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Roosevelt High School band director Scott Brown named to Washington Music Educators Hall of Fame

Scott Brown leading the Roosevelt Rough Riders Marching Band
courtesy of Roosevelt Jazz Seattle
Scott Brown leading the Roosevelt Rough Riders Marching Band

The seemingly tireless and enthusiastic music teacher was not expecting any recognition from the Washington Music Educators Association. Robin Lloyd spoke with Scott Brown about his outstanding work with music students.

Scott Brown has been selected for induction into the Washington Music Educators Hall of Fame in recognition of his "exceptional support, inspiration, and outstanding contributions to the growth and development of music education."

"It's an honor that I honestly wasn't expecting to ever receive," Brown said. "I was really surprised."

Brown's partner, Beth Fortune, and his former student Kelly Clingan, now education director at Seattle's JazzEd, spearheaded his nomination.

"Roosevelt has been my life. I do other things; I sail my boat, and I play with the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra. But everything in my life has revolved around my teaching at Roosevelt," Brown continued. "I haven't really been that active in the association, the WMEA. And I thought for that reason, the Hall of Fame might sort of pass me by just because I didn't fit within what I thought was the idea of someone who both teaches and is really involved in the educational organization. But then I reflect back and say, 'Well, wait a minute. Isn't this what we're supposed to do? We're supposed to teach kids.' So I've been doing that, and it's really an honor."

Brown has been teaching music at Roosevelt since 1984. He directs all the bands — a typical day includes concert band, symphonic band, wind ensemble, marching band/pep band and, of course, jazz band.

Roosevelt's Jazz Band has been selected to participate in the Jazz at Lincoln Center's "Essentially Ellington" competition 22 out of 24 seasons.

"We've absolutely been the most consistent, and that's a point of pride. Year after year, we've been able to have students rise to that challenge," Brown said.

Highlights of Brown's career to date include band trips and performances at Italy's Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia and the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands.

But mostly, he says, "it's the people, whether it's students or parents, it's those relationships over the years that, hopefully, are mostly positive. And one of the real high points is when your students become adults, and you reconnect and you become friends. Sometimes I'm even playing with them, like in SRJO, playing with Mark Taylor and Alex Dugdale, D'vonne Lewis. Those are all former students of mine, and it's such a great thing when you lose that student/teacher relationship and you become peers. But you still have all those good memories.

"And every once in a while, you can still play band director with them. 'You know what? You came in a little early in that measure!'"

COVID restrictions have taken a toll on school music programs.

"It's a joy to be back teaching in person and that the students can learn from each other," Brown said. "So as things start to open up, we can look forward to hopefully being able to travel, and that would include Essentially Ellington. We'll be doing some parades, spring concerts, end of the year, graduation, et cetera. We can now have audiences again. So it's getting a little better in that regard."

The lasting impression of Brown is his energy, positivity and supportive attitude.

"We've got to give back, especially if the students are going to work this hard and the parents are going to work that hard," he explains. "They need a leader who is there for them and who is positive and energetic and inspiring. I'll tell you there are times when the energy wanes a little bit, but I try not to not to show that."

Congratulations to Scott Brown for the WMEA's recognition of his dedication to music education!

Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.