UCSD Logo For PrintingUCSD Logo
Point of View with Scott Paulson

Photo of Scott Paulson Photo of Scott Paulson Photo of Scott Paulson

You may not have ever seen Scott Paulson, but you’ve probably heard him. He is the keeper of the carillon on top of Geisel Library. He ensures the chimes toll on the hour and he plays a few songs too. In fact, if you’d like to hear a certain tune, he’s now taking requests. His passion for music is evident, so some may find it surprising that he graduated from UC San Diego with a degree in linguistics and that he’s been employed by the university since he was a student here. In 2007, he was recognized as one of the Exemplary Staff Employees of the Year. Now, as the outreach coordinator for the Arts Library, he’s best known for his musical talents and interactive programs, such as silent film screenings where the audience provides the sound effects.

1. What drew you to UC San Diego?

Paulson: As a teenager, I left Maine to visit my sister who was stationed in Coronado.  I was so impressed with San Diego that I didn’t go back.  I liked that San Diego had some of the advantages of a big city while still having some of the advantages of a small town.  And UC San Diego is much like that—the six colleges on the campus give some of the advantages and attention of a smaller school, while still having the weight and prestige of a bigger institution.  My ultimate confession—I might have picked UC San Diego for undergraduate work because it was close to the beach—but, fortunately, it is a great school.

2. How has it been to watch, and participate in, the campus’ growth and evolution over the years?

Paulson: I’m grateful that I had a chance to work closely with so many of the school’s founding provosts and deans.  As a student, I wasn’t really involved with student government, but somehow I stumbled into working with many of the campus’ rock star founders.  For instance, as a Photo of Scott Paulson drafted volunteer (LONG story there), I spent two extended periods of time as the live-in cook for Roger Revelle.  (That’s when I learned how to cook.)  And there was an additional and delightful condition to the job—I had to stay at the dinner table as his guest and eat with him.  He was so fascinating and a brilliant conversationalist, but he was adamant that I hold up my part of the conversation.  I would rather have just listened to him the whole time, but he was so good at asking leading questions to make me relay my opinions.  He had expectations that I would follow up with some research so that I could relay more the next night.  The challenge of speaking with him and presenting myself as an equal helped me.  To this day, the odd and wonderful opportunities that I’ve had in life and work have never come because I had an important position.  I was always just the cook and to this day I am just the clerk—but there are opportunities to give and share and participate regardless.

3. You majored in linguistics, but your passion seems to be music. When did your interest in music begin?

Paulson: I loved studying linguistics here.  The classes were so small and, when there was an odd number of students, the professors often teamed up with a student to help complete certain group-study exercises. 

I did receive a minor in music at Warren College.  It’s obvious now that I should have studied music exclusively, but sometimes there is a danger when you invest everything in one passion.  I was lucky that music was still a big part of the public school curriculum when I was a child.  My best musical training was in K-12.  Playing in the orchestra at UC San Diego (called La Jolla Symphony these days) was also a big part of my training.

4. As outreach coordinator for the UC San Diego Arts Library, what programs do you offer for the campus and local communities?

Photo of Scott Paulson

Paulson: Most of the outreach programs call attention to the services and holdings of the Arts Library. The live chamber music series I host uses scores (sheet music) from our collection. Our silent film screenings use 16mm films from the collection here and the audience is drafted into helping with live music and sounds.  These films have to be put through a projector once per year for preservation reasons, and if you’re going to run a 16mm classic silent film through a projector, certainly you should invite a live audience and screen it as it was meant to be screened—with live music! 

Many of our events are designed to call attention to the exhibits we install here and many of them are successful enough that we end up doing them annually, like our Annual Paper Theatre Festival and our Annual Toy Piano Festival.  February is my favorite month of events and exhibits because of Black History Month.  I enjoy helping with the Library exhibits and activities associated with the African & African-American Research Studies Project and working with Professor Bennetta Jules-Rosette.  April is another exciting month because I get to work with Professor Judith Dolan for our annual exhibit from the Department of Theatre & Dance.  Again, I think of Dolan and Jules-Rosette as our university’s rock stars, and I’m so fortunate to have a chance to work with them.

[To view a list of upcoming Arts Library events, click here.]

5. What musical instruments do you play and where do you play? Also, please give me some examples of the noisemakers you use during your silent film and radio shows.

Photo of Scott Paulson

Paulson: Oboe is my main instrument.  I studied with the oboe professor here at UC San Diego, Susan Barrett.  The thing that I am most proud of the past 10 or 15 years is having a contract with San Diego Chamber Orchestra as an oboist. 

But I was always jealous of the percussionists in the orchestra with all their surprising toys, noisemakers and ritual instruments.  When I started doing live events at the Arts Library in 2000, I began collecting noisemakers and gestural instruments.  What I mean by gestural instruments is that they are instruments that are easy to make an initial, immediate, effective sound—anyone can sound good on an orchestral harp for a measure or two.  So, when I do radio drama re-enactments and silent film screenings, the audience is using everything from a harp to coconut shells.  And yes, anyone can have a good time squeezing bubble wrap (a very popular sound tool I make the audience use in the gunfight scenes).

[To see and hear Scott Paulson demonstrating sound effects from a 1938 children’s radio sound effects kit, click here.]

6. How did you become the keeper of the campus carillon? Why did you decide to start taking requests and how does one go about requesting a specific tune?

Photo of Scott Paulson

Paulson: Again, this is one of those odd and wonderful opportunities where I became a “drafted volunteer.”  Let’s just say that I have a problem with things that aren’t utilized and I have a gift for plotting and planning so that those things reach their full potential.  At the 100th birthday party of Joe Rubinger (the carillon donor), then-Chancellor Richard Atkinson officially named me University Carillonneur.  And yes, Joe was there for his 100th birthday party.  He helped with the plotting and planning (yet another campus rock star that I got to work with).  My mission was to make sure that Joe’s gift of chimes to the campus was used for more than just chiming the hour. And I continue to make sure that everyone has a chance to have a special song play.  All you have to do is send me an e-mail (spaulson@ucsd.edu) and I will go to the roof of the Geisel Library Building and play your song. 

[For more information about the carillon, click here.]

 Fun Faves

Favorite instrument to play: My harpsichord (which I wanted since I was five years old, but got when I was 40-something).

Photo of Scott Paulson

Favorite composer: J.S. Bach

Favorite place on campus:
The roof of Geisel Library,
where I play the Library chimes.

Favorite subject in college:
Native American Languages

Favorite hobby: Sound effects were my annoying hobby as a child (for details see Dr. Seuss’ lesser-known “Gerald McBoing-Boing”) and now it’s more than a hobby.

Favorite time of day: When the famous green flash happens as the sun sets into the ocean.

Favorite college memory: Going to an underwater music concert in 1980-something at the campus natatorium. Yes, I love the 80’s.

Favorite song: “Video Killed the Radio Star” – a song that I thought was stupid (it is), but it was played by a live band when I received a radio sound effects award from KPBS. I never laughed so hard in my life, and I realized the song sums up a lot of my passions and fears.


Read more Point of Views >>>


Terms and Conditions of Use