OXFORD – Scott Friend is not one to toot his own horn, except when he is performing.
Friend, who drives Bus 12 for All-Star Transportation in Oxford, is one of the top musicians in Connecticut. He’s been inducted into the Bugler’s Hall of Fame, the Drum Corps Hall of Fame, the Connecticut Hurricanes Senior Drum & Bugle Corps Hall of Fame. And the Rhode Island Matadors Senior Drum Corps Hall of Fame. He also was a teacher and band leader at various public schools in Connecticut before retiring after 34 years.
“I started playing in the fourth grade, when I was nine years old, and I haven’t stopped,” says Friend, who after retiring from teaching joined All-Star in 2015.
In high school, Friend was selected as an All-State musician three times, and in his senior year he also was named an All-Eastern musician. To be selected for the All-State band, musicians must participate in a statewide audition before a panel of judges who evaluate their performance skills.
“It’s quite an honor,” says Friend, who remains connected with the Connecticut all-state program by serving as a chaperone. In that capacity, he watches over students when they gather to practice and perform at the all-state festival.
After graduating from high school, Friend joined the Navy and was selected to join the Navy music program. He was sent to the military’s music school in Norfolk, VA, and upon completion of that program, he was assigned to Unit Band 112 in Brooklyn, NY. He was based there for more than two years, and then was reassigned to the Navy band in Newport, RI.
Friend laughs that he joined the Navy to see the world, but was never based at any exotic location. Still, as a musician, he got around, doing 20 or more gigs each month as a member of the jazz band, concert band and brass quintet.
He ended his Navy career in 1975 and shortly after enrolled at the Boston Conservatory of Music. He stayed there for two years before transferring to the University of Connecticut, where his military veteran’s benefits helped make the cost of school more affordable.
“It’s also where I learned to sing, because I was studying to be a music teacher. To teach, you have to be able to sing and play,” he says.
Following the completion of his undergraduate degree, he took a job in 1980 at Bolton High School in Bolton, CT, where he taught band and chorus.
“It was a very challenging job. It was a small school with no band room,” he recalled. “In my first class I only had seven kids.”
Two years later, he took a teaching position at Naugatuck High School, where he remained for 21 years and built a highly successful band program. In fact, the band was selected for a rare honor in 1990 when it was invited to perform at a surprise birthday celebration for playwright Arthur Miller at Lincoln Center in New York City. Five years later, the band went to France to participate in events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. (The anniversary was celebrated with events spread out over a year, from 1994 to 1995.)
In 2002, Friend was recruited to lead the band program at Brookfield High School, where he joined a principal he had worked with at Naugatuck. He began teaching in Brookfield in January 2003 and retired as a full-time teacher in 2014, but continued to work as substitute. He also continued to work as a musician. He’s a member of the Connecticut Alumni Senior Drum and Bugle Corps, and he performs for various Broadway musicals across the state.
But he longed to do more in retirement. Driving a school bus appealed to him because he could continue to have the same work schedule he had grown used to over his career as a teacher and because it was an opportunity to work with kids.
“I like kids. You have to like kids if you are a teacher,” he says. “I saw that Seymour and Prospect (terminals) were advertising for drivers. I went to Seymour for an interview.”
He was hired in late fall 2014, and by early 2015 he was working as a substitute at All-Star Transportation’s terminal in Seymour. He also was loaned to the Oxford terminal as a substitute, driving Bus 12. Soon, he was told, “You’re going to stay in Oxford until we tell you to come back.”
When the school year ended, Friend had the option to drive in Seymour or Oxford, and after thinking about it, he decided to stay in Oxford, which is closer to his home in Southbury and where he had the opportunity to continue driving Bus 12.
“I find elementary kids to be a challenge, as do most others,” he says. “But I try to treat all my kids the way I would like to be treated. I try to engage them with a smile and with a ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye.’ I tell my high school kids that I am a former teacher, and if they ever need a tip to get by in school, to come talk with me.”