Throughout our region, we are surrounded by talent and passion at every stage door and in every stage pit. One shining example is local actor, music director and director Scott Elliott. I had the honor of sitting down with Scott and getting a behind-the-curtain look into his theatrical journey.
So, come take a seat, and silence all cell phones as Scott takes center stage.
All great people of the stage start somewhere. So, where did Scott’s path to the stage begin? “In my third year of college. My first show was ‘The Music Man.’ I was Oliver Hix, one of the guys in the barbershop quartet. It was lots of fun. That was my first experience at acting.” Other shows Scott was a part of included “Diary of Anne Frank,” “J.B.,” and “See How They Run.”
But Scott wasn’t completely unfamiliar with the show scene. “I had seen shows on Broadway in high school. Our choral teacher took us to New York City and Toronto, and there I had some exposure,” Scott explains.
But where did he get started as a music director for theater?
“The director of ‘Music Man’ asked me to play keyboard for the show in the wings while in costume, then asked me to be music director because of that. He also asked me to play piano and music direct for ‘Grease,’ ‘Nunsense’ and ‘Godspell.’ These became my first experiences with music directing,” Scott said.
Scott attended Gardner Webb University in North Carolina. It’s located about 45 minutes west of Charlotte. So, all of the shows Scott’s mentioned so far happened in North Carolina, which begs the question: How did Scott end up in Tennessee?
“After living and working in various places throughout North Carolina, I found a love for the mountains of Tennessee after visiting quite a few times. I ended up moving here and the rest is history,” he said.
Getting involved in the theatrical side of things once in Tennessee happened pretty quickly.
“I saw auditions at Theatre Bristol for ‘Rent.’ After not doing theater since college, I decided to show up. JJ Jeffers took a chance on me and gave me my first role in years. That was all it took. I was addicted to theater all over again,” Scott said.
The next year at Theatre Bristol, Jeffers was directing “Grease” and asked Scott to music direct for him. “JJ had heard me play piano and asked me to play for some shows and I accepted,” Scott explained. After that, Scott played a few shows at Theatre Bristol including “The Rocky Horror Show.” He went on from there to play “Rent” at Rogersville, “Little Shop of Horrors” at Kingsport Theatre Guild, “White Christmas” for Johnson City Community Theatre and continued playing for them upward of five years in various shows and productions.
In addition to acting, playing keyboard and music directing, Scott is also an accomplished vocal coach, changing lives of actors and singers all over the region.
“Going back to music directing, I really enjoyed watching people grow as singers and performers when I was working with them. I found out I was good at it and I really enjoyed doing it. As people improved and did the things they didn’t think they could do with their voices, I continued doing it because it was a lot of fun. The excitement of someone accomplishing something they couldn’t previously is wonderful,” Scott said.
There is a process involved with vocal coaching, and Scott has it down to a science.
“First thing I always do is listen to the person sing some and find out where their voice is, what timbre is in the voice, and the tone they have. I then talk with them about music they like and where they would like to go. Whether it is singing in musicals, recording an album, rock, opera. Each path is slightly different,” explained Scott, who works with children and adults of all ages and all talent levels.
“The fundamentals are the same, but once you get a handle on fundamentals, different styles of music go different directions. Big thing for a lot of people when starting out is learning where to place the sound in their mouth or in their face related to their vocal cords, and how to give it proper support with proper breathing techniques,” he elaborated. To learn more about vocal lessons, feel free to contact [email protected]
Smiling, Scott exclaims, “Proper preparation prevents poor performance!”
A man of many theatrical talents, Scott has also tried his hand at other roles within the theater.
“I have done stage management duties, designed lights and sound, and directed quite a few shows,” Scott said. One play he directed was “See How They Run,” which he also did in college 20 years prior. “It came full circle,” he says. Most recently, Scott directed the musicals, “Tarzan” and “Little Mermaid” at Johnson City Community Theatre.
As far what he’s enjoyed the most so far in his theatrical journey, Scott says he “really enjoyed being Edna Turnblad in ‘Hairspray.’ It was one of my dream roles.”
“I also absolutely loved directing ‘Tarzan’ and ‘Little Mermaid’ with such talented casts and was able to meet some amazing people,” he continues. “Then I also enjoyed leading several audition workshops. One year, several of us traveled to New York City to audition for the Broadway musical, ‘American Idiot,’ the national tour. That was a fun and exhausting experience.”
Being a theater veteran and man of many hats within the realm of stage, Scott has some sage advice for those wanting to join the fray. “Be prepared. Be prepared to learn and grow in ways you would not have imagined. Be prepared to work hard. Be prepared to work outside of theatre, as in rehearsing with others, on your own, taking dance and voice lessons. If it is something you want to do and do well, you need to put the effort in,” Scott advises.
“If acting and singing is something you think you would enjoy, attend an audition at any local theater and give it a shot! Talk to the people at the theater. We are all more than happy to have you get involved,” he added.
So, what is next for this actor-turned-music director/director/vocal coach? “Well, I am getting ready to music direct a show at Kingsport Theatre Guild called ‘The Great American Trailer Park Musical.’ It is a hilarious show, but very adult and not PG,” Scott warned. “And then hopefully more shows down the road. Also, I am working on a trip to Nashville to teach an audition and vocal workshop at a children’s community theatre outside of Nashville.”
Serina Marshall presents all things arts for your enjoyment on the first Sunday of each month in Sunday Stories. Read more from Serina in her blog at thetheatreovation.travel.blog.