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. Scott is also an educator at various institutions.
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 22nd year, recorded three CDs, Basement Vibes, Brush Fire, and Mulgrew-ology; the latter winning awards from the Detroit Music Awards for best recording, and best jazz group. Mulgrew-ology rose to #32 on the national jazz-charts with recognition from organizations around the world. “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 conference 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.
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 30 professional recordings as a sideman and has recorded four of his own, including, Cass Corridor Story (2012) and Mulgrew-ology (2019), released by Detroit Music Factory, a part of the world-famous Mack Ave. jazz label. In 2009 and 2011, Scott was the music director for Music Hall’s Cars and Stars, directing shows for Sheena Easton and Elaine Stritch.
As a BMI composer, Scott has written over 400 compositions, from solo piano works to big band, to symphony orchestra to 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 16 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. He is currently a Special Lecturer at Oakland University where he is responsible for conducting the Vocal Jazz Ensembles as well as instructing classes in jazz improvisation, jazz theory, and arranging.
Scott is the Jazz Education Coordinator at Music Hall Performing Arts Center where he has created and administered jazz programs at Marygrove School (DPS), and taught vocal jazz at Detroit School of the Arts, Renaissance High School, and other DPS schools. Scott is also a jazz-ensemble director and instructor under Rodney Whittaker at Michigan State University's Community Music School.
Scott is also the director of the Detroit Jazz Workshop. The DJW, since 2009 has instructed hundreds of students of all ages, instruments, and experience levels in a week-long summer experience. Scott also works as a clinician to college, and high school bands and vocal groups.
Scott is also a board-member of the Michigan Jazz Festival.