By: Oliver Bacharach
Scott Perey is a Eugene resident who is an avid musician and manages a music school from his home studio. Perey got his start at a young age playing piano and accompanying other musicians. His classes are focused on theory while also stressing the importance of versatility in the different instruments to play.
Did you take a liking to music from the start?
I realized that singing was really something that I enjoyed and was pretty good at. At times, I found myself pretty overwhelmed. I remember one year I was with 8 different acts at the local festival.
What advice do you give to young singers and songwriters?
Make sure you’re having fun. Work with styles that you like. There is still a lot of traditional teaching where it is just about sight reading. Sight reading is a bonus because it gives you a way to communicate musical ideas with people that know how to read that same language. You’re going to get people playing music a lot quicker if you show them how to make chords and scales and simple improvs rather than having them play that same music by reading the lines and spaces.
Do you think music education may shift over to a method of learning how to play chords by ear or playing with others, rather than solely sight reading?
I think it has transitioned a lot. As a teacher, I find sight reading can run the gamut. For some people it’s like pulling teeth and others it’s easier. I want to get them hooked with actual music that they can groove to. They can do sight reading at their own pace. There are adults who have great senses of ear and musicality, but because they were thrown into a situation where the only thing they were taught was sight reading, that was just a little too left brain for them. And then they got this feeling through their life where they thought, ‘Oh I’m not musical, I’m no good at this’. Which was entirely not true. So I present sight reading but I don’t try to force feed it to students.
Why is Eugene a good place for local musicians?
There are so many people here who play music that they can entertain themselves. Maybe they feel less liable to go out and spend money to get musically entertained. There’s not just such a support for the arts and music, but theres so much support for kids here. You know, I’m still learning; you’re never going to know everything. There has to be a good fit between what students need and what the teacher has to offer. I hope that everybody keeps teaching everybody and then the world will be able to play music and it’d be a better world from it.
Where did you get our start playing music?
Well, just singing from before I can remember. My parents are musical, my grandma and her sister were both music teachers, so she always says I was singing before i can even remember. She says I called here up when I was like 1 and started singing your dad’s tune, Raindrops, and when I was living across country from her, she called me up and said, ‘thats when I knew’. My Grandma Helen and her sister Lois, who I called Loie, they were the ones who paid for my lessons at age 5. I did the whole traditional, classical, learn how to read music, from when I was 5 until all the way through high school. It was probably around junior high when I started plucking out bass lines of pop songs. ‘Head Over Heels’ by the GoGo Girls is the one that comes to mind; I learned that for my sister who was going to be singing that in the talent show. So I started picking up stuff by ear. Getting towards the end of high school I started going down to the local blues jam and learned how to get up on stage.
Did you take a liking to music from the start?
You know as a teacher, I find sight reading can kind of run the gamut. Some people it’s like pulling teeth and others its much easier and everything in between. Its just always made sense to me, I’ve always been pretty quick at sight reading. I think there was one little blip in 3rd grade and we were up and in my family it was always about practicing. And i’d cry and cry and they’d say, “well you have to practice before you can go out and play”. So in 3rd grade they were finally like, “ok fine, if you want to stop you can stop”. And then they kind of regressed and were like, “well no”. And then I go, “you said you said”. And then I probably whined some more, but it was probably the best thing to stick with it, because boom, its such a huge part of what I get to do as an adult and professional and creatively.
First, was it hard to keep going with lessons?
Yes and no. It wasn’t really hard for me intellectually, it was just more something that I didn’t really discipline myself.
What kind of goals did you set for yourself when you were learning? And what kind of goals do you set for yourself now as a teacher?
When I was taking lessons, of course, the number one goal was just that one piece every year that I would memorize and do for the recital. It wasn’t really a goal that I set for myself rather just what was presented for me. So every year the recital would come up and you’d run the piece, play it, so that was pretty much the extent of it until about 5th grade. That was when I started accompanying choirs and groups in church. As soon as I got into middle school I started accompanying all the different choirs there and that continued through high school. At that point, it got to be more than just an accompanist. I got pretty involved in all of the singing with the tenors. I worked in a barber shop quartet for a few years where I got a lot of experience in harmonizing with the tenors and the sopranos. That’s when I realized that singing was really something that I enjoyed and was pretty good at too. And all throughout middle school and high school as well people started engaging me to be there accompanist for festivals, or concerts or singing solos and clarinet solo’s or cello solos. So I would find myself pretty overwhelmed. I remember one year I found myself with 8 different people at the festival. I remember having these anxiety dreams where I would be in that school and i’d be like, ‘ah where’s my folder no!’ which would have just been disaster for so many people depending on me.
My dad has the same dreams.
Haha oh yeah?
Oh yeah. Kind of jumping forward to today, what advice do you give to young singers and songwriters?
Well, just make sure you’re having fun. Work with styles that you like and want to learn and I can pretty much teach you the nuts and bolts of theory with chords and scales of most any style you want to play. But first and foremost, just do what you love. And then getting back to the sight reading, you know I’m not going to put the cart before the horse. I think that there is still a lot of traditional teaching where it is just all about the sight reading. I say sight reading is a bonus because it gives you a way to communicate really quickly your musical ideas with other people that know how to read that same language. I just had a student here today who is doing college level analysis with roman numerals and chords and scales, and you know he’s beginning college level theory study, but is still kind of trudging through that first sight reading book. And that’s fine because it’s just bonus.
You’re going to get people having a lot of fun playing music a lot quicker if you just show them how to make chords and scales and simple improvs and chart reading rather than having them play that exact same music by reading the lines and spaces. I want to get them hooked with actual music that they can groove to and have people, say yeah nice, and once they’re hooked they can do the sight reading at their own pace. It’s going to be a lot less frustrating. Another one of my specialties I always said in the beginning was that I kind of specialized in people who have had traumatic past experiences with playing music. Like when i’m working with adults, there are people who have great senses of ear and great musicality, but because they’re thrown into a situation where the only thing they were taught was sight reading, that was just a little too left brain for their personalities. And then they got this thing through their life where they were like, ‘oh i’m not musical, i’m no good at this’. Which was just entirely not true. So that’s another reason why I present sight reading but I don’t try to force feed it to students.
Do you think formal music education may shift over to more a method of learning how to play chords by ear or playing with others, rather than solely sight reading?
I think it has transitioned a lot. I see a lot more more teachers that are at least interested in presenting that side to education. And you know, there are still people and teachers that just do the traditional thing. And for some people that’s great, that’s what they want. I think there’s a lot of different types of students and learning styles and different types of teachers and teaching styles. Some are good fits and some aren’t.
Why do you think Eugene is a good place for local musicians to showcase their music?
Because it’s, ha, it’s funny you should ask that, because if you were to phrase that as, ‘why is Eugene is a good place for professional musicians to come through town?’, i’d laugh because it’s a really hard town in the circuit. Because it’s not super huge and one, anecdotal, theory I have is that there are so many people here who play music that they can entertain themselves. Maybe they feel less liable to go out and spend money to get musically entertained. And not that people don’t go out. There is a lot of good music that comes through here and a lot of people that really enjoy going to support them. But I think the reputation that Eugene has for the bands on the road, is that it is really more of a connector town, rather than the bread and butter place to make your bunch of money. But getting back to showcasing music, there’s not just such a support for the arts and music, but theres just so much support for the kids here. there’s not just such a support for the arts and music, but theres just so much support for the kids here. That’s the singular reason why a lot of people stick around here because its just a really good place to raise a kid. Budget short falls not withstanding, we have really good teachers and really good schools here and a lot of different activities for kids that maybe aren’t going to go the traditional academic route. You go someplace like Roosevelelt or South and theres just so many different electives you can take. So many drama classes, music, and cooking classes. And that sort of spreads through the community as a whole. You go down to Off The Waffle for open mic, and you get a taste of the community that is developing around there, the parents who aren’t just supporting their kids playing, but are so supportive of the other kids and theres mutual encouragement among themselves, and the staff there that just is in high heaven. People really support kids stepping out and doing their thing. That’s kind of why I’ve stuck around.
Thanks so much, Scott. That was meaningful. Is there anything else that is on your mind possibly pertaining to the state of music education here or about Eugene and growing up around music here?
Well, I’m really lucky. I don’t have to advertise because word of mouth has gotten around, and i’ve got a waiting list for students that i’ve had for a long time. I thankfully have been able to dip into through the group lessons which has been great for my career. You know to be able to teach four or five kids at once rather than just doing the individual thing. That’s great because I had this waiting list of like 20 or 30 people, and the group thing helps just because I don’t want to be leaving anybody out. It’s the perfect job for me. I get to create it, make my own schedule, and still be able to go play these shows if I need to. Another cool thing is seeing some of my long-time students starting to teach. Eden has expressed interest in helping out with the classes, and her former bandmate, Emily, she’s already got like 3 guitar students. You know i’m still learning, so you’re never going to get to that place where you know everything. There has to be a good fit between what the students need and what the teacher has to offer. And for beginning students, especially the way I teach, it doesn’t take much to have something to pass on to the newbies. I always tell my students, the more you teach this stuff, the more you’re just going to consolidate it in your own mind. And i’m still seeing new angles for all this stuff as I continue to teach it. It’s an ongoing process. And I just hope that everybody keeps teaching everybody and then everybody in the world will be able to play music and it’ll be a better world from it.