Retirement in the 21st century is a kickoff point for personal reinvention. For many, it means a chance to pursue their lifelong dream, to have another shot at a career that they’ve only fantasized about. Second Act Careers are the recognized lifeline for those seeking not only income, but newly defined meaning, and purpose in their lives. Brian Alejandro Scott, who retired after 27 years as a certified bilingual speech and language pathologist is now living his life on his own terms. Brian’s decided to pursue a Second Act Career crooning jazz standards at New York City cabarets with his showcase called “The Time is Right!” The London-born rising star whose rich ancestry by way of a Panamanian mother and a Trinidadian father has reignited his passion for singing and acting.
Brian is not only a singer but a trained dancer in the Katherine Dunham technique. He is the founder, director and choreographer of The Experimental Dance Company which is comprised of elementary school students. The company, however, is currently on hiatus so that Brian can concentrate on his Second Act Career. As far as acting, Brian has performed in plays for over two decades and would now like to also continue to hone the craft that he put aside years ago.
On February 28, Brian is showcasing his vocal talents at New York City’s famed Parnells Pub (parnellsnyc.com), a decades-old landmark. The enviously fit performer chatted with 50BOLD about how he is navigating his personal journey through his Second Act Career.
50BOLD: You are a retired bilingual speech and language therapist. What does one do in that profession?
Brian: Language and speech pathologists can do different things. Some pathologists work in a hospital setting, others in rehabilitation centers working with the elderly. I worked in an elementary school from Pre-K to 6th grade. I have created a focus on language because I had so many second language learners. I had children with serious reading issues so, I focused on developing reading programs for them in addition to speech. After a while, many of the children’s speech issues improved because of the information absorbed from my teaching materials. The children’s language gains would transfer over into the classroom and their ability to communicate with peers improved. The strides that were made by these children was so, so rewarding for me.
50BOLD: How long were you a speech and language pathologist?
Brian: I was a speech and language pathologist for twenty-seven years! I have a B.S. from Hampton University and an M.A. from New York University and upon graduating from the latter, I worked three years for the City of New York in the health department, and for social services. I worked part-time as an early intervention therapist with the Zero to Three program. I’d visit client homes to try and help children gain expressive vocabulary. By age 3, a child should really be putting two and three word sentences together. Many of the children in the program were either unable to speak or lagged behind in expressive language.
I chose to remain working within the elementary school system full-time for solely one reason; I discovered there was a lack of males period and men of color in any teaching or therapeutic capacity there and this disturbed me. Unfortunately, there are so many children of color, who lack a male presence in their lives. And if there happens to be a male presence in these children’s lives, he is certainly not making himself known as far as his child’s education is concerned. So, I tried to take on a dual role of therapist and nurturer, treating these children as if they were my very own.
50BOLD: What made you start over in a completely new career after retirement?
Brian: I’ve always wanted to be a performer than a therapist. My parents being immigrants to this country were not supportive of a career in the arts. I had to go to college, graduate, secure a job, and then get out of the house! (laugh)
I’ve always wanted to do something that would bring artistic enjoyment to people, so, in addition to my full-time job, I started The Experimental Dance Group nearly 20 years ago. The group is a Dunham-based company for elementary school-aged children and it ran as an after-school program. We have a website: www.experimentaldancegroup.com. However, the group is currently on hiatus. The Huffington Post did a feature on my dance company. It was a mini-documentary called Dunham Dance Steps to Success.
50BOLD: How long have you dreamed about your dream career? What drew you into it?
Brian: I have always seen myself as a performer. Even as a child in England, I’d hear many Black people commenting, “Oh well, I don’t see myself on TV, so I don’t feel represented.” I didn’t feel the same way. I was always able to envision myself doing what any performer, Black or white, could do. I’ve always felt like, “I can do that,” and just never placed limitations on myself.
I’ve always wanted to perform! In elementary school, I was active in the band, and I even sang a solo at the world-famous concert venue in New York City, Carnegie Hall in 1976; it was my really big moment.
50BOLD: Brian, do you consider yourself a triple threat: singer, dancer, actor?
Brian: One could say I’m a triple threat. I sing and dance. I was also an off-Broadway dancer for many years. I don’t, however, dance as much as I used to. For ten years, I was with a company called The Eugene James Dance Company. Eugene has since passed away. It was a small company, so it was difficult to keep it going. They focused on the Katherine Dunham dance style.
I can also act. I just haven’t had a lot of recent opportunities to do as much acting. I did perform in a lot of plays in the ‘80’s and ‘90s. I was also an extra in the TV shows, Sex and the City and Ghostwriter. I am, however, now very open to acting roles as well.
50BOLD: Have you had many lucky breaks, you know, performances that made you pat yourself on the back?
Brian: I’ve met a lot of people. I’ve met Natalie Cole; I did some backup for Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. Working with Martha Reeves was huge for me. I did something with her for an event called Night of a Thousand Gowns. I couldn’t believe that I was actually on a stage with Martha Reeves because she is someone I grew up listening to. We became friends.
A lucky break for me is when someone pushes and/or teaches you to strive to be better at your craft; these people allow you to see all that you can do. The two people in terms of dance who believed in me were Eugene James and Joan Peters who used to dance with the Alvin Ailey Company. They served as my mentors and my friends.
As a singer, I’ve received a lot of positive input from Sarah Dash, Martha Reeves, and Lois Reeves, Martha’s sister. Lois gives me constructive tips and suggestions.
50BOLD: Do you feel your drive to be successful in your second career is as passionate as it was the first go round?
Brian: My Second Act Career requires a different way of thinking and actually a lot more self-discipline. Like tonight, I am going to an open mic but I really want to stay home and relax. How do I develop my craft if I don’t put myself out there? So, I’m going to the open mic! I’m learning that I have to invest in me and to make the time for myself. I am also taking vocal lessons.
When people see me perform they ask, “Where have you been?” This is a great compliment! So, I think I’m on the right track with the things I am doing to hone my craft, yet I still have a lot to learn. I feel I have so much to offer and I love entertaining people. Entertaining fuels me!
50BOLD: Brian, what genre of music do you perform?
Brian: I stick to jazz standards. I am greatly influenced by Sammy Davis and Frank Sinatra. Gloria Lynne was a jazz vocalist; I knew her. She influenced me a lot with her sound. I also like Julie London.
50BOLD: Yes, I remember Julie London.
Brian: Julie had a very sultry voice. Some artists have their own unique sound like Ella Fitzgerald whose voice is immediately recognizable. Carmen McCrae and Sarah Vaughan’s voices were like instruments. I’m more like a Sammy Davis, Jr., Rat-Pack kind of dude. I really enjoy the showmanship of a Las Vegas show.
My vocal stylings are not heavy-duty R&B; I don’t have that kind of voice. I’m not a rapper; it’s just not my style.
50BOLD: I noticed from your Facebook and Instagram pages that you have a fabulous fashion sense.
Brian: I have my own style. I don’t look to anyone else to copy. And I have a passion for shoes. There is an expression, “shoes make the man.” I have so many pairs of shoes that sometimes I’m looking for something, open up a box, and discover a pair I’ve never worn before.
50BOLD: How long have you been performing?
Brian: I’ve only been singing cabaret for a year. This journey I’m now on has meant reinvention, so I’ve had to study. I’ve been dancing and acting for decades!
On February 28th, I will be performing at Parnells on 53rd St. and 1st Avenue in New York City. I will have two sets and be accompanied by pianist, Bill Ziffero. I’m performing twelve songs. Practicing has different stages–learning the words and melody, then adding my own styling to it. I’m about halfway there. I know the songs I’m going to perform; it’s just a matter of perfecting them.
50BOLD: Brian do you have a motto or a mantra that you live by?
Brian: I can do it! I can do it! I try my best not to compare myself with other people. It’s hard because we live in a society that is very homogenized. Everyone wants you to be Luther (Vandross). I love Luther; this is why I didn’t sing for a long time because I’d compare myself to him, and be disappointed when I didn’t sound like him. I’m a baritone with a very low sexy voice, and I have to do own my thing.
50BOLD: Do you eventually want to record an album?
Brian: I’m going into the studio soon to work with a friend, Carlos Leon, who is working on a project. Carlos wants me to lend my voice to his project. Eventually, I’d like to do a CD, but now I’m concentrating on participating in more live shows and singing professionally.
50BOLD: Do you have any words of encouragement to those retirees who are thinking about pursuing Second Act Careers?
Brian: First of all, you can’t be afraid to reinvent yourself or to try something new. If you’re going to retire, you have to plan so that you can at least live comfortably. You will need to have a strategy in terms of securing a little nest egg. I had to save so that I could pay for vocal lessons which are not cheap!
I would also advise retirees to hope for the best and to do something that they truly love and can devote time to.
50BOLD: If someone were interested in hiring you to sing, how would they contact you?