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.