Scott Dickinson (1975) Bass
Autobiographical Sketch

Ed. Note: Scott was a member of the 1974 and 1975 New Trier West High School Jazz Ensembles.

I was fortunate to be member of the New Trier West High School Jazz Ensemble program directed by Roger Mills. It has been ages since those glory days, and I keep in touch with Don Robin (piano-1975). I found out several years ago that Jeff Tritsch (piano, 1974) passed away in Indiana. I was in a rock band with Jeff during my freshman and sophomore years at New Trier West. Jeff was able to get us jobs playing ‘bar mitzvahs.’ I have not been able to find Mike Boylston (drums 1974) who played with Jeff and me back then.

I always regale, to my musician friends, how I played onstage at Ravinia Park Pavilion, in Highland Park, Illinois, and at Chicago’s McCormick Place Ari Crown Theater, with NTW jazz ensemble.

And the experience of participating in the National Association of Jazz Educator’s sponsored, “I got mo’ jazz than you,” concert was amazing. I also was also able to hear a young talent, out of the University of Miami, by the name of Pat Metheny, and as well as other talented musicians.

And the outdoor concert on Goethe Street … and the combo performance at the ‘Artists Guild‘; describe what you see in the painting with music! Totally amazing as a high school student.

Mr. Mills taught us about musical ‘tension and release’ and the impact of the sforzando piano crescendo!!! Impactful and exciting … we wanted to play charts from the Buddy Rich Big Band, and we did!

Mr. Mills provided all kinds of fabulous arrangements. They were a product of great love of music and big band jazz. They showed off an impressive skill set for composing, arranging, and delivering the great big band sound.

I was surprised to hear Marc Kupferberg a few years ago playing at a local club and approached him where we were able to talk for a while.

He told me he had been on tour with Woody Herman’s Thundering Herd for 13 years … wow, amazing …

I mentioned it to Don Robin and Don said he remembered when Clark Terry was working with the NTW jazz ensemble, and asked Marc to take him to a place to buy new shoes. As I remember, Marc came back and talked about how Clark had given him a lesson in diaphragmatic breathing while at Florsheim Shoes.

And I remember meeting Joe Williams and thinking how fortunate I was to be in the jazz ensemble program. The students were so fortunate to have had the opportunities and guidance Mr. Mills provided to all of us.

Teaching high school students is difficult enough while managing the teen ego, the parents, and the pressures of performance … but adding the politics of a public school and you have a volatile and challenging environment that ended up allowing us to pave the way for jazz education development elsewhere.

After high school I played in the lower Jazz Band at University of Illinois for a couple of years, headed by the legendary John Garvey and also in the ‘Young Illini’ show band.

In the summer 1977 I performed in a 3 week ‘Friendship Ambassadors‘ tour of Russia, and Poland, with the New Trier ‘American Musical Theater. ‘ Dave Frohlichstein (1974), was also on that tour. It was quite an experience. Dave revealed to me the technique he, and Maynard Ferguson, used to get to the high notes, Dave said, “it is a trade secret, and you probably will not remember it, but I will tell you”.

My last year at University of Illinois, 1978 to 1979, I played in an alternative rock band ISM.

Since then, I played with different Rock Band projects over the years, some open mic jams in Highwood, Illinois, and other projects.

I still practice with a book I discovered, with play along recordings, including April in Paris, Corner Pocket, Speak Low, Tangerine, This Can’t be Love, Stompin’ at the Savoy, It Don’t Mean a Thing, Under My Skin, Route ’66; sharpens me up right away …

In my high school yearbook, a guy asked, “do you play guitar or bass?” … I told him both. When you play guitar, you have to think like a guitarist, and when you play bass, you have to think like a bassist; a guitarist playing bass and thinking like a guitarist does not capture the essence of the true bassist.

Scott Dickinson