After a six-decade hiatus, Dave Scott ’50 returns to his musical roots

March 12, 2024 — On a hot summer day in August 1946, Davis “Dave” Scott ’50, walked across campus from his dorm room in Langan to audition for the Grinnell College band. 

Davis “Dave” Scott ’50
   Davis “Dave” Scott ’50

The young French horn player from tiny Mendota, Illinois, was more than a little intimidated. There was an influx of veterans just returned from World War II attending Grinnell, and Scott was just a freshman, fresh out of high school. And he’d only learned during orientation that he would have to audition for the band. 

The windows were wide open in the old music building, says Scott, “and I heard this beautiful music coming out, and I literally got cold feet. I thought, ‘I can’t play the horn that good,’ so I turned tail and went back to Langan and stuck my horn in the closet.” 

Scott went on to have a successful career – both at Grinnell and then as a speech pathology professor, retiring from Minnesota State University, Moorhead – but he rarely touched his French horn. 

Nearly six decades later at age 80, Scott decided to give horn-playing another shot, and joined the Fargo-Moorhead Golden Notes Band for seniors. Today at age 95, he belongs to two bands and performs on a regular basis.

“When I picked up the horn again, I regretted all of a sudden that I didn’t go into the music building at Grinnell and try my best,” says Scott, a sunny and energetic man who looks and sounds decades younger. “For the past 15 years, music has been a big part of my life.” 

Most of the Golden Notes concerts are at senior living centers, “and every time we play I realize as I look out that many of the audience are quite younger than I am,” Scott says. “I feel so fortunate that I’m there playing for them, rather than being there as an audience member, but I’m also very satisfied that I can be part of a group that brings music to people. There’s satisfaction in doing something that’s appreciated by others.”

With band practices once a week and gigs every other week, music keeps Scott busy. “I’m a much better player than I was in high school, and the biggest reason is that I practice more,” he says. And it wasn’t tough getting his chops back after decades away from the instrument. “Once you know how to do it, it’s easy to do again. All I needed to do was practice enough to get my lips and breathing back in shape – and I’ve been sailing along ever since.” 

Dave Scott '50 plays french horn during a Golden Notes concert.
In this photo courtesy of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, Scott plays his French horn at a 2023 Golden Notes performance.

Though he gave up the horn at Grinnell, Scott was a speech major who had a busy life on campus with debate, drama, rhetoric, and working at the library. He and his roommate, John Sitton ’52, were part of a revived Grinnell debate program and when Oxford University debaters traveled through the U.S., he was one of two Grinnellians that debated them. He also played the lead role of Tom Wingfield in a campus production of a new play, The Glass Menagerie.

But the most important thing he got from Grinnell, says Scott, was a wife, the late Hazel Moritz. Fresh out of college herself, she taught Dave’s Basic Communication class as a Grinnell faculty member from 1946 to 1951.

They married in 1951, once Scott was at graduate school. “We had three children and were married for nearly 58 years, her death being in 2009,” he says.

Immediately after college, Scott went on to earn his master’s in speech at Indiana University Bloomington, before working as a speech pathologist in Iowa and Kentucky, then returned to Bloomington to teach and complete his doctorate in speech pathology. 

The family settled in Moorhead, Minnesota, where Scott was on the faculty at Moorhead State University (now Minnesota State University, Moorhead), teaching speech pathology, audiology, speech communication, and linguistics. He retired in 1990. 

Until he picked up the horn again, he spent much of retirement recording books for the Minnesota State Services for the Blind and helping establish the Red River Zoo in Fargo-Moorhead. 

Group photo of the Golden Notes
The Fargo-Moorhead Golden Notes Band are pictured at a past performance. Scott is the third row, second from the right.

He also periodically returned to southern Iowa to visit relatives and stop in Grinnell. “I’ve frequently come through Grinnell and spent a few hours wandering around,” he says. “HSSC really blew my mind!”

Though Scott had heard of the local band, rehearsals were on the same night as Hazel’s weekly book club. Being a one-car family, he couldn’t make the rehearsals. After Hazel passed away, a young musician friend encouraged him to check out the Golden Notes. 

“The fall after she died, I decided to take the leap,” says Scott. “The idea of going into a group you don’t know, carrying a horn you haven’t played for 63 years, I was very leery about going. But by the second night I played with them, it was my group and I belonged.” 

Ten years ago, he joined a second group, the Wahpeton/Breckenridge Area Community Band, which has members from high schoolers to age 95 – Scott. They’ll begin rehearsals soon and perform outdoors in summer. And he’ll also be joining the new, all-ages Metro Community Band, in the Fargo-Moorhead area this summer.  

“It’s not unusual for people to move from one activity to another, and a number of band members have put their instruments down and come back to them later on,” Scott says. “But many have the same feeling that I do: Once you come back and start playing again, it’s so much fun that you feel as though you wished you’d started earlier. So, if there is anyone who once played an instrument, or hasn’t played at all, it’s never too late to come to it or come back to it.” 

— by Anne Stein ’84

For your information

The Fargo-Moorhead Golden Notes is part of the New Horizons International Music Association, a global organization that encourages and organizes adults to sing or play in ensembles.

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