His hard work built the Sammamish Symphony Orchestra into “a high-level community arts jewel,” according to one of his violinists.
Robert Joseph Scott, who built two community orchestras in Bellevue and Sammamish, died May 19 of cancer. He was 71.
Born in Hermiston, Ore., Mr. Scott — who was known by his middle name — was a self-made maestro who originally trained as an oboist. He enjoyed conducting so much that he decided to start his own orchestra after studying with Henry Holt (Seattle Opera), Mikael Scheremetiew (Thalia Conservatory) and Vilem Sokol (University of Washington).
When he placed an ad in a Bellevue community newspaper, inviting musicians to a rehearsal Sept. 14, 1967, Mr. Scott attracted 65 players — launching what would become the Bellevue Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO). While working full-time as a florist, he recruited volunteers to help launch the nascent BPO as its music director, conductor and general manager.
After three successful decades, the BPO sought new leadership in 1997; it would close 14 years later. (It was later restructured, emerging in new form as the Lake Washington Symphony Orchestra.) But Mr. Scott was undaunted; he took on another orchestra — the Sammamish Symphony Orchestra.
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His hard work built the group into “a high-level community arts jewel,” according to one of his violinists, Fran Pope. Mr. Scott programmed classics like the Shostakovich Fifth Symphony, more obscure but beautiful works like Ionesco’s “Romanian Rhapsodies” and lighthearted pops events, as well as a concerto competition to promote talented youngsters.
Mr. Scott, who attended the University of Oregon School of Music, was beloved by his musicians. “I felt Maestro Scott made each one of us feel important to the orchestra. His dedication to improving the quality of the Sammamish Symphony encouraged me as a musician to also work hard ..,” said Lynne Martinell, a first violinist, via email.
Cathy Seeley Grindle, a second violinist in the orchestra who lived near Mr. Scott, said in an email: “Joseph did everything for his orchestra: he ordered music, set up venues, dedicated his life to the orchestra. As a conductor, he was exacting. He brought us so far. This small community orchestra grew because of his professionalism and kindness. His shoes will be hard to fill.”
Mr. Scott donated his personal music library — more than 80 banker boxes full — and his library-grade shelving to the Sammamish Symphony.
He is survived by his life partner, David Campbell, and by his brother, Glenn Scott. A memorial event will be announced at a later date.