About Scott Pender

My First Music Teacher

The phonograph was my first music teacher. Growing up, it was more important in our house than the television. Mom and Dad had an extensive, eclectic record collection that included country, soul, and other 60’s popular music, ranging from James Brown and Otis Redding to Tammy Wynette and George Jones, with a few movie soundtracks thrown in as well. There was also music at church: hymn singing, choral pieces, and above all, the organ. (I got special permission at one point to sit on the choir bench directly behind the organist so I could watch her play.)

When I was quite young, my paternal grandmother, a pianist and church organist, gave me a collection of 45 rpm recordings of abridged versions of classical pieces. (As best I can figure it now, they just played the expositions of the various movements, with no development or recapitulation, and somehow it still ended in the tonic key!) I remember that Toscanini conducted some of the pieces, and they included Beethoven’s 5th, Dvořák’s “New World,” Tchaikovsky’s 1st Piano Concerto, and Franck’s D-minor Symphony. I listened to them constantly.

Eventually, I even got a job in a record store for the employee discount. To this day, I still remember so clearly the first time I put on the 5th, 6th, and 7th Symphonies of Beethoven, as well as the tremendous impression that Switched-On Bach made on me.

At the Piano

I began making up tunes at the piano at a very early age. (I even tried writing them down in a notation I invented for myself.) Eventually, I taught myself to read music, and as a teenager I began studying piano and theory with the irrepressible Lucille Dworshak in Tampa. By that time, I had written a couple of piano pieces, and with a new captive recital audience (she presented biannual recitals), I had all the inspiration I needed to write more.

As soon as I could drive, I got season tickets to the Florida Gulf Coast Symphony (now the Florida Orchestra). It was at those concerts where I first heard Mahler, saw Gina Bachauer play the year before she died, and where I was exposed to what we then called “contemporary” music.

Becoming a Composer

I spent my first two college years at Peabody Conservatory, studying first piano and later composition. My composition teacher, Jean Eichelberger Ivey, really surprised me in my first lesson by giving me a huge list of pieces to listen to. I never imagined that “listening” could be considered homework!

I transferred to Georgetown University, earned my B.A. in philosophy (concentrating in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, and the work of Wittgenstein), while continuing to study and write music.

I returned to Peabody for graduate school, where I had the pleasure of studying with three consummate musicians: composition with Jean Ivey (who taught me so much about the practical aspects of writing music), orchestration with Robert Hall Lewis (who taught me to really hear), and conducting with Fred Prausnitz (who taught me the value of thinking through beforehand what I really wanted to say musically).

After grad school, I was proud to receive a Fulbright grant to study in the United Kingdom. I spent a wonderful year working with the English composer Gavin Bryars, who taught me, among many other things, the value of humor and mystery in music.

Work and Honors

I have written for a wide variety of media, including music for theater and dance. I composed the theme music for the C-SPAN original series First Ladies: Influence & Image. My work has been performed throughout the United States and Europe to critical acclaim. Recent recordings include Music for Woodwinds and 88+12, both from Navona Records, Foothills for string orchestra & piano from Petworth Music, and my sextet In the Time Before on the Navona Records album Lock & Key.

In addition to the Fulbright Fellowship and a MacDowell Colony residency, I have received honors from the Virginia Arts Festival John Duffy Composers Institute, the D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities, the American Music Center, ASCAP, BMI, Meet the Composer, the Southeastern Composers’ League, The Phi Beta Kappa Society, and others. I have made Washington, D.C., my home for more than 35 years.

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