Thanks for visiting my site and bio page. Official bios are below, written in 3rd person for programs.
I was born in 1966, in Omaha Nebraska. My parents divorced when I was 3 and we moved to the Chicago suburb of Naperville. I was a latchkey kid in the 70’s where my mom worked a full time job and we (my brother and I) visited Dad on Sundays. I’ve been involved in music on and off from a young age. I started out with piano lessons, then started guitar at age 8. My main interest was rock music (Beatles, classic rock, hits from the 70’s) until 15 when I became interested in jazz (Wes Montgomery, Lee Morgan, John Coltrane). I played guitar in the high school jazz band as well as a jazz quartet led by trumpeter Rob Mazurek (he was 2 years older than me at the time). At 16 I attended Interlochen Music Camp for the summer and began studying classical guitar.
I went to a community college for a couple of years (College of DuPage) where I began singing in choirs and taking voice lessons. After getting general credits out of the way, I applied to DePaul University to study music composition, and received a partial scholarship for my vocal skills, meaning I had to sing in the choir. I started in 1988 at DePaul and graduated in 1992, going part time and working part time doing odd jobs (book store, bank, etc.) During that time, I produced two full recitals of my music, and had my pieces performed on 9 separate Composer Forum concerts. While at DePaul I studied composition with Kurt Westerberg and George Flynn.
After graduating I took a full time job at the bank and left the next summer to attend the Aspen Music School where I studied composition with Michael Czajkowski and wrote my Octet. I also met Donald Erb, the composition professor at Cleveland Institute of Music. I applied for graduate studies there and was accepted. But I decided not to attend for various reasons, not the least of which was money related. Instead I decided to start an indie rock record label which I ran for 6 years and 25 releases, including a few from my own band in which I wrote the music, sang the songs and played guitar. During this time (1995-2001) I was also booking clubs in Chicago and promoting shows, volunteering as a DJ on WZRD, and touring all over the country.
That activity fizzled out in 2001 and while touring as a bass guitarist with John Greenfield’s Rock Band, had an idea for another musical endeavor. I started Live Band Karaoke in 2002, and after a year of weekly gigs, it gradually turned in to a 6-7 gigs a week lifestyle. I was a working musician for several years as I performed on bass guitar and sang back ups to over 300 cover songs. Somewhere during that time, I began what might be called a spiritual journey of self-discovery, or re-discovery, which led me to change my dietary habits (I became vegan in 2004) and focus on health and consciousness issues. This led me to finally leave Chicago for Peru where I spent a total of a year. I became fluent in Spanish and lived / worked with traditional healers in the Amazon rainforest. I started a Spanish language learning blog and produced my own audio-based programs for those interested in mastering Spanish.
Somewhere along the way, I have also worked in record shops, as a bike messenger in Chicago, a smoothie slinger in L.A., a couple of healing center retreats in Arizona, and managed a restaurant in Sedona. I essentially “retired” from music and was quite surprised by the sudden and unexpected return of my desire to write the type of contemporary classical music I was writing in college. I finally caved in to this unpractical desire, and purchased the Finale software for music notation.
Toward the end of my time in college, the early clunky versions of Finale were available at a steep price. Back then, I had to write all my music (full score and parts) by hand, and it was quite time consuming. If I had Finale 2014 back then, I would have had time to develop more of my ideas, and probably doubled my portfolio of pieces. Back in the old days, I also had to wait until a performance of my piece to really get an idea of what the piece sounded like. Now, thanks to the advance in technology, I am blown away by how much easier it is to not only get a beautifully notated score prepared, but also just being able to hear my ideas as they come to me.
A lot of my music is written with overlapping patterns of different durations, so playing them on a keyboard is a bit tricky. Having the ability to hear what has been composed, and easily adjust and manipulate it as needed, has made the process of composing very enjoyable.
A bit about my music. Despite taking almost 20 years between pieces, it seems as though my voice, or style, has remained intact. It is almost as if what I am writing now is a logical continuation of the direction I was going in when I was in college. I continue to explore aspects of time perception, creating a sense of unpredictability within the context of predictability, timelessness within the context of time, peace within the context of chaos, structure within the context of instability, unity within the context of duality.
I view tonality and atonality as two available colors on the palette and enjoy using them in tandem. Likewise, anything that has come before is fair game. A piece can simultaneously evoke a sense of the Renaissance and Modernism. I am not interested in writing music for commercial purposes, that would fit into a stereotypical movie or television scene. I am interested in exploring the way music can connect people with their highest purpose and good, either by performing it, or listening to it.
Another challenge I am exploring with my music, is how to compose something that can’t just as easily be created electronically. So much electronic music can sound like acoustic music, and vice versa to an extent. How can new sounds be created that rely solely on acoustic instruments, but require a live performance for the best realization of the idea?
So since rekindling this little spark inside of me in March of 2014, I have completed many new pieces. I am now considering going back to grad school for music composition, but decided to put that on hold due to my music festival Spontaneous Combustion. In the meantime, I continue to write for specific contests and call for scores that suit my fancy. And just keeping at it.
I know this type of music is esoteric, and not very practical. Nevertheless, it brings me happiness to create it. Yet it is to that conclusion that my aforementioned spiritual journey has seemed to have brought me. Creating art for the joy of it, beyond the need of recognition or acknowledgment from others. And from that vantage point, it is much easier to share.
Scott Anthony Shell earned his B.M. in composition at DePaul University, where he studied composition with Kurt Westerberg and George Flynn. While at DePaul, Scott’s music received a few performances outside of the university, including a
performance in New York City of the choral piece Apocalypsongs by the Gregg Smith Singers. Scott attended the Charles Ives Center of New Music two years in a row, and the Aspen Music Festival.
Instead of pursuing an advanced degree, Scott formed an indie rock record label and was involved in the Chicago music scene for several years. After a long break, Scott recently returned to his love of composing. In 2015 recent compositions were programmed at the Tutti New Music Festival, and through programs he attended as a composer fellow: nief-norf, Siena Summer Music (Italy), Lucca Music Festival (Italy). Scott also programmed a full recital of new works, performed by musicians from Arizona State University and the Phoenix Youth Symphony Orchestra.
In 2016, works were performed in Chicago, Portland, Austin, Albany, Charlotte, NC, the New Music on the Bayou Festival in Louisiana, and the KLK New Music Festival in Ukraine. Scott participated in the Charlotte New Music Festival, Keep Composer’s Weird, Atlantic Music Festival, Lehigh Choral Composer’s Forum, and Arts, Letters & Numbers workshop as a composer fellow. He is a recent
recipient of a grant from the Arizona Commission On the Arts and a semi-finalist for the American Prize in Orchestra Music.
In early 2017, works were performed in Boston MA, Portland OR, and Eugene OR. A new work is being premiered in Melbourne, Australia in June. Scott is the artistic director for Spontaneous Combustion, a touring new music festival of the west coast set to take place in January / February 2018.