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‘Music Shouldn’t Be An Afterthought’: Tim Scott Jr. On Prioritizing Creative Product Over Profit

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Tim Scott Jr.
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Tim Scott Jr. is a Charlotte-based musician, artist manager and creative advocate.

We're still in the first month of the new year, which means many make a new year’s resolution to reinvest in local music. That's exactly what Charlotte City Council discussed at its annual strategy session on Jan. 11 when one of the points of discussion was how Charlotte had been ranked 111th on a national list of music cities (behind Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Wichita, Kansas).

But if you ask Charlotte creative leader Tim Scott Jr., who’s been the artist-in-residence at Charlotte Center City Partners and toured the world with Grammy Award-winning North Carolina group The Foreign Exchange, you’ll hear how the Queen City deserves to sit higher up on the list of music cities.

"There needs to be a paradigm shift in Charlotte as far as how much value we play on arts and music. Music shouldn’t be an afterthought. The arts shouldn’t be an afterthought."
Tim Scott Jr.

Interview Highlights:

On being raised in a music family:

I’m originally from Buffalo, New York. My father is a musician, as well. My father’s stepfather is a pastor, and he pastored the church that I grew up in. So I was born into a church where my father was the minister of music, my mom was the choir director, my uncle was the drummer and all my aunts and cousins sang in the choir. My father started touring right out of high school and has played and performed and recorded with a number of gospel musicians over the years. I grew up in that environment and was always drawn to the music and the drums in particular. Once that bug bites you, it’s hard to get off you.

On moving to Charlotte:

[My father] came down here around 1999 or 2000 when Fred Hammond was having mixes done on a record [in Charlotte], and my godfather and uncle were involved in that record heavily. My Pops came down here to kick it with his best friend my godfather and see what was going on, and he just fell in love with the city. He came back and was like, “We’re moving to Charlotte.” And I was like, “All right, cool. Y’all have fun. I’mma be here and stay with Granny. I’ll see y’all when I see y’all when you come visit.” Of course, that’s not how it played out.

On attending Charlotte’s prestigious Northwest School of the Arts:

Even though I grew up playing music in church, I grew up attending a science magnet school up in Buffalo and really into science and math. Growing up, I thought that would be the professional direction I would take. Music was just something I did in church.

But when I got down here [to Charlotte and the Northwest School of the Arts], I had this master plan. I said, “Well, if I get into enough trouble, my parents will figure that the environment is the issue and will send me back to Buffalo to stay with a relative.” So I went out of my way to get into as much trouble as I could as soon as I stepped onto campus. I was a nightmare on purpose. And the band director whose attention I caught when I did my audition had a conversation with [Northwest School of the Arts students] Harvey Cummings II and Adrian Crutchfield. They approached me in the hallway and pushed me into a corner, and Adrian gave me this passionate speech and told me that if I didn’t get my act together, I was going to end up being at Northwest for six years, leaving and being completely forgotten. And it changed the trajectory of my time at Northwest.

On Charlotte being ranked 111th (behind Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Wichita, Kansas) on a national list of best cities for music fans:

I do take issue with that ranking. I think back in 2016 when a whole lot of things were going on in this city that I don’t think were going on in Kalamazoo or Wichita. Maybe I’m too close to it to think objectively about it, but I take issue with that.

I think the community around here is extremely vibrant. There are a lot of beautiful things happening in this city and have been happening in this city even before Music Everywhere. Are there things that the city needs? Are there things that a city lacks? Of course. But at one point in time, the city has a high school that was a top-ranked band, arts, chorus and orchestra school. That’s a lot of culture. And you think of Johnson C. Smith University and the people who have come out of that school who have made amazing contributions to the music industry.

But I do think there needs to be more buy-in. It’s not that things aren’t happening. I think there does need to be a paradigm shift in Charlotte as far as how much value we play on arts and music. Music shouldn’t be an afterthought. The arts shouldn’t be an afterthought. Sometimes in the priorities of the city, especially prior to the Music Everywhere initiative, that was sometimes the case. But for our music scene itself, there are a lot of things going on, but we need to do a better job in telling these stories. When I think of it from a talent perspective, you can’t tell me that Charlotte isn’t a Top 50 music city.

Music featured in this #WFAEAmplifier chat:

The Foreign Exchange - “Happiness”
Carlitta Durand - “Blackberry” feat. Phonte
The Foreign Exchange - “Leave It All Behind”
Harvey Cummings II - “Freedom Ain’t Free”

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Joni Deutsch is happy to call Charlotte home as WFAE's manager for on-demand content and audience engagement, where she's led the first Charlotte Podcast Festival (named one of the “best podcast conferences” by Buzzsprout) and helped produce such podcasts as FAQ City, SouthBound, Inside Politics, Work It and the Apple Podcast chart-topping series She Says. In addition to being an NPR Music contributor, Joni is also the creator and host of WFAE’s Charlotte music podcast Amplifier, named “Best Podcast” by Charlotte Magazine and honored for excellence in arts and music podcasting by the local Edward R. Murrow Awards and The Webby Awards (called “The Internet’s Highest Honor” by The New York Times).