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Plano singer performs with Boston Pops

Published: Monday, Jan. 7, 2013 2:26 p.m. CDT
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(PHOTO PROVIDED BY CATHY SCOTT)
Plano singer Cathy Scott, second from the right, performs with Minnesota-based Five by Design.
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(PHOTO PROVIDED BY CATHY SCOTT)
Cathy Scott, second from right, performs with Five by Design members Lorie Carpenter-Niska, Kurt Niska, Terence Niska and Michael Swedberg.
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(PHOTO PROVIDED BY CATHY SCOTT)
Scott sings "Moon River" during the group's "Lets Go To The Movies" production.
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(PHOTO PROVIDED BY CATHY SCOTT)
Scott wings with Matt Segabartt during a production of "Let's Get Away From it All."

Depending on how many children her son has, Cathy Scott said this will be “one of the top 10 events” of her life.

For the first three weekends in December, the Plano woman sang with Conductor Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops throughout New England as part of the Pops’ 2012 Holiday Tour.

Scott performed as a member of the vocal quintet Five by Design, which tours North America, performing big band/swing productions. The Minnesota-based group, which was formed in 1982, is scheduled for two Club Swing shows with the Elgin Symphony March 23-24.

Scott, who grew up in Ohio, performed her first solo in church when she was just 4 years old. Her parents, Doug and Marilyn Farr, who are from Rockford, were the adult and children’s musical directors, respectively, for the church.

“We’re a real musical family,” she said.

With encouragement from her father, who once marched with the University of Illinois in the Rose Bowl Parade, Scott and her three older brothers formed a brass choir, often performing in church.

“Every Christmas, the family gets together and plays Christmas carols,” Scott said, adding that her nephews and nieces also play brass instruments.

A singer throughout junior high and high school, Scott had plans of playing the french horn in college when she decided to audition for a production company, which hired her. Instead of playing in a symphony as she had originally envisioned, she ended up in a theme park in northern New York as a singer and a dancer.

From there, she got a job for three years on a Caribbean cruise, sailing to and from the Bahamas. Besides performing, she also led a bridge tour, aerobics, bingo and helped set up off-shore tours.

“It was really neat the first year and a half,” Scott said, adding that the work schedule eventually caught up with her. “We probably worked 60 to 80 hours a week. We didn’t have a day off. We would be up with the passengers until 2 to 3 in the morning and then up again at 8 a.m.”

However, there were some perks, such as snorkeling every week.

“You had favorite stops and beaches to go to,” Scott said. “We got to see a lot of different things there.”

Leaving the ship, she attended the Shenandoah Conservatory in Virginia where she joined the Miss Virginia U.S.O., performing for soldiers leaving and returning from overseas with such performers as Jerry Seinfeld and Hall and Oates.

Following graduate school at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Scott  taught music for a year at Southwestern Community College in Creston, Iowa.

While she was there, Five by Design came to town, looking for a fifth singer. As their name implies, there are five singers – three males and two females. Scott auditioned and got the job in 1997.

After a few years, she left the group to have her son, Aidan. In September of 2011, she rejoined the group when Aidan started school. Although she was gone for six years, Scott remained active musically, touring the country on her own.

Her family moved to Plano about three years ago when her husband, Trevor, got a job in Bolingbrook.

According to the group’s website, Five by Design has three different shows, including their flagship production, a patriotic tribute to the “Golden Age of Radio;” “Club Swing,” set in a fictional night club and featuring big band music from the 1930s; and a variety show, featuring songs and skits from television. This spring, the group is expected to unveil a fourth production, focusing on tropical rhythms, including “The Kings and Queens of Cool.”

Five by Design has been featured at the International Music Festival in Istanbul, and has performed with some of North America’s premier symphonies, including a run at the Kennedy Center with the National Symphony.

Last month, Five by Design performed holiday music in seven New England cities with the Boston Pops, which was like a dream come true for Scott.

“My dad had their records,” she said. “They treated us so well. They treated us like royalty. It was just a wonderful time.”

According to its website, the Boston Pops Orchestra was formed in 1885, four years after the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Based in Boston, the Boston Pops is probably best known for Arthur Fiedler, who directed for 50 years, and its annual Fourth of July concert.

During shows last  month, Five by Design performed a wide range of classical offerings, including “Carol of the Bells/Caroling, Caroling,” “Silent Night,” “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “Let it Snow,” and an a cappella rendition of “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays.”

All the shows, Scott said, were on weekends, allowing group members to do some “heavy-duty sightseeing in Boston” during the week.

“We got to see all the sights and sounds of Boston,” she said. “It was just a great experience. The conductor, Keith Lockhart, said ‘we just have to work with you again.’”

It’s an experience Scott, who has been with Five by Design for 10 years overall,  is eagerly anticipating.

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