4 May 2016 at 12.03pm | Comment on this article
Colin J. Scott grew up with the piano.
Born in Lanark in Scotland, his father, a minister, was practising the piano down in the church when his mother went in to labour.
‘It was in the days before mobile phones, so my mum just had to wait for him to come back. Which he did – eventually. But I think afterwards they thought we should probably get a piano for the house!’
After watching his father play, he started to improvise at home and began lessons at the age of seven. He focused on music in his later years at the Douglas Academy in Milngavie, but as a young boy playing in the local ceilidh band, he had no idea the road would lead him to the Royal Opera House.
‘Once the police had to be called to the village hall because it got so crazy. We got shut down,’ he grins. It sounds like a fun memory, and it’s evident that Colin gets a real buzz from hearing music being enjoyed by an audience.
‘I like when things have a bit of a bite to them. I like when an audience feels like they can join in with what they’re hearing,’ he says.
Despite his innate drive, like so many newly-qualified young people, Colin says he felt a little lost after graduating from the Birmingham Conservatoire and later after completing his post-graduate degree at the Royal Academy of Music. Joining the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme, he says, was ‘like a light at the end of the tunnel.’
‘I’ve learnt a lot about myself – about being a professional and what it means to work hard with not a lot of time on your hands,’ he says.
When he left the Birmingham Conservatoire, Colin found there was a job ‘playing class’ at Elmhurst Ballet School and he has since played for Scottish Ballet, English National Ballet and the Royal Academy of Dance among others.
‘The good thing about playing for ballet is that you play the piano all the time,’ he says. ‘You are constantly working on your craft. For me the piano is a practical thing. It’s my skill. I tried to read about it and it just didn’t work. I just wanted to play.’
The pace Colin has worked at, often called upon six days a week, has been an intensive training course. Playing for ballet is uniquely challenging – with pianists required to quickly master the entirety of lengthy and complex scores. Colin explains, ‘There’s an added layer of playing alongside dancers because ‘it takes time to see the different casts and to feel each artist individually.’ To be a good ballet accompanist he says, ‘You have to grow with their movement – it’s not an easy job.’
With classes beginning every day at 10.30am and studio rehearsals lasting well into the evening, the density of playing time has given Colin excellent practice to refine his craft. ‘Before my time as a Young Artist, my improvising skills were limited. But now I don’t have a choice and after intensive coaching from the inspirational Nicki Williamson, my improvisation is so much more expansive, eclectic and creative. That’s a big creative leap forward for me.’
Colin has worked on Royal Ballet productions from both modern and classical corners of the repertory including Age of Anxiety, Don Quixote, Swan Lake, The Four Temperaments, La Fille mal gardée, Giselle, Romeo and Juliet and Within the Golden Hour, which has provided him with a range of scores to master and musical styles to experiment in.
‘I think the opera house is a magical place – it’s all here. I’ve worked on my classical technique, performed in concerts, worked with singers and dancers throughout the rehearsal process and experimented with different styles I hadn’t had the chance to look at before.’
Despite his remarkable training, Colin doesn’t like to rank music in any sort of hierarchy.
‘I don’t believe in the idea that some forms of music are superior to others. I think people can sometimes be put off by classical music because they feel they need some prior knowledge. But you don’t. I think if you encourage people to accept things just as they are, then you’ll encourage people to come in.’
Colin leaves the Programme this summer armed with an impressive repertory and skills that have left him with the prospect of playing for class and working on productions for other companies around the country. He’d also like to collaborate with artists from other genres to produce his own eclectic sound – but he’s not worried about stepping away from the classical world.
‘I’ve had a fantastic time here and I’d love to come back. People will always want to listen to the music of Giselle and La bohème because it’s just fantastic music and if it’s good – it will last.’
Colin J. Scott will perform in Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance. Tickets are still available.
The Jette Parker Young Artists Programme is generously supported by Oak Foundation. Find out more about the Programme.