J. Scott Beaty plays “Not While I’m Around” on his grand piano as if the famous Stephen Sondheim song were the soundtrack of his life.
The song’s lyrics, “Nothing’s gonna hurt you, not while I’m around,” illustrates Scott’s lifelong record of serving and protecting those in need. It also symbolizes Scott’s love of music and the marriage he’s made between public service and piano to splendid effect. The Rochester, NY, native has been playing since he was three years old, so that’s a total of 61 years. And he’s been involved in service almost as long.
Scott volunteers for Special Olympics; the Neuro Vitality Center, formerly known as the Stroke Recovery Center; and the Shelter from the Storm safe house for victims of domestic violence. Scott became a Desert AIDS Project volunteer in 1988. And he offers home care to AIDS patients, some of whom are too afraid to visit D.A.P. for fear someone will see them here and speculate about their HIV status.
Scott believes there’s still that much stigma in the world regarding AIDS and still that much need. That’s why he’s so willing to lend a helping hand. He learned about giving at home.
“I come from a very close Irish family,” Scott says. “My dad, John Beaty, who is 94, was always helping people. My mother, Marie, was a nurse before, during, and after World War II. Her specialty was working with mentally ill patients no one else wanted to care for. She was my example.”
Scott was one of six children that his mother would lull to sleep by playing piano. Eventually, Scott stopped falling asleep, so she taught him to play. Although playing and singing were fixtures in his life, Scott pursued medicine until professors warned him he’d soon have to choose between the concerts he was performing and his medical studies.
Scott chose piano. He earned a bachelor’s in Theater Performance and English at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas. He has a master’s degree in Operatic Performance from the Longy School of Music of Bard College in Cambridge, MA. At Longy, he is learning to teach music through the Dalcroze Method, in which students retain information by expressing sounds they hear in spontaneous movement. His goal is to teach music through Delcroze to special education students, abuse survivors, and adults over 65.
“It helps you to learn in a different way, called aesthetic education, and has proven beneficial to those who haven’t had success learning in the standard way,” Scott says.
Most recently, Scott was the featured solo artist performing “Music from the Heart” at the McCallum Theater in 2014. He has a CD out, called “Music for Every Heart.” He’s played all types of events over decades for D.A.P. including the Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards and the Volunteer Appreciation Dinner held annually just before the Christmas holidays. In addition to that, he distributes food and vouchers to D.A.P. clients during our monthly giveaways.
Scott has been a pillar of support to AIDS patients since the early days of the disease. He recalled living in Boston 30 years ago and helping a friend who’d contracted the infection. People would throw rocks at AIDS patients and once they tried to pelt Scott’s friend when the two were out together. Scott took a few blows to the head while trying to get his very sick friend to safety.
As if on cue, Scott plays the part of Sondheim’s song that says: “Demons are prowling everywhere nowadays. I’ll send them howling. I don’t care, I got ways.”
Scott has remained a friend to those who survived AIDS from the old days. “Back then, people thought AIDS patients should be shipped off to an island,” Scott remembers. “Fear will do horrible things to people.”
That fear and stigma still haunts those with HIV. As long as it does, Scott will be here living Sondheim’s words…
“Others can desert you. Not to worry, whistle, I’ll be there!”
Hear Scott play…