was a resident scholar at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Study and Conference Center on Lake Como, Italy.
Scott is listed in New Grove's Dictionary of American Music and Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, and his work is discussed in several books on twentieth-century music. Awards include commissions from Meet the Composer/USA, Pacific Symphony, and the Barlow Endowment, a grant from the Peter S. Reed Foundation, the New England Conservatory/Rockefeller Foundation Chamber Music Prize, and a National Endowment for the Arts Composer's Fellowship. His music may be heard on the New Albion, Navona and Albany labels, as well as numerous film and television productions.
Scott was an avid reader and writer, outdoorsman, skier, and sailor of high alpine lakes who once semi-seriously hatched a plan to sail a boat on the highest lake in every one of the fifty states. He climbed many of Colorado’s “fourteeners,” and enjoyed canoeing, sailing, and cruising his vintage wooden motorboat on Shadow Mountain Lake and Grand Lake. In later life, he was also known for hosting house concerts called BYOBs where guests could bring a bit (musical or otherwise), a bite, or a bottle to share. Scott is survived by his wife Victoria Hansen, who toured with the Bowed Piano Ensemble as a soprano soloist, son Ben Scott and daughter Amy Scott, stepchildren Melissa and Richard Crompton, his siblings Peter Scott and Nancy Asbury and their children, as well as four grandchildren. He was predeceased by his second wife Sandra Baker Scott and was previously married to Linda Scott Crissey. A celebration of life will be held in Colorado Springs when it is safer to gather. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration (theaftd.org) or to Other Minds (OtherMinds.org), an organization dedicated to championing new and experimental music.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Stephen A. Scott
20 May 2021
I was deeply saddened to learn of Steve’s passing in the latest issue of the Colorado College Bulletin. I studied theory and composition with Steve back in the early 70’s, and played violin in the New Music Ensemble during my four years at CC. As both a professor and friend, Steve was wonderful in every respect. He had a brilliant mind, a calm demeanor, and a quick, deadpan wit.
My favorite Steve Scott story dates to 1973 or ‘74, when the Colorado Springs Symphony programmed his Shenandoah Variations. I attended the performance; the orchestra did no more than a creditable job with a score they seemed to have difficulty making heads or tails of. The next day a review of the concert appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph, and the critic panned Steve’s work mercilessly. I got to Steve’s office later that morning to find a copy of the review taped to his door. At the top, Steve had written in pencil, “Local boy makes good”.
After completing a Master’s degree at the University of Denver, I moved east and didn’t see Steve again until March 2012. I was visiting Colorado Springs and dropped by The College to see if anyone was around. Spring break had just started so Packard Hall was empty, but I found Steve in his office. Although we hadn’t seen each other in 35 years, he looked up, recognized me, and called me by name. I was stunned he’d remembered me after so many years and so many students. As we chatted and caught up with each other, three and a half decades melted away as if mere minutes had passed. The hour I spent with him was unforgettable, and now that he’s gone, it’s become priceless.
My sincerest condolences go to Steve’s family. You won’t need reminding that he left an indelible mark on anyone and everyone lucky enough to know and learn from him, but take comfort in knowing that his memory will undoubtedly remain alive until his last living student is gone.
Class of ‘77
13 April 2021
Steve was a wonderful music teacher. In my senior year, Carlton Gamer let me take one of the practice grand pianos and compose a piece for prepared piano. Steve was my go to brain to pick for ideas on how to alter the sound of the piano. This was long before he discovered the bowing technique, so this was a piece for just me to play and sing, but it was one of the most meaningful and fun projects I did during my whole four years at CC.
He was fun and energetic and turned his love for contemporary music into the canon of Colorado College’s Music Department. I will always have very fond memories for Steve. My love extends to his family because I know he is terribly missed.
(Class of ‘71)
9 April 2021
A year or so into rehearsals for “Vikings”, and no doubt with some new members on their way in, I had a vidid dream. In this dream the ensemble gathered around the Yamaha in the NME studio and Stephen introduced the new arrivals to the various techniques of the bowed piano. “This”, as he grasped a soft-bow tag in each hand, “is how you play the soft bow”. “This,” he continued through the various techniques of rigid bowing, tape bowing, guitar picking, muted keyboarding, whack this with a piano hammer-ing, “is how that is done”. “And this”, he continued rather matter-of-factly, “is how you levitate”. He floated over the piano, landing gently on the other side. The experienced members of the ensemble did the same. It was thrilling and known. When you knew how to bow a piano, you knew how to fly.
Thanks Stephen, for everything.
29 March 2021
I has been a privilege to know Stephen for nearly 15 years. Of course, being a fellow Oregonian was special. An enduring memory is when we attended one of his bowed piano concerts in the then new Edith Kinney Gaylord Arts Center. Stephen and the students were really in a groove. Truly a unique musical experience. He will be missed by many.
23 March 2021
It’s been nearly a week since I learned about Stephen’s passing, and I’m still trying to comprehend that he's gone. In addition to being a dear colleague and friend, he impacted my career and life immeasurably.
Steve was Chair of the Colorado College Music Department when I began teaching there (1989-95). He hired me for my first college teaching post; I’ve been a professor ever since. I last saw Steve and Victoria when we brought them and the Bowed Piano Ensemble to Carroll University in 2013. We also brought Steve and the ensemble to UW-Milwaukee during my time there.
I can still hear Steve’s voice when he’d call now and then: “Hey Ron, it’s Steve Scott!” His music influenced my own. I'm awed by what he accomplished as a composer, professor, and person. Steve's connection with his students was a model for us all. How he managed to compose for, rehearse (and have the performers memorize his complex and intricate scores), and manage the performances, recordings and operations of the Bowed Piano Ensemble -- all while teaching classes at Colorado College -- still amazes me. There are few people I’ve known who could do this, all while being so caring and loving. A wonderful family man, Steve and I frequently spoke about our children (our daughters are of similar age), and how proud of them we were.
Stephen Scott's music is brilliant, ground-breaking, unique, and mesmerizing. Rest In Peace, Steve. Your music, kindness, generosity, brilliance, and love will live on.
20 March 2021
My condolences to You, Victoria, and to the kids and family. We met, Victoria, after the Bowed Piano concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2018...
Stephen was a mentor to me. He was the reason I attended Colorado College. I’ll never forget the first Moog Synthesizer demonstration in that little shed built into the hillside above the football field... and words like, “I’m not trying to make new music; I’m trying to make good music.” The things he was able to do for the students, providing access to the tools, helping to foster creativity, and providing outlets for performance, were all very much appreciated. I will miss him.
17 March 2021
My heart goes out to you as your hearts are so filled with grief. Your world is turned upside down and will never be the same. So I wish you comfort as you do the hard work of mourning, and may there be glimpses of peace as you move forward. Stephen will always be a miracle of music in our community, and now he is everywhere.