Hazel Scott: From Child Prodigy to Entertainment Icon

August 12, 2011  |  

Hazel Scott was a legendary musician known for putting her own twist on the classical Chopin and Bach. Reviewers said she blended elements of jazz and even boogie woogie into the classics crafting an entirely different sound. In addition to her nimble fingers, Hazel also harbored a power house voice that was reminiscent of a young Judy Garland.

Hazel was born in 1920 with a gift. The Trinidadian beauty was the daughter of a West African scholar, R. Thomas Scott and Alma Scott, a classical trained pianist from Liverpool, England. She inherited her mother’s gift of creating music and started to play the piano by ear at three years old. Once Alma realized her toddler daughter possessed such an ability she abandoned her dream of becoming a concert pianist to enrich her daughter’s talent.

Unfortunately, shortly after the Scott marriage ended and Hazel, her mother and her grandmother devoted their time to finding opportunities for the child prodigy.

In 1924 their travels led them to Harlem, New York. Alma began working as a maid but could not abandon her passion for music. She taught herself to play the saxophone and joined the Lil Hardin Armstrong orchestra. Her connections with other musicians eventually opened the door for the advancement of her daughter’s career.

At just eight years old Hazel auditioned for the prestigious Julliard School of Music. Even though students weren’t allowed to enroll until they were 16, administrators made an exception for Hazel, declaring her a genius. The school’s director offered her a scholarship and taught her privately.

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  • Mspaperlove

    Stories such as this need to be told. Thanks for sharing.

  • ASimone314

    You learn something new everday.

  • Baron

    Is it me, or does she have a striking resemblance to Lauryn Hill? 🙂

    Either way she was beautiful and talented. Rap music and the lack of funding for music education robs us of folks like her. Thanks for the great article

  • Sherry

    This is just the kind of story that is a treat for us to read …

  • The days of becoming an expert pianist from public education, school, and community organizations are over. Now great musicianship is aligned with money and class.

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  • Prissy

    LOVE this woman!!

  • raine

    Black folks had so much talent back then, more so than today it seems.

    • nappy and happy.

      I think your mistaking talent for class. Flavor Flav is a musical prodigy he taught himself to play the piano at 5 and knows how to play 15 instruments proficiently hes talented but not classy. The music industry is different today and they don't pay these stars to be classy they pay them to be as outrageous and attention seeking as possible. don't get me wrong there are classy African Americans and non-classy African Americans but that is also true of every race, creed, etc. etc.

      • You have hit the nail on the head. I didn't listen to a certain performer because of this Glam look she has taken on for attention, She had a marvelous voice and was singing before , but we never heard of her, why ,she wasn't strange enough .Now she dresses strange does what Hollyweird wants and you hear her name regularly. Her stage name Lady GaGa and the song that changed my view of her was 'Born This Way" but wthout the Glam and the video would we have ever heard from her. Thanks for the enlightenment on FF I have to see be.hind the personna maybe the true artist will emerge someday.