Scott Gwinnell is an award-winning pianist, composer/arranger, and educator born in Detroit, and residing in the Metro-Detroit area. He currently freelances as a sideman and leads various groups; the most well-known being the 16-piece Scott Gwinnell Jazz Orchestra. He is an adjunct professor of music at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, and an ensemble director at Michigan State University's Detroit Campus.
Scott began studying piano at the age of 6 and trombone at the age of 10. At 14, Scott began lessons with renowned jazz pianist, Bess Bonnier, who encouraged him, along with studying jazz improvisation, to compose and arrange small and large ensemble music. Duke Ellington and Count Basie were early heroes, and his first big band arrangements, written at 15, were hugely influenced by both pianist/bandleaders. Also beginning his professional piano/trombone career at 15, Scott began playing solo and combo gigs around Detroit, playing with local musicians, George Benson, Don Mayberry, and Paul Keller.
After attending Western Michigan University and Wayne State University, where Scott received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree, he started to play in the bands of Steve Wood, Larry Nozero, Marcus Belgrave, and Brad Felt. At Wayne State, Scott studied with piano master, Matt Michaels, and vibist, Rob Pipho, who gave him a well-rounded jazz education.
Around the same time, Scott begun his own 16-piece big band, Scott Gwinnell Jazz Orchestra, to be the outlet for his arrangements. The SGJO, started in 1999 at the Music Menu Café, before moving to the Cadieux Café, and Cliff Bells. Now in its 13th year, the SGJO has recorded two CDs, Basement Vibes, and Brush Fire; the latter winning awards from the Detroit Music Awards for best recording, and best traditional jazz group (2006). “The band is tight, the spirited arrangements lean, listenable, and balanced.” (Jazz.com) Highlight events for the SGJO are performances at the International Association of Jazz Educators confrence at Toronto, Canada with saxophonist Dave Liebman, and performances at Detroit Jazz Festival, Cliff Bells, and Detroit Institute of Arts with jazz bass virtuoso, John Clayton. The SGJO premiered Clayton’s 45 min. suite, T.H.E. Detroit at the festival in 2009, meeting high acclaim. The success of the big band has spawned an off-shoot group, The Scott Gwinnell Dectet, a 10-piece band playing original arrangements by Gwinnell and other band members.
In his career as a pianist, Scott has played with many musical people of note, jazz and otherwise, including Aretha Franklin, Vanessa Williams, Sheena Easton, Roberta Flack, Joe Lovano, Steve Turre, Richie Cole, Dave Liebman, John Clayton, Karriem Riggins, and Jon Hendricks. Scott was music director for Jon for three years. He has recorded over 20 professional recordings as a sideman and has recorded four of his own, including, Cass Corridor Story (2012), released by Detroit Music Factory, a part of the world-famous Mack Ave. jazz label. In 2011, Scott was the music director for Music Hall’s largest fund-raiser performance, Cars and Stars, and is the house pianist on Fridays at Detroit’s legendary supper-club, The London Chop House.
As a BMI composer, Scott has written over 300 compositions, from solo piano works to big band, to symphony orchestra and marching band. He has won awards and/or been recognized by Downbeat Magazine, IAJE, ASCAP, and the Detroit Music Awards. The DMAs have awarded Scott 11 times. Scott continues to compose, arrange, and freelance for clients, writing in every type and style.
Scott, a fourth generation teacher, has always prided himself on teaching the music he loves to others. After student teaching at Wayne State, Scott was a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Toledo where he taught graduate and undergraduate jazz piano, jazz history, improvisation, conducted the jazz vocal ensemble, and played in the faculty combo. After substituting at Bowling Green State University for program director, Russ Schmidt, Scott taught adjunct at Wayne County Community College. He presently is the jazz piano instructor at Oakland University, where he also accompanies the vocal choir and contributes arrangements. Most recently Scott was hired as an ensemble director at Michigan State University's Detroit Campus.
Besides conducting clinics/playing concerts at Western Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University, Aquinas College, Hidelberg College, and numerous high schools, Scott is the creator/director of the Metro-Detroit Jazz Workshop. This weeklong summer camp is in its 6tthyear, servicing high school age students to professionals in Michigan and Ohio.
Scott continues to be a vital member of the Detroit / SE Michigan music scene and pushes forward in pursuit of learning America’s native music, Jazz.