10 years ago when I started the Blues Project, I was brand new to Valparaiso. I had landed a job teaching history at Ben Franklin Middle School, and decided that I wanted to try to put together a blues themed concert that would coincide with Black History Month. My idea was to have a house band of teachers/adults that would support student performers that would be the featured guests on each song. The problem was that I had just moved from Columbus, Indiana, and I didn't know anyone in town, let alone any blues musicians. I wandered into the main music store in town, Front Porch Music, and surprisingly discovered that an old friend from college, Joe Falck, was working there. I knew he played bass, but I needed a drummer, too. Joe introduced me to Scott Schultz, who was the drum instructor there, and they both were kind enough to jump into this middle school blues experiment with me. Over the years, the Blues Project began to take shape and I began meeting more and more musicians to help out with the concert. Because Scott was a gigging musician, in the years that followed, he wasn't always able to be the house drummer for the show, but more often than not, he was a part of it one way or another. Some years he was behind the kit the whole time, other years you'd find him shaking a maraca or a tambourine, and still other years he'd be a featured guest or part of an appearance by the Head Honchos.
No matter what his role was, Scotty's influence could always be heard in the drumming of our students. In fact, most of the student drummers that played at the Blues Project over the years took lessons from Scott, so even during their private lessons, he would be working with them on their Blues Project songs and perfecting their chops. I had numerous conversations with him over the years where he outlined how he approached lessons. His philosophy was basically just "love the kids." Show them that you care, listen to them, and in general, just make sure that they have a good time coming to lessons - those were the tenants of his teaching. And there is no question that every student that I have ever talked to (and I know quite a few of them) always loved drum lessons with Scotty. He not only taught them how to play drums, but he was a friend to them, someone they could turn to when they couldn't talk to anyone else. I don't know what those kids paid for their drum lessons, but whatever the cost, they got one heck of a deal.
When I remember Scott Schultz, I will always remember someone who went above and beyond the call of duty. I can recall one particular student drummer a couple years ago who was challenging to work with, and Scott and I were beside ourselves on how to make the song work. We had to meet on several evenings to rethink our approach to the song and the drum arrangement. He just wanted to make sure that she was successful and had a great experience, and he was willing to do whatever it took to make that happen. Not once did he grumble or complain; he was happy to help. While Scott Schultz always impressed me, the amount of kindness and patience that he demonstrated during that whole year gave me a new appreciation for his character.
In a tragic turn of events, Scotty passed away in late 2014, and left a big hole in the music community here in Valpo. Just a few weeks ago I received a call from Scott's father, John, who wanted to give a portion of Scotty's Memorial fund to further the mission of the Blues Project. I am forever grateful to the Schultz family for their generous donation, and I pledge to use the money to continue the mission of passing the impact, power, and joy of music along to the next generation. I am honored to have known Scott, and to have played music next to him. He will never be forgotten.