By David Perry
It’s a dangerous place, the space between Maddie May Scott’s drums and her sticks.
When the UML senior is behind her kit with the all-female hard rock quartet Flight of Fire, Scott is a propulsive, hair-flailing rhythm machine.
The band is turning all the right heads. Most recently, Melissa Etheridge took notice of Flight of Fire and hand-picked them to join the all-star lineup playing her seven-night spring cruise from Tampa to Grand Cayman, March 31-April 7.
In addition to Etheridge, the lineup includes Shawn Colvin, Jill Sobule, Dar Williams, Joan Osborne, Lillie Mae and several others.
The potential audience on the floating concert cruiser is more than 2,000 people.
Scott calls it “a dream come true.”
“I've had two main career aspirations for the last seven or eight years,” says Scott of the big gig. “One of them is to be in a touring rock band, and the other is to be a cruise ship musician. I never thought I could do both of those things at once, but now I’m seeing it’s possible, let alone while performing alongside the likes of Melissa Etheridge. It’s insane. Dream come true!”
The Boston-based hard rock band, with a charismatic lead singer and twins on bass and guitar, has won awards and opened for the likes of The J. Geils Band, Bon Jovi and Fitz and the Tantrums. They’ve worked with Runaways singer Cherie Currie on a recording.
When Flight of Fire needed a new drummer two years ago, they went to the Hit Like a Girl website, which features female drummers, and found Scott.
“The thing I like about this school is that it is so balanced. ... There are things going on all the time.”
-Senior Maddie May Scott
“They figured it might be a good fit, and it has been,” she says.
Scott, a double major in music and languages (Spanish and French), is quiet and reflective offstage, especially when talking about her road to UMass Lowell and the way the university provided educational ballast.
“The thing I like about this school is that it is so balanced,” says Scott. “I would probably be bored if it was just music I studied or was exposed to. But there’s a lot of variety on campus. And there are things going on all the time.”
In her junior year of high school, Scott enrolled in a five-week summer program at Berklee College of Music. She met another student musician who told her to check out UMass Lowell. That piece of advice came from Alex Simpson, a music business major who graduated in 2017.
“I was already attending the music program at UML when I recommended it to her,” recalls Simpson.
“She’s definitely a very versatile drummer and one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of playing with. I’ve thrown a song at her that has a Latin feel, switched into a blues shuffle mid-song and back again into Latin, with no rehearsal, and she handled it brilliantly,” he says.
Scott was born in England and grew up mostly in France before moving with her family to Martha’s Vineyard in 2011. She started drumming when she was 12 and still living in France.
“There wasn’t much to do. We were in a super-rural area,” she says. “I didn’t have any hobbies and was not a fan of sports. And one night, my mom went out to a show at a local club and saw this band that had a female drummer. And she came home and said, ‘You should try drumming.’ And I did.”
It wasn’t an immediate hit.
Lessons with a “jazz guy” fizzled after two months. “I hated it,” Scott says. “I was bored.”
Her mother saw her displeasure.
“She realized what I needed, and she got in touch with the drummer from the band she had seen. She arranged for me to take lessons from her,” she recalls. Scott studied with the woman until the family moved to Martha’s Vineyard.
She taught herself from the groundwork of past lessons, and the Berklee summer program was “a great experience.”
She also entered Hit Like a Girl, an online contest for young female drummers. Judges placed her in the top 10 from among thousands of entrants from around the world.
When she came to UMass Lowell, she knew music would be a big part of her experience, but she also wanted to remain fluent in French.
“Languages really sounded interesting, and I need to keep my French up,” says Scott, who works as a French tutor at the UML Centers for Learning. “There’s really no one to speak it to. And I figured, I might as well take Spanish at the same time.”
She found college overwhelming at first, but eased into her new life.
“I got more exposure to more things,” she says. “It wasn’t just drums, drums, drums. There was ensemble, two a semester, and all kinds of other things we were required to take for the music major.
“I’ve loved both of my drum teachers, and lessons with them were one of the best things. I’m not perfect at drums, but they taught me more than enough for me to know how to teach myself what I need to.
“And I learned things I never thought I would in the classroom. We had to make a website, business cards. I learned to be a professional. It’s super-useful stuff.”
With graduation on the horizon and a professional gig lined up, Scott will have a chance to use all that she has learned soon enough.
Scott has made her senior recital a special event for anyone who wants to go. It’s set for April 14 at 5 p.m. in Durgin Hall, and in addition to Scott performing solo and with other groups, Flight of Fire will play four songs.