Our Distinguished Alumni: Scott Terrell

Scott Terrell conducting.
Posted by Brandi Engel on

Scott Terrell has built a conducting career through imaginative programs, an engaging presence, and a determined passion for artistic excellence, teaching, and viability. We are proud to present him with a Distinguished Alumni Award for Lifetime Achievement during Homecoming Week.

An ardent champion of new music and diversity of repertoire, he is a visionary leader with a keen intellect for bringing context to the concert hall. Scott is currently the Virginia Martin Howard Chair of Orchestral Studies at Louisiana State University School of Music and is in high demand as a guest conductor. He was the Music Director of the Lexington Philharmonic from 2009-2019. He re-invigorated and raised the artistic level of the ensemble, diversified programming, expanded collaborations, and increased community support. The orchestra was awarded numerous Copland Awards, highlighting his ongoing commitment to contemporary American composers. Previously, he served as Resident Conductor and Director of Education for the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, and prior to that was Assistant Conductor of Minnesota Orchestra. In 2000, Terrell was chosen as a fellowship conductor for the inaugural season of the American Academy of Conducting at the Aspen Music Festival. At Aspen, he was awarded the prestigious Conducting Prize from David Zinman, an award recognizing exemplary musicianship and promise.

Video of Prokofiev Selections from Romeo and Juliet, op 75

Tell us a bit about your life. What should we know about you?

In the last year, my life has come full circle from student to teacher - via my new position as Director of Orchestral Studies at Louisiana State University. It has been a wonderful culmination of my professional life as a conductor and musician - and now I have the joy of passing on that knowledge to the next generation. I love teaching, making music, great food, golfing, family, and vacationing in Michigan! 

Let's look back at your college experience. What made Western Michigan University your school of choice?

At the time, I wanted to study Music Education. WMU has a tremendous MusEd program, and I fell in love with Kalamazoo and the campus.  

What's your favorite memory from your time at WMU?  

My orchestra time with Professor Uchimura - he made orchestra rehearsals such a joy.  

What is the first thing you did after graduating to apply your degree to the real world?

Actually right after my graduation from WMU, I went directly to graduate school at the University of Minnesota. My time at WMU was invaluable in preparation for graduate students, and then immediately into the professional world.  

What is your favorite part of your job? 

In my professional life, I enjoy the best of both worlds (teaching and performing). In my role as Director of Orchestral Studies at LSU, I conduct and train the symphony orchestra and also teach graduate conducting students. At the same time, I still guest conduct orchestras, opera companies and festivals around the world. Both are rewarding. 

What is the most challenging part of your job? 

Finding enough time in the day! Also, the joy of helping students - as they go on their professional journey. Each student has a unique path, so guiding them on the path is a challenge, but a rewarding one. 

What tips would you give to current students and graduating seniors as they prepare to enter the "real world" and secure work?

Be a lifelong learner, and never lose your curiosity.  

What does it mean to you to be recognized as a distinguished alumnus?

It is a tremendous honor, as I feel the WMU created such a strong foundation for my professional life. It is humbling, as I have the greatest respect and admiration for the faculty and the entire WMU community. I have been, and will always be a proud Bronco!