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A Noteworthy Attorney and Musician

  • Greg Scholl JD ’95

Greg Scholl JD ’95 headed home from his day job at the Metropolitan Public Defender’s Office in Hillsboro, Oregon, to grab his trombone and don a black tuxedo, bow tie, and cummerbund. He hustled over to a local church and joined the Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra on stage. Then, for the next two hours, he exchanged legal briefs for sheet music, leading the low brass section through performances of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 2 and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

“The trombone is a low brass instrument that can have a very mellow sound,” says Scholl. “It equates well with the sound of the human voice, lending itself to very old music and modern compositions.”

Scholl’s polished musicianship has earned him principal trombone positions with three area orchestras: the Vancouver Symphony, the Portland Columbia Symphony, and the Newport Symphony. He also performs with the Portland Brass Quintet and the Pacific Trombone Quartet, as well as with the instrumental group Rhythm Dogs and the string band Goombahttsi. Occasionally he sits in with the Oregon Ballet Theatre.

“The work comes in waves,” he says. “Sometimes I play every night for a month. At other times, I play two or three times a week.”

Scholl first picked up a trombone in the fifth grade. He grew up in San Antonio, where football is king and marching bands are essential to the fanfare. He went on to study music in Austin, Texas, during college, then played professionally and taught music lessons.

“I started thinking about other career paths that would be economically feasible and also allow me to keep playing music,” he says.

Lewis & Clark Law School was highly rated and a great place for me to learn. People were serious about things that really mattered but not aggressively competitive.Greg Scholl JD’95

Remembering the summers he spent in Montana’s Glacier National Park and the books he loved reading by environmental author and essayist Edward Abbey, Scholl decided to study environmental law.

“Lewis & Clark Law School was highly rated and a great place for me to learn,” he says. “People were serious about things that really mattered but not aggressively competitive.”

When he started law school, Scholl quit playing music completely for a time, then began to experiment for the sheer joy of self-expression. He rediscovered his love of performance when he started substituting with the Lewis & Clark Wind Ensemble.

“Back in the early ’90s, there weren’t as many trombone players in Portland as there are now,” he says. “I soon had as many gigs as I did back in Austin.”

Simultaneously, Scholl interned at the Washington County Metropolitan Public Defender’s Office and discovered that he liked the hands-on approach to helping clients whom others might marginalize or disdain. “That experience grabbed hold of me and made me realize environmental law wasn’t a good fit for me,” he says.

Scholl worked his way up in the ranks at the public defender’s office where he’d interned and is now director of a 50-person staff. Along with handling personnel and policy issues, he currently represents 40 clients in drug court as well as a couple of capital cases.

“Music and the law seem to complement one another,” he says. “Trials and performances both require extensive preparation. The more I practice, the easier it is for me to react quickly and improvise.”

Scholl takes pleasure in music that involves a high level of improvisation between small groups of people, like jazz from 1950 to the present day and the genius of John Coltrane’s later works. “It’s the most expressive music there is,” he says.

He also admires compositions by Russian composers like Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich for their strong thematic content and emotional and psychological intensity.

“The best part of playing trombone is that I get to listen to the music before making an entrance,” he says. “It’s rewarding to bring in the power and intensity of a piece.


—by Pattie Pace

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