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Hazel Scott was born in 1920 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and moved to New York with her moth­er at age 4. Her fam­i­ly soon rec­og­nized she was a prodi­gy and, at age 8, she began train­ing with a Juil­liard pro­fes­sor.

“Prof. Paul Wag­n­er of the Juil­liard School of Music was the first Amer­i­can artist to rec­og­nize young Hazel Scott. ”I am in the pres­ence of a genius,” he said when she fin­ished play­ing Rachmaninoff’s ”Pre­lude” for him at an audi­tion. He imme­di­ate­ly began teach­ing her him­self when the school ruled that she was to young to enter.”

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At 18, Scott appeared on Broad­way in Sing Out the News and soon tran­si­tioned to Hol­ly­wood, where she was one of the first black wom­en to receive high pro­file film roles, includ­ing in I Dood It (1943), Broad­way Rhythm (1944), The Heat’s On (1943), Some­thing to Shout About (1943), and Rhap­sody in Blue (1945).

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She was the first Afro-Caribbean to have her own tele­vi­sion show, The Hazel Scott Show, which pre­miered in July 1950.

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Scott was also a vocal advo­cate for civil rights.

She refused to take roles in Hol­ly­wood that cast her as a “singing maid”. When she began per­form­ing in Hol­ly­wood films, she insist­ed on hav­ing final-cut priv­i­leges when it came to her appear­ance. In addi­tion, she required con­trol over her own wardrobe so that she could wear her own cloth­ing if she felt that the studio’s choic­es were unac­cept­able. Her final break with Columbia Pic­tures’ Har­ry Cohn involved “a cos­tume which she felt stereo­typed blacks”. Scott also refused to per­form in seg­re­gat­ed venues when she was on tour. She was once escort­ed from the city of Austin, Tex­as by Tex­as Rangers because she refused to per­form when she dis­cov­ered that black and white patrons were seat­ed in sep­a­rate areas. “Why would any­one come to hear me, a Negro,” she told Time Mag­a­zine, “and refuse to sit beside some­one just like me?”

In 1949, Scott brought a suit again­st the own­ers of a Pas­co, Wash­ing­ton restau­rant when a wait­ress refused to serve Scott and her trav­el­ing com­pan­ion, Mrs. Eunice Wolfe, because “they were Negroes.” Scott’s vic­to­ry helped African Amer­i­cans chal­lenge racial dis­crim­i­na­tion in Spokane, as well as inspir­ing civil rights orga­ni­za­tions “to pres­sure the Wash­ing­ton state leg­is­la­ture to enact the Pub­lic Accom­mo­da­tions Act” in 1953.

HAZEL SCOTT US jazz musician in 1944

Scott’s career took a hit when she was sus­pect­ed of sym­pa­thiz­ing with Com­mu­nists. Her show was can­celed a week after she tes­ti­fied before the House Un-Amer­i­can Activ­i­ties Com­mit­tee in Sep­tem­ber 1950. She moved to Europe in the late 1950s, but returned to Amer­i­ca in 1967 where she per­formed up until her death in 1981.

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One of her many musi­cal tal­ents was play­ing two pianos at once, an incred­i­ble feat you can watch below.

Ladies, did you know about Hazel Scott?

Rinny

Tex­an by birth, Los Ange­leno by sit­u­a­tion. Lover of Tame Impala and Shoegaze music. Come­di­an by trade. Mac­a­roni and Cheese con­nois­seur by appetite.

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4 Comments on "[Video] Hazel Scott, the Trinidadian-American Musical Prodigy Who Could Play Two Pianos at Once"

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December86

I am so in LOVE!!! We need more wom­en like her today, I am sure its some out there! I cant play NOTHING!

Christine Alexis

Wow!! that’s amaz­ing. My mom is named Hazel and shes from Trinidad :)
I’m going to ask her if she knows her music.

Candace Hopson

I’ve nev­er heard of her but I’m proud because I’m Trinida­di­an!!

Guest

No I did not know about her. Wow, theres so much we have to learn about our ances­tors. Amaz­ing sto­ry and an amaz­ing wom­an.

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