A GoPride Interview

Scott Malinowski

What Do You Do, Scott Malinowski?

Fri. March 7, 2014  by Tom Elliott

Playing music is such an immersive thing, I feel such a strong sense of flow and satisfaction blasting out high notes with a roaring jazz band.
Scott Malinowski
"What Do You Do?" is a new feature on ChicagoPride.com that will profile people in Chicago who are doing cool things within the LGBT community. The first person we will meet is Scott Malinowski, who is the lead trumpet player and interim director for the shhh…OUT! Jazz Ensemble with Lakeside Pride Music Ensembles.

Scott is 31 years old and currently lives in Lakeview with his boyfriend, Chuck, but the couple will be moving in a few weeks to a spacious gut rehab in Edgewater, right by the beach and lakefront trail.

You can see Scott perform this Saturday, March 8 at Center on Halsted for the shhh…OUT! Lakeside Pride Jazz Ensemble's annual benefit, "Champaign Showcase: A Toast to Jazz Royalty." The band will be playing classic selections from jazz royalty, including Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Thelonious Monk, and Billy Strayhorn, one of the first and few openly gay composers of his time. Reception starts at 6:30 p.m. and the concert starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance, $35 at the door. Visit www.lakesidepride.org for more information and to purchase tickets.

TE: (Tom Elliott) How old were you when you first started playing and why did you pick the trumpet?

SM: (Scott Malinowski) As a fifth grader, what drew me to trumpet was the assertiveness and commanding power of its sound—it's not an instrument well-suited to wallflower types! Yet I was terrible at it, absolutely terrible. I didn't make the cut for a spot with the jazz band, but showed up to rehearsal anyway with a practice mute that blocks the sound so I could play along with them. The director recognized my dedication and let me join—without the mute. I worked really hard at trumpet, practiced all the time. By high school I had formed my own 11-piece swing band with my friends, and the fine arts summer camp I attended in Michigan put me on tour in Europe for two summers with an awesome big band. Playing music is such an immersive thing, I feel such a strong sense of flow and satisfaction blasting out high notes with a roaring jazz band. The thrill is the same adrenaline rush I get out on the trails mountain biking—music puts you in the moment, as you instantly respond to the environment shifting all around you.

TE: I didn't know you were into mountain biking? How'd you get into that? and where do you like to go?

SM: I love nature and have always been into outdoorsy stuff like kayaking, hiking, skiing. Mountain biking in particular really lets me unleash and get rough, but is so harmonious at the same time as you choose the best line to float over obstacles.

I've biked out west in Nevada and Colorado, but usually it's Wisconsin or Michigan. Great set of trails at Kickappo State park near Champaign. I first did mountain biking when I was in boy scouts, then did some racing as a part of my biking club in high school.

TE: I have a lot of friends that were in Boy Scouts! I hear it's such a great organization, aside from the anti-gay issues it has. Did you go all the way through to Eagle Scout?

SM: Yeah, Boy Scouts was awesome. Kids at school would be quick to call you a nerd for being in it, but they were the ones playing video games at home when we were out whitewater rafting, rock climbing. I wouldn't have traded that for anything.

I didn't get to Eagle, maybe in part just because my dad wanted me to so badly. Some of the merit badge stuff felt too much like school to me, I just wanted to have fun exploring and camping with my friends.

I saw Disney recently pulled out several million in donations to BSA, citing the policy against gay leaders. I believe the organization will come around and do the right thing, especially with financial pressures like that.

TE: I know you got your degree in trumpet performance at the University of Illinois. But you also work in the music industry, right?

SM: Champaign-Urbana has so much going on from an arts perspective. All these interesting composers and cool concert venues, an eclectic local music scene. Joining a popular a cappella group on campus, the Xtension Chords, was a transformative experience for me in many ways. Through recording with them at a studio in Chicago, I became fascinated with the production side of music, the way sound could be manipulated in a studio setting. I transferred to Millikin University to continue my study of music and audio engineering; they have an incredible studio and audio production courses. While I was finishing up school, I launched my own recording business and collaborated with artists of all kinds: Nigerian rappers, country and rock bands, classical organists, indie guitarists, Indian sitar/table drumming. A specialty of mine has become the growing genre of contemporary a cappella, my 37th vocal-only album will be released this April. This is my tenth year in business recording and mixing music, I feel very fortunate to do creative projects everyday.

TE: I first met you through the jazz band as a trumpet player and associate conductor, but you just started leading the band last fall right? How did you first get involved with Lakeside Pride and why is it important to you?

SM: I've had a great time with shhh…OUT!, the Lakeside Pride Jazz Ensemble, it's an honor to be a part of one of the few jazz bands in the nation focused on supporting the LGBT community. Jazz is still largely a male-dominated/ macho sort of culture, so having a group to showcase a more inclusive model is key in casting off stereotypes and homophobia, and sharing our voice. I joined as a lead trumpet player, but became more involved with helping direct the group to revitalize its mission, and dig into some excellent classic jazz charts!

TE: Do you play with any other groups?

SM: The Lakeside Pride jazz band is my main gig currently, but I also perform with a jazz quintet and church services on occasion.

TE: Are you involved with any other LGBTQ organizations?

SM: I record other LGBT music ensembles, such as the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus and the Windy City Performing Arts choirs, which is always a fun time! I make a point to support many of the LGBT-owned small business in Lakeview with my purchasing decisions (which includes an unhealthy obsession with thrifting/donating goods back to Brown Elephant, in support of Howard Brown Health Center.) I also donate to the HRC.

TE: Are you single & looking or happily married?

SM: My relationship with Chuck is a source of continual joy and contentment; we are simply in awe of one another and the bond between us. Daily we inspire, comfort, and motivate each other, it's really beautiful and reassuring. One night our friend Kate noticed something funny about us that I think captures our electric, playful dynamic well--when we look at each other, "it feels like the heat of a thousand suns!" I am amazed by him, and fortunate to love and be so loved in equal measure.

If you know someone who is doing great things with the LGBT community and think they should be the next featured profile for "What Do You Do?" please contact us.

Interviewed by Tom Elliott


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