On July 13, 2004, Scott Parkinson sat down with his wife, Robin, to listen to "Carmen." The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra would be performing the opera at Artpark in a few days, and Parkinson, the orchestra's principal trombonist, was a stickler about being prepared.
Then something happened. Parkinson became disoriented and seemed to be having a seizure. Within minutes, he was dead. He was 27.
His death threw everyone who knew him into shock and sorrow.
Parkinson, who grew up in a musical family in Washington, D.C., was the kind of radiant guy who lit up a room when he walked into it. He had an easy, sometimes rambunctious sense of humor and a passion for a wide range of music. His blazing talent had won him, shortly before his death, the post of BPO principal trombonist.
"He had an instinctive, uncanny talent. He was an extraordinary player," says JoAnn Falletta, the BPO's music director. "He seemed happy to be in BPO. He was so happy to be in Buffalo and loved everyone. Everyone just adored him. He was like the boy next door. You remembered his smile."
Ron Spigelman, the BPO's associate conductor, recalls: "I must have done 150 concerts with Scott. Losing him was a crushing blow for everyone, for so many different reasons."
"But I think he left a lasting legacy, even with his short time here. His performance of Mahler's Third Symphony was talked about. It was so incredible that it's famous. Even now, there aren't many people in the trombone world who don't know about that performance. It was remarkable."
Friends and family, as they stumbled through their first days of grief, set up a Web site in Parkinson's honor. The messages on it break a reader's heart. Friends from Parkinson's student days at Eastman address him as "Scott, man ..."
Young BPO musicians, many single and new to the city, tended to congregate around Parkinson.
Bass trombonist Stefan Sanders, on the phone, fondly recalls Parkinson's first season in the orchestra.
"His wife, Robin, was still in New York, so Scott and I were practically dating," Sanders laughs. "We would go to Ambrosia for lunch, and if we didn't have a rehearsal, we'd sit there all afternoon, solving the world's problems. It got so bad, one of the waitresses came up and asked us if we had jobs."
When Parkinson's wife arrived, the friendship continued. "The three of us would hang out. We'd go out after concerts," Sanders says. "Scott was a big Frisbee golfer, and we'd go to Grand Island and play Frisbee golf."
"I've never met anybody like Scott," he adds. "I guess what one would say was he was an old soul. Scott really had a lot of life's lessons understood. He really led a full life, lived every day as if it were his last day."
Next weekend's performance will see the BPO paying tribute not only to an amazingly gifted musician but to a beloved friend. The music will say what words cannot.