Asbury Park’s Official Organist: George Howard Scott
Band director Arthur Pryor wasn’t the only one making music during the early part of the 20th century.
Asbury Park’s official organist, George Howard Scott, was a nationally-known concert organist, composer, music director, and choir director. In 1931, he accepted the position of municipal organist for Asbury Park at the new Convention Hall, which had its own three-layer Kilgen theatre organ.
“He was absolutely the face of music in Asbury Park and it’s just baffling why he is not more recognized,” said his great nephew Tom Scott, who lives in Rochester, NY.
Scott performed more than 5,000 concerts in Convention Hall around the same time as Arthur Pryor, who was also a mainstay musical star in Asbury Park from 1909 onward. The two local musicians even collaborated on a few compositions.
Scott would receive more than 1,500 written requests a month from visitors to Asbury Park to play specific songs during his concert, and often played to more than 50,000 people over the summer season. The local radio station in Convention Hall (WCAP) would broadcast his concerts in the evenings.
“He was literally in the newspapers every day, talking about his programs,” Tom Scott said.
Scott’s son, George Scott Jr., said his father also used to play the organ at larger city establishments, including the Mayfair and St. James theatres. Scott Jr., 84, currently lives in Jupiter, Florida. He lived in Asbury Park and graduated from the Asbury Park High School in 1949. He said his family moved about nine times over the years, but he does remember one childhood address: 915 5th Avenue.
“I was not really interested in music when I was young. But I came back from Korea and developed an interest in his music. I got interested in classical music so we realized we had a lot to talk about,” he said.
In the early years, Scott filled the house in Convention Hall on a regular basis, even with the main floor filled with seats.
“He would present musical scores with lightning, rain and thunder, and special effects. It was kind of spectacular. It was a wonderful experience to come into Convention Hall and sit there for an hour and listen to this wonderful music. It was a wonderful atmosphere,” Scott Jr. said.
George Scott Howard (1894-1958) was born in Tonawanda and grew up in Perry, NY. He began piano lessons at age seven, and became a church organist when he was 13. At age 15, he left to study piano, organ, and vocals in New York City, and eventually became a student at Julliard. He graduated from the Guilmant Organ School in 1915, and then held various organist positions.
In addition to being the Convention Hall organist, Scott, who participated in oratorio societies, was also an organist, as well as a choir director at the First Methodist Church in Asbury Park. He often brought guest soloists from the New York Metropolitan Opera at this time. He was the subject of many magazine and newspaper articles, and was well-known among the contemporary composers of the day.
“He was revered as one of the finest theater organists of the day and collaborated with many contemporary composers and musicians. He taught many students and was very, very active. He was a prominent Asbury Park resident and contributed a great deal to the community,” Scott Jr. said.