Lynne Scott: A musical biography

Lynne Scott is well known in the Scottish Country Dancing music scene both locally and nationally, playing for any number of Scottish Country Dancing events throughout New Zealand with a variety of musicians joining her bands.

She is the current Music Advisor for the RSCDS NZ Branch, writing articles and running workshops to help dancers, musicians and tutors have a better understanding of Scottish Country Dancing music.

Lynne is also known for her car number plate Violyn and the dance Violynne which club tutor Rod Downey wrote for her in 2004.

It’s hard to say when Lynne first played at Johnsonville, as she was initially ‘sitting in’ rather than a band member. Additionally, there was a longstanding convention of listing bands by the name of the leader e.g. Peter Elmes’ Band or Peter Elmes and Associates. We now list all musicians by name on dance programmes. 1

The earliest record we have of Lynne playing for Johnsonville – at our Jewel Annual Dance in 2001 with Iain Matcham, Carlton Downey, Hamish Cook, John Smith and Peter Elmes. With spectacular decorations in jewel colours provided by Life Members Aline and John Homes Photo: Loralee Hyde

Enjoy what Lynne has to say below about the musical journey that led her to Scottish fiddling.

Kristin Downey


I grew up in Feilding, the eldest of four. The old lady down the road gave me piano lessons, and once I got to high school in Palmerston North, I discovered an affinity with the violin. Youth Orchestra was a passion for a long time! My uncle lent me his piano accordion for a couple of years, and I taught myself the basics sitting on my bed.

An abiding love of Scottish dance grew when, as a teenager, I followed the district’s pipe bands to their regular Saturday night ‘Inglesides’. An Ingleside is a monthly social and dance, which loosely translated means a ‘gathering around the fireside’.

I never wanted to play the pipes, but oh, how I longed for some Scottish ancestry to validate the thrill of dancing! Some years later I discovered that my grandfather was actually born in Dundee – but nobody had ever mentioned it!

My university studies brought me a music degree and a library school diploma. James and I married and took up Scottish Country Dancing in Christchurch. Then, living in England for seven years gave us access to Europe and, of course, Scotland. I worked as a Systems Analyst in Farnborough, and we danced at a local Scottish Country Dancing club.

Back in New Zealand it was time for babies and back to dabbling in music: re-learning the violin, then teaching violin, recorder, piano and theory as well. I find teaching a most rewarding job. The accordion came back to me and did sterling duty at Playcentre. Our daughters have grown up to be excellent musicians  – perhaps it was never an option to be otherwise!

We joined the Island Bay Scottish Country Dancing Club (this was 1985) and danced with great pleasure to Peter Elmes Band. Fiddling lessons with John Smith, followed by the opportunity to sit in on stage, gave me a real incentive to learn Scottish fiddle style.

Then one day I was watching the pianist, Merren Simmonds, and casually said to Peter “if you’re ever short of a pianist…” And so, eventually, a new career was born as a band pianist. I will be forever grateful to Peter and John for their support and guidance, and the opportunity to play for dancing with them for so many years.

My interest in fiddling grew alongside the band work. There were many fiddle camps (SHISSF in Upper Hutt and Scotstringnz in Auckland). A couple of silver medals from the Waipu Solo Fiddle Contest decorate my wall, but that Gold is still out of reach!

With well-deserved fiddle contest medals!

A real career highlight was playing as one of the Shetland fiddle team Hjaltibonhoga, in Edinburgh Military Tattoos in Wellington, Edinburgh and Sydney – a most amazingly surreal and emotional experience, as well as being physically, musically and technically challenging.

At Edinburgh Castle with Mary and Duncan McDonald

Chasing the goal of Scottish Country Dancing-musicianship, I attended the very first Musicians course at the RSCDS Summer School at St Andrews (and then two more), and then music courses in Germany, Portland Oregon, and Denver. In time I became the NZ RSCDS Branch Music Adviser, and with this hat on I have tried to encourage and mentor New Zealand’s growing bunch of Scottish Country Dancing musicians, assist dancers and provide support and advice to dance event organisers.

Wild Heather – Sharlene Penman, Anne-Marie Forsyth, Mary McDonald and Lynne – playing at the Johnsonville October Tartan Night in 2018. Photo: John Patterson

 I now have two Scottish Country Dancing bands: Wild Heather (two fiddles, viola and piano) and Strings Attached (fiddle, piano and double bass), and also play casually with other local musicians. There’s also Schiehallion, my seven-piece Ceilidh band that plays for weddings and social events.

Strings Attached – Lynne, Richard Hardie and Sharlene Penman – with, at the left, Heather Elder and André Nies joining in, at the Johnsonville & Capital Coast Joint Annual Dance 2018. Photo: Loralee Hyde

Other music activities these days include teaching, conducting a community orchestra, and leading the 2nd violins in the Hutt Valley Orchestra. There’s my monthly Scottish Music club, Ceol Alba. And this year I’ve had my first piano lessons for fifty years! You’re never too old to learn…

Ceol Alba in action

But playing for Scottish Country Dancing classes and events is my all-time favourite activity! Thank you to Rod, Jeanette, and all the other tutors over the years who have taken a chance on me. It’s been (and still is) a great ride.

Lynne Scott
13 August 2020

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  1. Lynne is part of a long history of live music at Johnsonville Club. Johnsonville has supported musicians, engaging them to play at Tartan Nights and Annual Dances since the early years. Since Rod became club tutor at the end of 1996, he has continued this tradition, building relationships with all the musicians in the bands that play for Johnsonville, including Lynne.[]