Russell Scott

Music Teacher & Conductor

“Everybody loves classical music – some people just don’t know it yet,” says Russell Scott, a music teacher and conductor of two orchestras.

By day, Scott (29) is the director of music at Northwood Boys High School in Durban, where he has inspired an interest in music in many children who have never been exposed to it before.

By night he conducts the KZN Youth Wind Band and Durban City Orchestra, where his infectious energy has led the musicians to greater heights and made their shows more accessible.

Laughter is the key to debunking the myth that classical music is boring, he says. “People need to realise it’s not all heavy and hard core. It can be fun and engaging, so at all our concerts we try to do something different.”

Scott came from a music-loving family and his first instruments were the drums, then the trumpet, and he now plays eight or nine instruments. “It was a natural thing for me. Even at school I was arranging music and conducting the school brass band,” he says.

He studied composition and conducting at university and has inspired several of his students to become music teachers themselves.

He recently led the KZN Youth Wind Band on a tour of China after it impressed the First Lady of China during her visit to South Africa. “It was an incredible experience. We played at schools and at a TV station that broadcasts to 30 million people,” he says. “The band has some children as young as 13 playing and touring with us, and there are a number of underprivileged learners who are so passionate about it.”

The band has been invited to return to China at the end of this year.

Meanwhile Durban City Orchestra has more than doubled in size under his direction. Scott chats to the audience during the shows to explain each piece, but he’s not dumbing down the repertoire. He regularly challenges the musicians with more difficult works such as Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

“I’ve introduced some big works that they wouldn’t have been able to play when I took over,” he says. “It stretches the musicians and they thoroughly enjoy it.” — Lesley Stones