I flew to Buffalo on Saturday, July 17, for the Funeral and Memorial Service for Scott Parkinson. The First Presbyterian Church was filled with mourners, and a mournful occasion it certain was. Friends and trombone buddies of Scott's flew in from all over the country. I met people who had come from Cincinnati, Jacksonville, Denver, NYC, and even Seattle.
Prelude music was performed by a string quartet from the Buffalo Symphony called the Clara Quartet and the Buffalo Philharmonic Brass Quintet. Near the end of the service, the string section of the Buffalo Philharmonic played the Adagietto movement from Mahler Symphony No. 5 under the direction of JoAnn Falletta, and perhaps the finest trombone choir ever assembled on short notice performed several times during the service and for the postlude. The ensemble was comprised mostly of Juilliard grads who went to school with Scott, where he completed his master of music degree, but I played with the group and conducted one number.
Joe Alessi of the New York Philharmonic, who was Scott's teacher at Juilliard, soloed in a beautiful arrangement of "Amazing Grace" for solo trombone and trombone choir. Another selection was an "Ave Maria" by Franz Biebl, arranged for trombone choir. For the postlude, we performed "Traumen und Wachen" by Anton Bruckner, arranged by Elwood Williams, and a poignant selection by Leonard Bernstein--"One Hand, One Heart."
After a particularly meaningful and down-to-earth Homily by The Reverend Geri Lyon, there was time allotted in the service called "Remembering a Beloved Friend--a Sharing of Memories." I believe there were eight of us who had been asked by Robin, Scott's widow, and Scott's parents, Len and Judy, to speak at that time. Among them were fellow trombone players (Hamoud Abu-Eid and John Graham) and his three trombone teachers (Joe Alessi, John Marcellus, and me). Although everyone knew Scott from different angles and at different times, the messages were of disbelief, intense sorrow, but recollecting a person of great warmth and humanity, dedication and accomplishment, leadership and respect. If you care to read my portion of these remarks, they are attached.
JoAnn Falletta delivered a wonderful tribute to Scott during this portion of the service, and she concluded her remarks by having a CD of their very recent performance of Mahler Symphony No. 3 played for the congregation. It was the section of that first monumental trombone solo that Scott had been asked to play on very short notice. JoAnn told me after the service that, when she asked Scott if he would step in and play the solo, he replied that it was "no problem at all" and that "I've done it before." Yes, he had played it before, because at Eastman, he won a behind-the-screen competitive audition in his junior year for the honor of performing Mahler 3 with the Eastman Philharmonic Orchestra. Everyone there at the service was amazed at his control and sound. It was just as Mahler would have liked it.
There was a reception immediately following the service, which was even more heart wrenching than the service, because everyone lined up to hug and cry with Scott's parents, his sister Jennifer, and his widow Robin. Needless to say, even performing in the trombone choir was extremely difficult for all of us. The end of the Bruckner rises to an unrelenting, crushing climax of sound. Somehow, the 10 members of the trombone choir held the last note long, strong, and unwavering, but when we took our instruments away from our lips, it was evident that all of us were visibly sobbing.
In the evening, I hung out with all of Scott's buddies and their wives. What a wonderful group of musician friends he and Robin had! We even watched a DVD production that one the trombone players put together of their last Thanksgiving day. They were all laughing, playing silly games, and generally having a hilarious time carving the bird and making jokes to the camera. I felt very special being in their midst and able to form new acquaintances with Scott's friends. Together, they had a very tight-knit community of friends. I'm confident that they will look after Robin totally.
IF ANY OF YOU KNOW SOMEONE ELSE WHO KNEW SCOTT AND MIGHT LIKE TO READ THIS ACCOUNT OF THE FUNERAL SERVICE, PLEASE FORWARD THIS EMAIL MESSAGE.
Please click here for Milt's notes from the Service for Scott