My name is Scott Dart. I’ve been playing and teaching the saxophone for over 30 years.
I was born and raised in the Chicago area, where I started on the Alto sax in fourth grade. I had previously had piano lessons, so picking up another instrument wasn’t too hard. But I didn’t really practice or take much interest in the saxophone until 7th or 8th grade when I joined the Stage Band (our school’s name for ‘jazz band’).
For some reason, jazz music really connected with me. I went to New Trier High School, which has a world-renowned jazz program. That’s where my interest in music really started to take off. I played in both the concert band and jazz band. However, my band director threw me a real curve ball by asking me to play Baritone sax my freshman year. I was probably the smallest kid in the class! But in hindsight, it was the best thing that could have happened to me.
I played in all of the jazz bands during my tenure at New Trier, mostly on Alto after my freshman year on Bari. We had a lot of sax players, so I played both lead or second alto, depending on the band. Over the years I got exposed to Soprano sax and even flute when called for in the book. My sister was a flute player, and flute is easy enough for most saxophone players to play badly (which I did)!
I even had the opportunity to play in a few pit orchestras in high school.
I also played in combo class after school where we started to learn more about jazz improvisation. A few friends and I created our own jazz combo and we played constantly, both in and out of school. We would travel in to the city to study at Sherwood Conservatory with Kimo Williams.
All of this led to a few scholarships to ‘jazz camps’. I spent one summer at the famous Jamey Aebersold jazz camp in Elmhurst, which was probably my first real exposure to ‘professional’ jazz musicians. I attended a class on jazz transcription…this was the first time that I had heard John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”. I was blown away to see that someone had actually transcribed it and I could read along and try to play it! I was like a sponge and I soaked it all up. Later, I spent a few years at the Birch Creek Music Academy, which focused more on Big Band playing as well as small group. I would return as an instructor in college.
Speaking of college, I attended the University of Iowa after New Trier. Unfortunately, my grades weren’t good enough for my first choice: Indiana University (then home of David Baker). I met Paul Scea (saxophone player and head of the jazz program) on my campus visit, and was looking forward to studying with him. Unfortunately, he had moved on by the time I started classes in the fall. But Steve Grismore (guitar), and later John Rapson (trombone) were both great teachers and mentors.
Leading up to college, I had both strong individual instruction in addition to the strong group programs. But at Iowa, I had no saxophone teacher to work with on technique, so I was largely on my own. I also found the lower bands frustrating to play in since they were not as strong as the high school bands I was used to.
But I stuck with it. I played in all of the bands, branching out further to Tenor, and back to Bari at times. Although I started out with the intention of majoring in Music Education, I realized quickly that I didn’t want to be a middle school band teacher. I wanted to play jazz, but the school didn’t offer a formal ‘Jazz Studies’ degree. But I found a way of getting around this by getting into the ‘Interdepartmental Studies’ program, which allows you to craft your own degree program from existing classes. All of the classes for a Jazz Studies degree were there, so I submitted a proposal and it was accepted!
I was on my way, but I needed one more math class to graduate, so I ended up taking a computer science class to fill the requirement. I really enjoyed it, so I decided to take a few more, thinking that I might get a minor in CS. Well, one thing led to another and I ended up getting a second degree (a B.S.) in computer science. At least I’d have a trade to fall back on!
I kept playing even though my music degree was done. I further branched out to play in the horn section for local R&B bands. This was a lot of fun because unlike jazz gig, lots of people came to see R&B bands! They danced, and we got paid money! Of course people paid to see jazz too…it just wasn’t the same. I was hooked on horn section work. This is where I started doing a lot more arranging and transcription of section parts.
After my (second) graduation, I moved to Seattle for work. I quickly found that there was a lively scene of local reading bands, some of which were very good and played fun charts. I did this for a while, as well playing with local horn bands and teaching. Some were good, others weren’t. But I met great people along the way and gained valuable experience.
One day, a trumpet player that I had played with called to tell me of a band that had an opening on Bari. They were called Doctorfunk, and they were really good. I had heard them before. They even had an album out on the Strokeland record label! I went to the audition, and I was sure that I wouldn’t get the gig. But I was wrong. They called me to sub at a gig, and 10+ years later we’re still together. The band put out their second CD a few years back with several of my original songs on it. In 2015 the band celebrated 20 years of performing together.
So here we are in 2015. If you want to find out more about this blog and why I started it, look here. If you want to know more about my equipment, look here. Otherwise, enjoy the content that you find here, and please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. My inbox is open!