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A life resplendent with music

Robert T. Scott 1919-2008

By MARTY CLEAR, Times Correspondent
Published February 8, 2008


TAMPA - His lifelong passion was music.

Robert Scott turned it into his life's work, and shared his ardor with countless students in Hillsborough County schools.

Mr. Scott taught music and directed bands at Jefferson and King high schools for nearly 30 years, and then spent seven years teaching music at Hillsborough Community College.

"He loved teaching," said his wife, Jane Scott. "When he'd talk about it, he'd say, 'This isn't work.' It was just what he loved to do. And when one of his former students came to him and said he had made a difference in their lives, that just made him so happy."

Mr. Scott, 88, died Jan. 29. He had suffered from Alzheimer's disease since the mid 1990s.

He was born in Egypt, where his parents were missionaries, and spent his first eight years there. The family returned to Pennsylvania because Mr. Scott's sister was ill.

His early school years were difficult because Mr. Scott was much more fluent in Arabic than English. His father finally banned Arabic in their home so the children would be forced to learn English.

He earned a master's degree in music from Columbia University. He played French horn with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and later became choir director at a McKeesport, Pa., church.

"I was one of the singers in the choir," his wife said. "The problem was, I had already been engaged for two years to someone else. But when I saw Bob, I knew I had to marry him."

In 1944, the couple came to Tarpon Springs on their honeymoon and never went home.

Jane Scott said she has always suspected that her husband planned all along to stay here.

"I think he did, and I didn't care," she said. "He detested the cold weather, maybe because of his childhood in Egypt."

After a short time in Tarpon Springs, the Scotts moved to Seminole Heights because Tampa offered more career opportunities.

Mr. Scott's training and experience gave him his pick of jobs. It came down to heading the music department at either Plant High School or the old Jefferson High. He chose Jefferson because many of its students came from poor families, and Mr. Scott through those students needed music in their lives.

WhenKing High School opened in 1960, he was offered the chance to create a music department from scratch. It was a challenge he couldn't resist.

He taught music and led the band at King until retirement in 1980.

Retirement didn't suit him, and he almost immediately took a job teaching music at Hillsborough Community College.

Even when he wasn't teaching, Mr. Scott filled his life with music. He directed the Tampa Oratorio Society (now called Tampa Oratorio Singers) for many years, and worked with local theater groups. He was the music director at Palma Ceia Methodist and Hyde Park Presbyterian churches. After the family moved to the Temple Terrace area, he took a similar position at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church. He also judged high school band competitions around the country.

The Scotts moved to Brandon four years ago.

By that time, Mr. Scott's illness dominated their lives.

"It's such a cruel disease," said Janice Owen, a longtime friend who worked with Mr. Scott at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church and Tampa Oratorio Society. "All the knowledge that man had, which was vast, is now gone. It's just gone."

Besides his wife, Mr. Scott is survived by his daughter, Suzanne Freeman, sons David and Roger Scott, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

[Last modified February 7, 2008, 07:51:04]

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