She was practicing her violin, Judy Parkinson recalled, when her son, Scott, a stocky, fresh-faced 16-year-old, bounded into the room.
He announced: "I want to be a professional trombonist."
He was earnest and enthusiastic, but he also knew the rigors of the musical life. His mother played with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, among other groups. Three of his grandparents and assorted other relatives also were in the field.
In time, Scott Parkinson, who grew up in McLean, became the third generation of his family to graduate from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. On the recommendation of Joseph Alessi, the principal trombonist of the New York Philharmonic, Parkinson was the only trombonist accepted into the master's degree program at the Juilliard School in 1998.
At his death July 13 of undetermined causes, Parkinson, 27, was one of the nation's promising young classical trombonists.
Parkinson, principal trombonist of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, was rather opinionated in his musical tastes. He had a definite, and understandable, trombone bias.
He enjoyed the big German sound and had little regard for French Impressionist composers. He disliked Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki's much-acclaimed Symphony No. 3 because, as he told a Buffalo reporter last year, "It's one hour long and in the middle of it the trombone had three notes which are to be played softly."
Scott Edward Parkinson was making a ruckus before he was born. His mother called him her " 'Carmina Burana' baby" because he began kicking wildly in her womb during her performance of Carl Orff's choral work.
He began piano lessons at age 4, but his true musical appreciation began with the grand, gut-rattling sounds of the "Star Wars" anthem and the jaunty, freewheeling "Looney Tunes" theme.
He was 10 when a group of high school musicians came to his school to demonstrate their musical instruments. When the trombonist played the "Looney Tunes" ditty with all its funny smears, he was hooked.
As a youth, he also was in the Boy Scouts, played sports and went to the U.S. Virgin Islands as part of a Lutheran group. In St. Croix, he aided in an orphanage and helped in relief work after a hurricane.He was stimulated by the camaraderie of his high school band. The group played in a competition in Boston, and he returned feeling a sense of purpose that led him to burst into his mother's practice room.
He accumulated in high school a CD collection that one friend estimated at 500 discs. He had as many as four CDs of the same symphony done by different orchestras. He invited friends over to compare variations on tempo and how particular players approached the same trombone solo.
Parkinson, who studied in high school with Milt Stevens of the National Symphony Orchestra, was a finalist in the symphony's 1997 young artists' competition and, as part of that, gave a recital at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. As an Eastman junior, he beat out seniors to play the magnificent principal trombone solo on Mahler's Symphony No. 3 for a concert. In 1999, he won an International Trombone Association prize for outstanding young symphonic trombonist.
When Parkinson attended Juilliard, Alessi said he was impressed with the student's technical skill. Unprompted, Parkinson practiced, until perfect, on totally obscure, relentlessly challenging trombone solo parts.
Parkinson also had a tell-tale fondness for Alessi's class on playing the low-register brass sound. "It was glorious, menacing, evil, awesome," Alessi said of the trombone at that register. "He'd smile."
One night in January 2000, Parkinson was performing in a chamber group and noticed another player, Robin Leech, a bassoonist a year behind him at Juilliard. Afterward, he approached her.Who was she? Where was she from? It seemed like small talk, but Parkinson became strangely excited to learn she was from Montana. He asked her about orchestras in Big Sky Country. He asked about her parents -- both musicians -- and that intrigued him more.
It took awhile for her to understand his intentions. He seemed nice and curious with everyone. Only later he admitted: "Oh, no, I was hitting on you."
For their wedding, in 2002, Parkinson arranged Richard Strauss's "Morgen!" and other selections that were performed by their best friends in a brass quintet.
The newlyweds settled in Buffalo, where Parkinson gave private lessons that ran far over schedule if he felt a student needed the attention.
Although he mused about one day returning to Washington to play with the National Symphony, he seemed content in Buffalo. He settled into a large, historic home, where his favorite possession was a 1927 Steinway grand piano that belonged to his maternal grandparents.
On his last day, Parkinson went shopping for living-room drapery fabric. He and a close friend played Frisbee golf in the sunshine near the Niagara River. For dinner, he fixed jambalaya and enjoyed peach cobbler for dessert.
Afterward, he settled on a sofa with his wife. He put on an old LP of "Carmen," Bizet's brilliant and fatalistic masterwork. He was supposed to play the piece for an upcoming performance by the Buffalo Philharmonic. Suddenly, a look of confusion passed over his face, he gasped and lost consciousness. He was pronounced dead later that night.