Loren Ponten writes about Dr. Robert (Bob) Scandrett who died November 30th, 2014
by Loren Ponten, Seattle (December 4, 2014)
Earlier this week, I got the sad news that Dr. Robert (Bob) Scandrett had died. Ever since I
have known Bob, he seemed ageless – eager to meet new people; tackle new music; read as
many books as he could get his hands on; enjoy a great meal; play Bach for hours; attend
plays, Met auditions, opera; snow skiing for his 80th birthday, and on and on.
He had a rare zeal for life which was infectious to all those around him. Bob set high goals for himself and those around him came along for the ride.
As many of you know, Bob Scandrett was a Professor of Music at Western Washington University for nearly 30 years, conducted the Seattle Symphony Chorale for 10 years, preceded me as the Music
Director at First Covenant Church in Seattle, and also as the Festival Choir Director at Midsummer Musical Retreat.
The first performance I heard of the WWU Chorale was in 1984 when I was a student at the University of Washington. The WWU choir sang double-choir pieces 50 or so feet apart with Bob standing in the middle. The ensemble was
perfect, great intonation, phrasing, balance, and had a seemingly endless pallet of colors and styles with the various
pieces. That performance is in the top handful of choral performances that I will always remember. From that
moment, I followed Bob's performances at WWU, and also the a cappella performances that he did with the Seattle
Some years later, Bob became the Director the Festival Workshop chorus at Midsummer Musical Retreat. I was the
Vocal Coordinator at the time, and he and I became friends quickly.
I asked him if he would serve on the board of my choir (Opus 7 Vocal Ensemble), he said what he really wanted to do was sing with us. My dream became somewhat of a reality, because Bob sang with us for many years and shaped
the tenor section through his positive and constructive mentoring.
He and I would get together for coffee and Bob and I would
talk for hours about musical things, rehearsals, what things he thought I did well and what things he thought I needed
to work on. I know that much of Opus 7's early success was due, in part, to his influence.
Bob was a master at moving on to the next thing or reinventing himself with new pursuits. He put everything
that he had into his work – always making it seem fun – and when he had left his mark and thought the time was right, he
This included retiring from WWU, the Seattle Symphony Chorale, directing at University Congregational Church, singing in Opus 7, and from being on the faculty at Midsummer Musical Retreat.
The first time he tried to retire from MMR, I talked him into staying on for a few more years. He was concerned about
a decline in his hearing. Actually, his pitch perception was impeccable, but he said that it was difficult for him to hear the "joking" from the back row of singers and therefore thought it was time to move on to the next thing. I remember being almost angry – there were just some people who should never get old.
Bob remained tirelessly interested in education, and helped me, along with composer John Muehleisen, to start a student composition awards program with Opus 7. We started this program in 2000 for our first "All Northwest" concert, and we
have continued to use many of the principles he used for score evaluations. As part of the "All Northwest" concerts we have done over the years, it has been our pleasure to perform and record several of Bob's very fine arrangements and
compositions, such as "Dormi, fili care" and "She's Like the Swallow".
One of his last compositions that he did for us was a cello, piano and choir arrangement of "The Way We Were". It was a great honor to perform this again a few years ago during our 20th-Anniversary Season with Bob attending the concert, my daughter Ingrid playing the cello solo, with the concert held at First Covenant Church where Bob and I had both served as Music Directors (many years apart). His pieces were always clever, interesting, well-written for the voice, musical and moving.
Suffice it to say, I count Bob as one of the most influential people in my life. He was a true mentor, and I am going to miss him.
His service date is still not determined, but is expected to be in early January. He has requested the Fauré Requiem
to be performed. Please check the Friends of Robert Scandrett Facebook page for more info.
This is the Robert Scandrett Celebration Facebook page. Please visit and offer your comments.
Loren W. Pontén
Founder & Artistic Director
Opus 7 Vocal Ensemble
2013 Winner of "The American Prize in Choral Performance"