STEPHEN ALLEN SCOTT
October 10, 1944 March 10, 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.