The local, regional and national arts community is mourning the loss of Scot Woolley, a gifted musical director/arranger/composer, superb pianist, and impactful music professor/vocal coach who died Saturday, Jan. 26, having suffered a medical emergency while driving in Cincinnati.
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The personable 60-year-old, who will be dearly missed, was primarily known across the Miami Valley for his associations with the Human Race Theatre Company and Wright State University. In fact, just two months ago, he helped create the Human Race’s “Americana Christmas,” among the numerous shows featuring his music direction as a Human Race Resident Artist. Personally, his fantastic music direction and accompaniment of the Human Race’s jazz-driven “Play It Cool” developmental workshop will always be a favorite of mine.
“Though I had known Scot for years and tried to get him to come and work with us at the Human Race, it took until 1995 to get on his busy calendar,” said Kevin Moore, Human Race artistic director. “That show was ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood.’ Then came ‘Children of Eden’ in 1999, and so on, including ‘Harold & Maude,’ ‘Five Course Love,’ ‘Forever Plaid,’ ‘Man of La Mancha,’ ‘Caroline, or Change,’ ‘Shenandoah,’ and ‘Tenderly,’ to name a few. Over 25 shows and projects (including) numerous musicals in development. His musicality and strong professionalism benefited every person and every project he touched. He was a musical genius as well as being the sweetest and funniest man.”
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At WSU, Woolley was serving in his seventh year as music director. In addition to last fall’s “Crazy for You,” he also conducted “Grand Hotel,” “Hot Mikado,” “Les Misérables,” “No, No, Nanette,” and “Fiddler on the Roof” among many others. He was also a great asset to the musicality of the annual NYC Senior Showcase.
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“Scot was one of the most influential and revered teachers in this department,” echoed Joe Deer, chair of WSU’s Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures. “His mastery of every style of musical theatre and most popular music made him an invaluable aid to our students. His ability to conduct singers and musicians with precision and passion elevated every production he was involved with. He was a lover of theatre lore and all of show business, with wonderful stories and a joyful laugh at the most scandalous and risqué of them. He was a great friend, confidante, and one of the finest artists to walk these halls.”
“Scot lived for other people,” added W. Stuart McDowell, artistic director of WSU’s Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures. “He made everyone feel like they were the center of the universe in his presence, which is an unbelievably rare ability. We’re all distraught, but we know Scot lives on in the lives of so many people he touched.”
In addition to creating dance arrangements for the Broadway productions of “State Fair” and “Ain’t Broadway Grand,” Woolley’s extensive credits include productions with Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati (he was an outstanding George Gould Strong in “Grey Gardens”) and Cincinnati Playhouse. He also composed the theme song for the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line float in the 2004 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, provided vocal arrangements for the off-Broadway Carole King revue “Tapestry,” and conducted for such celebrities as Linda Purl, Kevin Spirtas and Martin Short.
A formal memorial service is being collaboratively planned by the Human Race and WSU. Details are forthcoming.