When it comes to his philanthropy, Bill Scott has never been one to brag about. In fact, he might as well keep it under the radar.
But, as one of the UN’s top philanthropists celebrates his 91st birthday today, it’s time we gave the man some props to show off how great a horn blower he is.
Since learning to play the trumpet at the age of 10, Scott has delighted thousands of people with his musical talent.
It really is an amazing story. The man who earned a fortune being Warren Buffett’s right-hand man at Berkshire Hathaway still keeps people entertained as he heads into his 10th decade.
Just like no one knew Clark Kent was Superman, who would ever know that a business legend would come home from a hard day’s work and turn into an exceptional musician?
âIf you hang out with my dad, you realize he’s not a talker,â said John Scott, the oldest of Bill and Ruth Scott’s three sons and another trumpeter. âHe’s a calm guy. He loves to play, to go on stage. He loves music and singing. He trains all the time.
Have the horn will travel. Bill Scott has played the trumpet in many different venues – from Polish festivals in Chicago and Milwaukee to a small bar in Leshara, Nebraska, to a country club in Rancho Mirage, California.
He mainly specializes in polka music, but he can also do Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger songs and can sing classics such as “Proud Mary” and “Sloop John B.”
Locally, Bill and John Scott were key members of a legendary polka band called The Polonairs. In recent years, they’ve teamed up with members of the Sheelytown group. These days they usually play at the Belvedere (Polish house) in Papillion and at the Polish festival of St. Stanislaus in southern Omaha.
Watch a song from a 2019 Polonairs concert at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
John Szalewski, accordionist for Polonairs and Sheelytown, also had nothing but good things to say about Bill Scott.
âBill has so much passion,â Szalewski said. âHe’s a professional in his music. He’s a perfectionist. He always does it well.
âBill didn’t lose anything by playing the trumpet. He is always in top form and is 100% accurate in his Polish pronunciation.
John Scott said his father’s passion for getting it right is exemplified by Bill taking Polish lessons in the 1960s to learn how to pronounce Polish words correctly in polka songs.
In the 1970s (before the advent of email), Szalewski claimed that Bill Scott sent him letters.
âHe was sending new songs, tapes, songlists, lyrics. You name it. He was telling us to rehearse the new songs and be ready to play on Saturday. Today, Bill uses email to demonstrate that same passion. He was a first-rate group leader.
Surprisingly, Bill Scott has trouble reading music.
âAlmost everything he plays is by ear,â said John Scott. âEverything is based on memory. He finds in which tones to play it. He loves to make songs with a lot of soul. There is a Polish polka song – “I’ll Be Back” – about a soldier going to war and hoping to return. Bill does a great job with this song. We usually use it as our last song of the night.
Playing the trumpet requires control of the breath as well as finger dexterity and fluency in the tongue.
âYour fingers and your tongue should be aligned,â said John Scott. âYou have to move your tongue fast enough to match your fingers. It keeps your mind sharp.
In 2005, Bill Scott suffered a serious spinal cord injury while on a golf trip. As a result of his injury, he was unable to play the trumpet, but thanks to his hard work and dedication to rehab, he was finally able to regain his trumpet abilities.
Although Bill Scott is a man of few words, Szalewski said he made them count.
âWhen Bill says something, it’s important. It means something. He’s like my second father.
Playing the trumpet is far from being Bill Scott’s only talent. He still golfs three times a week, and earlier this year he accomplished a difficult golf feat – pulling his age – by wintering in California.
Enjoy your special day, Bill. We cannot thank you and Ruth enough for what you have given to our university and to our state.
Here are many more.