With his love of music, off-brand humor and a big personality, KSC Jazz professor Scott Mullett walked through life leaving a mark on every person he met. To his students. He was a mentor and a friend first and foremost.
Scott Mullett was born on May 10, 1959, in what was then the Elliot City Hospital, now known as Keene State College’s Elliot Center.
Mullett died on Jan. 3, 2018.
Mullett picked up music while he attended middle school.
When Mullett was in high school, he used to visit KSC’s Jazz Ensemble as he was taking lessons from members of the ensemble at the time.
Adjunct faculty in Journalism and Integrative Thinking and Writing (ITW) Michael Wakefield who was a member of the ensemble, said Mullett lived on South Street in Keene, so it was a short walk for him to show up and hang out with the band.
After high school, Mullett went on to study at Berklee School of Music.
KSC sophomore, trombone player and member of the Keene Jazz Orchestra (KJO) William Wright said Mullett used to tell stories about how he entered the jazz industry.
Wright said, “He kind of learned how music worked in the old days which was: you would see a guy who played in a band, walk up and talk to him and take a lesson with him or you would set up a time later or you would talk to him and he’d ask you to play with his band.”
The connections Mullett made following this process led to an extensive and diverse career in jazz music from playing among names like Davy Jones from the Monkees, Tony Bennett, and Aretha Franklin, to working as the Jazz Director on cruise ships.
“He had been to so many places and seen so many things on the road and working on cruise boats and on cruise boats and on cruise boats.” Wakefield said.
Mullett moved back to Keene in 1997 to take care of his father who died a year later.
When Mullet returned to Keene, he did not give up his passion.
Instead he began teaching private music lessons. Mullett taught hundreds of students including KSC Jazz Ensemble Director Steve Cady.
In 2003, Mullett began working on what Cady said was Mullett’s “dream child”– The Keene Jazz Orchestra. KJO is a semi professional jazz ensemble containing local musicians, some KSC students and famous guest visitors Mullett invited.
In 2006, Mullett began teaching at KSC.
Cady said teaching students was Mullett’s pride and joy. “Scott would really, if he saw the right kind of spark in a musician, would make sure to put them under his wing and so I think he’s probably most proud of those people he found who took advantage of that opportunity,” Cady said.
“He would have been teaching no matter where he was.” Wakefield said. “Keene State was lucky to have him in that role for as long as he taught here.”
Cady said Mullett took educated risks on certain students — Those that showed a passion beyond scholastic learning.
“One of the big examples is he got me into the C Jammers that were a Boston based wedding band,” Cady said.
Cady said he and Mullett spent upwards of 800 hours in a car going to different gigs.
They developed a friendship that led to the forming of the Scott Mullett Trio in 2013, which included George Robinson, Steve Cady and Scott Mullet.
Mullett also brought Cady face-to-face with many of the major musicians he used to play with.
Mullett took risks with many of his students, whether it was providing job opportunities or in the classroom.
Wright said Mullett took one of these risks with him during one of his early Friday morning classes.
“I get my trombone out and my friends are on the piano, guitar and drums and are playing on this riff so I start soloing over it and Scott walks in and throws his bags in the corner and looked at me and says ‘teach the class,’” Wright said. “He knew I could do it with help.”
KSC Alumnus and one of Mullet’s old students Jameson Foster said, “The best thing was [Mullett] would believe in you even when you didn’t believe in you. And even before you would think you had a reason to believe in yourself.”
Wakefield said, “He really cared about people and he kept checking in on different people all the time just always calling people just saying what’s going on or saying something rude into the phone.”
Wakefield, Cady, Wright and Foster expressed that while Mullett’s sense of humor was crass, to say the least, it was one of the things that helped humanize someone as professional as he was.
Sebastien Mehegan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org