UCSD music man Scott Paulson plays it ‘off’ beat

Scott Paulson is an award-winning soundscape artist who has been heard on radio, television, and film. His performance ensemble, the Teeny-Tiny Pit Orchestra, provides live music and sounds for silent film screenings, ballet, radio dramas, operas, and theatrical productions.

At many of his live shows, Paulson asks the audience to assist: Strike a thundersheet! Use exotic wooden birdcalls!  Roll out an elegant harp glissando! Play a Theremin, if you dare!

In addition to his slapstick and experimental music activities, Paulson is an orchestral oboist, and also is the University Carillonneur at UCSD, performing live on Geisel Library’s rooftop chimes  (yes, he takes song requests!)

Paulson serves as the Outreach Coordinator for the UCSD Arts Library for which he founded and directs various festivals: The Short Attention Span Chamber Music Series, the annual Toy Piano Festival, The Not-So-Silent Film Festival, and a Paper Theatre Festival.

What brought you to La Jolla?

School. I was accepted at UCSD in 1980 as a teenage New Englander and was so happy to be on the West Coast! While in school here, I was lucky enough to get cooking gigs at some huge La Jolla homes. Now, almost 30 years later, I am still doing errands for some of those La Jolla families.

I learned a lot about La Jolla working for those families in the 1980s. One of the favorite people I cooked for was Roger Revelle.

Oh, and I wasn’t really a cook at all, I bluffed my way into those gigs — but all those homes had cookbooks in their kitchens and buying fresh ingredients at Jonathan’s was helpful. There was one scary night when I had to cook for a formal house dinner party for guests like Pierre Salinger and Bill Moyers and other literati and glitterati … but I didn’t panic and it all turned out fine.

What makes this area special to you?

La Jolla Music is very special to me — a delightful old school, full-service music store. I rely on them for advice and service on many of my musical instruments and it’s fun to just browse and spend time with the staff there. Unfortunately, I can never seem to leave that store empty-handed. For example, did I really need that sitar?

What else? Knowing the secret shortcuts to La Jolla Cove is very special and having a major university up the hill is also a great feature.

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in the area?

I wish there was still a movie theater in the village proper.

Who or what inspires you?

Knowing about the immediate history of the area that I’m in is a great inspiration. I’ve done several silent movie shows featuring early 1900s films shot in La Jolla and San Diego featuring local talent, and showing these films with live music brings this past back to life and gives people an appreciation of the landmarks and landscape.

I’ve done several exhibits at the UCSD Arts Library that call attention to the history of La Jolla. One of my favorites was a Black La Jolla exhibit. Knowing which house jazz great Charles McPherson called “grandma’s house” is a great inspiration to me when I’m walking down that block in La Jolla. We all need to inspire people to share that kind of information so that we can better appreciate our neighborhoods.

If  you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

Sculptor Louise Nevelson; sound effects pioneer Mrs. Ora Nichols; early experimental television star Ernie Kovaks; irreverent percussionist Spike Jones; stage/screen/radio-drama legend Orson Welles; superstar Josephine Baker; ballet star Maria Tallchief; and great American cowboy Nat Love.

Tell us about what you are currently reading.

I do a lot of reading for the exhibits I curate at the UCSD Arts Library. I’m installing a Black Radio exhibit for Black History Month this coming February and this book has been a great resource:

“Swingin’ on the Ether Waves: A Chronological History of African-Americans in Radio and Television Broadcasting (1925-1955)” by Henry T. Sampson.

Also, I’m writing a period radio drama script for two of my favorite actresses, Annie Hinton and Linda Libby. For that project, I’m getting in the mood by reading “Private Eye-Lashes: Radio’s Lady Detectives” by Jack French. I should probably tell Annie and Linda that I am doing this …

What is your most-prized possession?

My harpsichord. When I was 5 or 6, I saw the first network broadcasts of  “The Addams Family” on black and white television and when Lurch the butler played the harpsichord, I had to have one. I was 39 or 40 when I finally got around to it.

What do you do for fun?

Most of my outreach projects at the UCSD Arts Library are presented as “fun,” but with a heavily veiled educational component. The most fun part of that job is watching the audience let go and have fun, but my joy is knowing this: When they leave, they have learned all the things that I wanted them to learn. (They might not know ’til later that they learned anything at all … but they did!)

Please describe your greatest accomplishment.

It was playing in San Diego’s chamber orchestra, Orchestra Nova, for a dozen or so years! I was so proud to be in that group and loved performing at Sherwood Auditorium and their other venues.

This is the first year that I’m not with them. I suffered a hand injury early last season and am recovering slowly. But things have an odd and wonderful way of working out, so many high-profile opportunities have come my way since I closed that orchestra door and I wouldn’t have been able to accept those offers if I was still under contract in the back row of that orchestra.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

Make the most of the immediate opportunities presented to you. The little things that you have to do daily can make a difference if done well. There is a warning here, though. You may end up being a late bloomer, like me, if you spend so much time doing the little things well.

Related posts:

  1. Anne Otterson touches many people’s lives through kindness, caring … cooking
  2. Melinda Underkofler welcomes newcomers as the club’s president
  3. Barb Mulligan lends her energies to causes that support families
  4. Life’s lessons keep Mariola Stojic content and moving forward
  5. Her belief in service leads Lisa Lindgren to Soroptimist International

Short URL: http://www.lajollalight.com/?p=5966

Posted by Susan DeMaggio on Nov 11, 2010. Filed under 10 Questions, Life. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

19 Comments for “UCSD music man Scott Paulson plays it ‘off’ beat”

  1. Joe

    I've seen him perform and his performances really do encourage audience participation. It was simply a lot of fun. If you can visit one of his performances, I strongly suggest that you go and visit them. He is a really nice guy if you talk to him as well. This article helps to understand a bit more where he comes from. Thanks for the article.

  2. Linda

    Scott Paulson is a treasure! Our community needs to know about his unique and enviable brand of entertainment. Once you experience an evening orchestrated by Scott, you'll be back for me. Thank you for this article and spreading the word about Scott! Please keep us posted on his future performances.

  3. Nick Carvajal

    Great story! Paulson is a treasure and a beacon. If you haven't attended a Paulson event you're missing something fun, educational, and utterly unique.

  4. Nick Carvajal

    Great piece! Scott is a treasure and a beacon. If you haven't attended a Paulson event, you're missing an educational, fun and utterly unique experience.

  5. Miranda

    Scott Paulson's shows are amazing. His recent screening of a silent film turned out to be the most unique and entertaining theater event we've ever attended! Thank you for this great article. It is nice to learn more about this extraordinary, dedicated and education-oriented entertainer.

  6. Jim

    Scott is also the one who does the live old-fashioned radio sound effects for Its a Wonderful Life at Cygnet Theate—they do it every year on the stage at Old Town Theatre—they take the movie and present it as a radio drama….the audience members sometimes even dress up like 1940's….

  7. Marie & Andy

    We've gone to his Toy Piano Festival for years and years…and we'll go next year, too!

  8. Fran

    He played at our Communications class at UCSD last month. The reading that week was about silent film and our professor invted Scott to perform. He came with his instruments and made us play for the movie. Most of us didn't know how to play musical instruments, but he picked out ritual instruments and wild noisemakers and easy to play instruments like autoharp and, with his help, we performed for an hour. I didn't realize how alive silent film could become.

  9. Anthony

    Scott really brings something special to the UCSD Arts Library. Can't imagine it without him!

  10. Clara

    On Halloween he was at Geisel Library with his collection of theremins and anyone who wanted to could play on them! They are played by waiving your hands near antannae….and the make a ooooOOOOeeeEEEoooOOeeeeEEE sound…. PERFECT activity in that spaceship-looking building on that spooky day. He gave some quick instruction on the instrument and helped us look up things on-line about the theremin…

  11. Jan

    I remember when there used to be a Bach Society in La Jolla and he hosted events that made Bach seem very friendly. Nice to read that he is still active in the area here.

  12. La Jolla Girl

    Our whole family saw his silent film screening of old movies made in La Jolla and starring La Jolla actors….we had no idea those films existed…his presentation of the films with live music was very authentic…I see what he means by appreciating the landscape and landmarks, because even though those films were from the 1920s there was still a lot we recognized

  13. Denice

    I took my mother and my daughter to Scott's Nancy Drew event at the UCSD library last year. There was an exhibit of Nancy Drew books & toys and a radio drama version of a Nancy Drew mystery done live with sound effects. Before and after the radio mystery show, children and seniors were quite intent on sharing Nancy Drew stories with each other and it was quite a tribute to see how all those different age groups became one big overexcited fan club for Nancy Drew AND for Scott.

  14. Bill

    Loved the last line of this article.
    It certainly is okay to be a late bloomer
    Seems to me you'll appreciate your success all the more.

  15. Mark

    I iike his summer iibrary exhibits and the live events that are tied into the exhibit themes. There was one where everyone did an Etch-A-Sketch **that toy with the knobs that you use to draw lines** while we listened to live music that he performed and all our 'sketches' were put in the exhibit cases at the end of the concert. It was both fun and hard to do and many of the people there surprised themselves with some fantastic 'sketches' .
    He also did a Tom Swift exhibit with live 'radio' shows of TOm Swift stories right at the exhibit itself. Great to remind people about the literary Heros of the past that inspired young people years ago.

  16. Sara

    Best "10 QUESTIONS" answers EVER!

  17. CLAM

    His performances are always so fun and exciting! I love how he encourages the audience to participate and teaches us things while having fun. I will definitely come to another one of his activities or showings.

  18. jan

    I LOVE Scott….his tremendous enthusiasm for life and people shows in all that he does. This interview is indicative of his wide range of passions and his caring nature. I only wish I lived in the San Diego area so that I could see / hear all of the wonderful stuff he's doing. *Rock On, Scott!*

  19. Lisa

    An insightful interview, with questions worthy of such an interesting guy!

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