Organist Patrick Scott has a favorite day of the week, and it’s not Friday. On Sunday mornings, Scott, 26, shines as the new music associate and organist at Myers Park United Methodist Church. He collaborates with clergy to create a meaningful worship service for the congregation. The native of Picayune, Miss., who started playing the organ at age 8, competed in the National Competition in Organ Improvisation from July 1-6 in Nashville, Tenn., where he received second place for improvisation and Audience Favorite. This fall, he will earn a doctorate in musical arts from the University of Texas at Austin.
Q. When did you decide to become a professional organist? My entire family went to church and I really identify with religion and theology. I feel like my talent is God-given. (The organ) is like having an entire orchestra at your fingertips. When I got into high school, I realized that music would also give me a scholarship to college. Since I’m passionate about church music, playing the organ for a service on Sunday morning is what gets me through the week. It’s what I look forward to.
Q. What’s the most challenging part of playing the organ? Definitely the coordination. Your feet are down there doing one thing and your hands are doing one thing and you’ve got to figure out which stops to use and all the while listening to be sure everything’s balanced, especially if you’re accompanying a choir or hymn at church. You’ve got to be sure you’re not too loud or too soft. It’s not just playing, it’s listening.
Q. How do you plan for Sunday service? The music is always based on the passage of scripture that the (minister) is preaching on. We try to pick the songs or pieces that will hopefully tie a service together, so people can find unity in songs, words and music. We have meetings through the week with clergy and musicians to be sure we’re on the same page. That way, it’s not a hodge-podge of things going on for an hour on Sunday morning.
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Q. What was it like to compete in Nashville? For the semi-final round, we had to do two separate improvisations. One had to be historically based in the style of Bach and Pachelbel. The second was called a free improvisation and that doesn’t have to be based on a specific composer, basically what comes to your mind. But it still has to have form.
Q. How does it feel to have accomplished so much at a young age? I felt honored being with the people in the final round. One guy was 39 and the other was 62. It’s a testament of how hard work pays off, and I’m fortunate to have gotten the opportunities that I’ve gotten. My parents have been at the forefront. To make a profession of the arts is risky. Just like a lawyer or a businessman, you have to work, you always have to give it your all and try to be on top of things.