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Scott Beard continues musical legacy

By Staff | Sep 11, 2009

Scott Beard

In the summer of ’07 I found and moved to Shepherdstown and soon began daily excursions through town and the dazzling countryside that embraces it. Two weeks into this ritual, I followed a small hand-painted road sign on 230 to a place called Ridgefield Farms. A young farmer named Scott was tending the veggies that day. Showing me around, bagging produce, and listening to me blah, blah, blah, this absolute sweetheart of a guy assured me I was going to love Shepherdstown. In the middle of our chat he said rather off-handedly “I also teach over at the college.” Perfect, I thoughta farmer who teaches at the universityor a college teacher who farms. Whateverthis place is great. The next time I saw Farmer Scott he was wearing a tuxedo and on stage in the Frank Center seated at a Fazioli piano making pure magic.

Robert Scott Beard was born and raised in Richmond, Va. He and his younger brother, Chris, were the children of Carolyn Toler and Charles Beard. The Beard boys grew up in a world of music, food and nature. Scott Beard is a man with many cultivated interests, a great sense of humor, and an inquisitive take on life. However, it’s not difficult to understand how one person can be such a versatile expert when you look at his forefathers, and mothers.

Scott’s great-grandmother on his mom’s side, was Elizabeth Spaulding Edwards. Elizabeth was a great musician having gone to the renowned Peabody Conservatory of Music. Great-grandfather, Harry, was a farmer. The Edwards lived in LaPlata, Maryland and raised a huge family of musically talented children. According to Scott everyone could “play by ear.” True to his DNA he was “plunking out tunes,” on the old upright piano Elizabeth had rescued from the Baltimore Opera, when he was three years old.

Edith and Carrington Beard, Dad’s side, lived in Rockville, Virginia where Grandpa was an executive with Southern States. He was also a cattle farmer. Carrington came from a modest upbringing. And though he never went to college he grew up to pilot his own plane and go down on record as one of the first people in the country to develop a method of seed preservation. It was the 30s.

While at Patrick Henry High in Richmond, Scott, like his grandfather, discovered science. His biological experiments in the ultra-violet effect on ferns earned him top prizes and an invitation to the National Academy of Science competition at West Point, NY. Of this he laughed “I didn’t win but I got to the nationals. ” The lad was an avid reader with an inquisitive mind. While in school, his recreational reading was the encyclopedia, volumes A through Z. He also loved to read cookbooks because as he tells it “All the men in my family were fantastic cooksme included. ” His first love however was the piano and upon graduation he went off to Baltimore and the Peabody Conservatory. The legacy continued.

“It was like the being on the sound set of Fame, “Scott recalled, “and I was completely in my element. I loved it.” But Peabody wasn’t all fun and games “It took more than talent to survivea very humbling experience.” It was also a bonding experience and 26 years later, Scott and former classmates still get together to perform. After graduation he took a year off and went to live in Mt. Royal with his new buddy, a Doberman named Jambi. Then it was back to school and the University of Maryland for a PhD working his way through by teaching piano to senior citizens Baltimore’s inner-city.

Graduation came in 1996 with the completion of his thesis on the works of Theodore Leschetizky. Leschetizky was a polish romantic, a composer, concert pianist and teacher of some of the late 19th century and 20th century greats.

He is best known for his piano compositions for one hand which he wrote after he’d been shot in the arm and lost the use of the corresponding hand. One of the most famous of these works was Andante Finale, Op. 13. Scott told that story as an introduction the piece. He was in a concert at the time and though I knew he would pull off this one-handed performance I was completely unprepared for what I was about to hear. Mesmerized is a word to describe the audience throughout the entire piece, it sat unified in jaw-dropping, eye-popping awe before jumping to its collective feet with a roar of overwhelming appreciation. Leschetizky taught his students that there was “No life without art; no art without life.” Scott learned these lessons of the past very well.

In 1991 Scott met the gregarious Alan Gibson. Gibson ran his own advertising/PR firm in DC with marquee clients like the Kennedy Center and Britches.

He was also an accomplished cellist and played a mean piano. The two hit it off, realized what they had found and by 1993 were living on Alan’s 53′ Hatteras at the Gangplank Marina. “We lived on that boat for six years,” Scott said. “There’s a community of boat people living on the Potomac River and we made some great friends.” They moved a piano on board and Scott proceeded to teach and work from the marina and a studio on Capitol Hill.

The life of a boat person, especially one on a 53-foot yacht, is good, but in 1999 Scott and Alan gave it up, moved to Kearneysville and became country gentlemen. The property had a stream running through it and two structures on it, an Earthberm home and a Straw House. Scott was completing his doctorate and had accepted a teaching job at Shepherd University. He was also continuing his concert work in in DC. The move to Kearneysville made the all-round commute possible.

It was in 2003, when Scott’s mom was going through the paper and came across an apple slash pumpkin farm for sale. She said “Al “- for that is what Carolyn Beard calls Alan Gibson – “why don’t you buy it?” And so the conversation ball started rolling. ..down a bumpy road. The decision to become business partners and farmers was eventually agreed upon and they bought Ridgefield Farm. The decision came with a commitment that “If we were going to do this we were going to make it work.” And work it does. With its long driveway passing waving fields of edible stuff, a maze of zinnias, an orchard of fruit trees, out-buildings full of produce and one beautifully restored 1898 big house on thirty-five acres; Ridgefield Farms today is the site of weddings, holiday parties, hay rides and a great tribute to Halloween. It produces and sells enough food to feed the county and amidst it all are the strains of celestial sounds coming from the music room. And admission that “We couldn’t do any of this without Barb Anderson and Manuel Ventura.” We were in the kitchen talking at this point and Barb was at the counter planning her next move on a dozen quarts of raspberries. Scott likes to spend quality time in the kitchen. He’s a genius when it comes to creating all kinds of soups, but his specialty is coconut cupcakes with crme cheese, lime, chocolate chip frosting.

A word here about the mainstays of Ridgefield Farms – Popcorn and Kelly. Scott and Alan rescued the beagle/spaniel and cock-a-poo, eleven and fifteen years ago respectively from shelters when they were puppies. Today, both still look and act like puppies. Another testimony to the benefits of the farm living.

Dr. Scott Beard of Shepherdstown, West Virginia, is a nationally recognized pianist, teacher, clinician, author and recording artist. He has performed throughout the United States and countries all over the world, Carnegie Hall and in just about every embassy in Washington, DC. His concerts have been praised for their poetry, their passion and innovative programming. In May 2009, he toured the Mediterranean as part of the Yale University alumni travel association, performing in France, Italy, Spain, and Croatia. His anthologies of ensemble music for piano have been published by Alfred, he’s the Associate Artistic Director of the Opera Camerata of Washington; and will be at the Fazioli for the first Two Rivers Chamber Orchestra concert on October 17. Note: don’t even think about missing this.

He is passionate about his work, and whether he’s performing, writing, farming, cooking or teaching, he loves what he does and is great at it. His students have won prizes in the National Symphony Young Soloists, Beethoven Society, Ithaca international competitions, and the list goes on. For his dedication to teaching, his students and his art, Scott Beard was named 2006 West Virginia Music Teacher of the Year. As a Professor at Shepherd University Scott has the ultimate opportunity everyday to beautify the future as he brings out the full potential in the finest music students in the country and teaching them what he knows so well – There is no life without art, no art without life.

– Sue Kennedy is a former public relations executive and Emmy Award winning screenplay writer.