By Anita Debro
Special to the Birmingham Times
When you sit down to talk to musician Kim Scott, two things stand out: a 100-watt smile that spreads across her face effortlessly, and an often and quiet confidence that says the whirlwind of success she is in right now is exactly where she should be.
The classically trained flutist-turned-smooth-jazz-artist recently hit the number-one spot on the Billboard music charts with her new single “Emerge.” On July 19, Scott released her fourth jazz album “Free to Be” while handling duties at her day job as director of student services at the Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA). She also is preparing for tour dates that will take her from Birmingham to California. This all seems to be, according to her, meant to be.
Scott recalls when she was a teenager on a choir trip, and a minister told the teens what she saw in their future. When she came to Scott she simply said, “I see your name in lights.”
“She told me, ‘I don’t know what you do exactly, but you are an artist,’” Scott remembered. “I never forgot that. Now when I see a billboard with my name on it, I think of that.”
Symphony and Funk
Scott grew up in a house filled with music in Birmingham’s South Hampton neighborhood. Her mother, Belinda Floyd, was a music teacher in Birmingham City Schools. Floyd and Scott’s father, Albert Felder, also toured with the group The Dynamic Sound Machine. Scott said her mother loved classical music and would often listen to symphony recordings, while her father gravitated toward funk.
“I really had the best of both worlds,” Scott said. “There was no type of music not played in our house. We just loved good music.”
With music in her blood, Scott would eventually try her hand at piano, which she liked, and violin, which she did not. She was in fifth grade when she found her first love—the flute—during a brief trip to North Roebuck Elementary School.
“Maybe they brought us over to meet the band director to choose instruments,” she said. “I had heard people say the flute is hard, … [but] I just remember making a sound the first time I tried it. It wasn’t a great sound, but I thought, ‘[This instrument is] cute, shiny, and small.’”
After that chance meeting, Scott was smitten.
“I think in fourth and fifth grade, I wanted to be a veterinarian,” she said. “Once I started playing the flute, [though], I don’t think I ever had a desire to do anything else. I didn’t know how I was going to make money or how that was going to be a career, but I loved it so much that is all I wanted to do.”
By middle school, under the close tutelage of her band teacher Suzanne Winter, Scott made strides in her musicianship. She took practice seriously, skipping playtime with her neighborhood friends so she could hole up in her bathroom at home to practice. By the time she got to John Herbert Phillips High School, she was still laser focused on the flute.
“I would skip lunch to practice,” she said.
Scott was practicing one day at Phillips when a fight broke out, made its way down the hall, and came crashing into the room she was in. Scott remembers being knocked to the ground and her flute literally bent out of shape. That day, she told her mother it was time to make a change. She auditioned at ASFA and was accepted. She spent her summers at music camps in Alabama and North Carolina. She put even more time into her instrument and earned a scholarship to study music at the University of Alabama and then a master’s degree from Oklahoma State University.
Scott always had it in her mind to become a classical flutist in a symphony orchestra. When she was ready to get her doctorate and find a job at a symphony, her alma mater ASFA invited her to apply for a teaching job.
“I never wanted to be a teacher, but I thought I would be a fool to not come back,” she said.
That was 18 years ago, and Scott is happy she decided to return.
During her tenure at ASFA, Scott joined the Tuscaloosa Symphony as a flutist and branched out into solo classical performances. About nine years ago, she decided to try something different and performed a cover of a Beyoncé song, “Deja Vu,” on her flute. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and Scott had unknowingly kicked off the next phase in her career. Jazz guitarist Keith Williams took notice, and soon she was opening up for him.
“People would ask where they could get a CD of my music, and I had not made any,” she said. “So, I started making CDs.”
Enter music producer Kelvin Wooten, who has worked with Scott on all four of her albums.
“She just does everything so well,” Wooten said. “She is able to flip back and forth from classical to smooth jazz.”
Wooten, who has worked with musicians in all genres, said he is struck by how much Scott continues to grow as a jazz artist: “Her approach to jazz is masterful.”
Scott and Wooten recently spent a week of studio time recording songs for her album—and she’s done all of this while maintaining hectic work and home schedules that include caring for her teenage son and her husband, who is also her manager. Scott said her calendar stays full.
“I don’t know how I do it,” she said. “It’s just Jesus. And I have a good team.”
When she has to juggle her life and her career, Scott remembers that she is doing exactly what she should be doing.
“I am a firm believer that God has already planned out your life,” she said. “You are living out those plans, so try not to stress out about it.
“[I believe] this is what I am supposed to do, and it is all going to work out.”
You can learn more about Kim Scott at www.kimscottmusic.com.
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