Call him the “octopus.”
His friends do.
For Scott Sexton, juggling seven choirs is just the starting point for sharing a lifelong passion for music.
The Alabama native who now calls Fondren’s Broadmeadow neighborhood home is the Director of Choral Music at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School where he leads five choirs. In addition, Sexton leads the Mississippi Girl Choir, serves as accompanist at Broadmeadow United Methodist Church, leads the community-based Mississippi Harmony choir and teaches private piano lessons.
“I’m tapped out,” he insists. “But I’m not burnt out. I feel like I’m at the beginning of my book and not the end.”
Sexton’s beginnings in Troy, a college town in South Alabama, meant learning how to occupy his time.
“Anyone from a small town where there’s not a lot to do… you’ve got to find something,” he says. “So I practiced [music] – and practiced a lot.
With a family full of educators, Sexton says he knew from a very young age he would be a music teacher, “lucky” to have the realization so early on. Elementary music teacher Cathy Youngblood, Sexton tells, was a big influence, too.
In Jackson since 2011, Sexton, a Troy University and University of Mississippi graduate, began his career at Jackson Public Schools’ McWillie Elementary. A year after, the St. Andrew’s opportunity came up, first at their lower school campus in Fondren and then their upper campus, a job he says he “loves.”
Sexton is tasked at St. Andrew’s with teaching proper vocal technique and music theory to 7-12 grade students. “By the time they graduate, I want them to have a working knowledge of reading and interpreting music. I’m a firm believer, a chorister needs to have a well-balanced musical diet and an appreciation for music from all genres,” be that pop, classical or world music.
When a musical colleague approached Sexton about accompanying The Mississippi Girlchoir five years, ago, he jumped at the chance. Now the lead director, Sexton works alongside Executive Director Kathryn Rodenmeyer and creative consultant Laurel Isbister to provide an outlet for girls who enjoy singing and making new friendships beyond their community.
“There are tons of awesome school choral programs, including ours at St. Andrew’s, but [The Mississippi Girlchoir] is designed for that extra opportunity,” Sexton explains. “They’re performing, meeting girls from all over the metro and taking their talent to a new level, and we’re giving them the resources to better their craft.”
Aside from teaching, Sexton’s passion is travel. When he can combine both, he does.
He has recently returned from a three-week trip to Europe, working with and learning from choral programs there, immersing himself in the culture and soaking up new ideas to bring back to his programming here. He calls this musical vacation a “musication.”
The past two summers, spent primarily in Bosnia, have been Sexton’s most meaningful, working with choirs whose mission is to use music to bring peace across ethnically tense boundaries.
“In our world today, we need to hear those messages [of peace],” he says of the work carried out there, bringing that same knowledge back to his students. “Music has a greater purpose. People do listen and this is what happens when you unite for a greater good.”
Sexton also is part of a St. Andrew’s exchange program with Ghana, West Africa. Every other year, the school sends students to sing and volunteer in local schools, yet another way his lessons are enriched to be shared back home.
“Travel and experiencing other cultures is the best education,” he feels. “We really are the same deep down and music is the global language. How music can connect people is a powerful tool.”
With his level of talent and his desire to experience the world, what brings Sexton back to Jackson?
“I never thought I would enjoy it but it’s a good place to be… a small-town feel with plenty to do and see and great people,” he says. “I have really found community here. And it’s easy because I love my job and the things I’m doing in the community. This is my place for now.”
Of note: Sexton says The Mississippi Girlchoir is welcoming new members from grades 1-12. First through fifth-graders aren’t required to audition. Sixth through 12 are asked to prepare a simple piece. “They can sing happy birthday,” he explains, “just so we can hear their voice.” Find more info at msgirlchoir.org.