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Full Interview with Scott Hartman


What year did you join the CSO?

I joined the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra at the beginning of the 2014/2015 season in September 2014.


Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Orlando, Florida. Prior to moving to Charlotte to join the symphony I lived in Chicago where I was earning my degrees at DePaul University.


Have you always had an interest in cars?  (And/or when did your interest develop?)

I've been interested in cars since I was in middle school. My best friend Rafael and I loved to watch the Barrett-Jackson collector car auctions on TV and that's where I fell in love with classic cars. Some of the first exposure I had to seeing classic cars in person was when my Dad would take me to a recurring car show at a place called Old Town in Kissimmee, Florida. I loved seeing muscle cars and hot rods and even from a young age I knew that I wanted one when I grew up.


How would you classify your relationship with cars?  (i.e.: meh, lukewarm interest, hobby, life-changing addiction, all-out mania, etc...feel free to come up with your own descriptors!)

I'm definitely a gearhead! I love driving, learning about and seeing cars, it's a life-long addiction. Music and automobiles are my two biggest passions.


What is it about cars that attracts you?

There are many things that drew me to a love of cars but where my interest really peaked can be traced back to one moment. When I was a kid I saw a 1971 Dodge Challenger R/T for the first time and I had a visceral reaction, I couldn't stop looking at it and immediately fell in love. This Challenger was painted in Plum Crazy Purple and had a white vinyl top and white leather interior and also had the famous Shaker hood where the air intake that fed the carburetors stuck out above a hole in the hood. It was a beautiful combination of obnoxious and aggressive and to me it epitomized the muscle car.


Do you like certain car types?

Absolutely, far and away my favorite cars are Mopars. Mopar loosely refers to Chrylser, Dodge, and Plymouth. My favorite car manufacturers are Dodge and the now defunct Plymouth. I love 1966-1971 muscle cars made by Dodge and Plymouth and I enjoy learning more about this era of Mopar muscle cars. If you see me at a car show and a classic Mopar is there you'll probably find me with my head buried in the engine bay decoding the fender tag and seeing how original the car is. Car friends of mine say I'm a walking encyclopedia of Mopar, I love to learn interesting things about these cars such as production numbers, rare factory options and Mopar history in general. I have a pretty extensive knowledge of most classic cars with particular familiarity and love of Mopars, Duesenbergs, and Porsches.


What was your first car?

My first car was a 2003 Honda Civic.


How did you decide on and find your current car?

As mentioned earlier I fell in love with a 1971 Dodge Challenger R/T in Plum Crazy Purple with a Shaker hood and I knew I could only afford one car and I wouldn't be able to afford an original 1971 nor would it be practical to daily drive a classic car, so I decided to get the modern version of that 1971. Dodge has done a fantastic job creating modern muscle cars that pay tribute to their 1970s predecessors. In 2016 Dodge brought back Plum Crazy Purple for a one year run and that generation of Challengers were styled after 1971’s so I knew that I wanted a 2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Shaker in Plum Crazy Purple with a 6-speed manual transmission, I'm all about the retro! I was saving up to buy that car eventually but things changed the summer of 2017 when a hit and run driver totaled my previous car. I was without a car so I decided it was now or never and I looked for that specific used 2016 Dodge Challenger. They only made 67 in that combination of color, Shaker and manual transmission and only 2 were available when I was looking. The closest one was in Alabama so I flew to Alabama and bought my Challenger and drove it back to North Carolina. This rare Dodge was sitting on the lot of a Ford dealership in rural Alabama, they had no idea what they had and I got a great deal.


Do you work on (repair or "soup" up) your own cars?

Definitely. I’ve done several modifications to my car myself including installing a short throw shifter, 4-point racing harnesses, suspension braces, a throttle delay eliminator computer chip and I designed and installed custom racing pedals as well as a few other things.


Are you a part of any local car clubs?

Yes, I am proud to be a member and admin of the Queen City Challengers. We are a group of about 500 Dodge Challenger owners in North and South Carolina and I’ve really enjoyed the camaraderie from this big group of great people who share a love of Challengers. I joined the day I bought my car and have done many events with this great group.


Tell us about your favorite car activities.

I really enjoy showing my car at car shows with the Queen City Challengers. Whether it’s a judged competition or a relaxed cruise-in I enjoy seeing cool cars and talking to fellow gearheads at car shows. Soon after I bought my Dodge Challenger I also started to get interested in driving it on track. I did my first track day at the legendary Virginia International Raceway and I was immediately hooked. Now I do track days on road courses, 1/8 and 1/4 mile drag racing and more recently I’ve started to autocross. While a track day takes place on a road course that is a few miles long, autocross is a short and extremely technical course that is set up with cones where you make timed runs. Autocross, track days and drag racing are all exhilarating and challenging and I enjoy doing them and improving my performance driving skills.


Where have these activities taken you?

I have participated in car shows, done track days and drag raced in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Also, this past summer my best friend Rafael and I took the Challenger on an epic 8 state road trip of the southeast, it was a blast.


Do you see any similarities between high performance driving and performing in a symphony orchestra?

Absolutely. Driving a car at its limits on track is actually quite rhythmic. There is a cadence to how you input throttle, apply the brakes, clutch in, change gears and adjust steering, and the timing and amount of input determines how the weight of the car is transferred between the tires, how the car handles and where the car is placed on track. If any of these inputs are too much or too little or occur out of rhythm you can be off the racing line or upset the balance of the car and spin out. Both music and performance driving require a great deal of precision and focus. In music you practice a difficult piece many hours so that you achieve a level of accuracy that you can count on consistently in performance. In performance you also have to be focused on several things at once including playing your part, listening to and adjusting with your colleagues, watching those in your section for visual cues and watching the conductor, and you have to anticipate and respond quickly to any changes or surprises. High performance driving requires intense focus and precision as well, you have to look ahead where you want to place the car on the track, you need to respond immediately to other drivers on course and respond without hesitation to a crash, you have to be aware of the feedback that the car is giving you such as the sound of the tires squealing and adjust not only to improve your lap times but to avoid crashing. Both in music and high performance driving you have to respond within thousandths of a second, if you’re not focused in drag racing a few hundredths delay off the starting line can cost you a race and in music not responding to a tempo change immediately can result in you being audibly out of sync with your colleagues. Also, I use some of the relaxation and focusing techniques that I’ve developed for performing in the concert hall to my driving. Many musicians including myself utilize techniques to slow our heartrate and be intensely focused on the music when in a high-pressure performance situation so as to minimize the effect of nerves or outside distractions on our performance. The ability to calm myself quickly and quite distractions to focus is very useful when driving fast as it is an intense experience when you feel strong G-forces and are enraptured by the adrenaline of pushing the limit. In racing they say “smooth is fast” and techniques I’ve developed to enable my mind and body to be its most efficient when performing definitely help to keep me calm and smooth when flying down the track at 130mph.


Do you ever meet other trombonists (or other classical musicians) at car outings?

Not terribly often but one of the trombonists in the Pittsburgh Symphony is a driving instructor at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex and is very experienced with high performance driving on road courses. We’ve been trying to coordinate a time for me to take my car up there, someday we will definitely drive on track together.


What is your dream car?

I have a few dream cars but two come to mind first. The ultimate muscle car for me is a 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona. They only made 503 of this one year only car. It was the factory produced version of the race cars that dominated Nascar that year. They have an extreme design focused on aerodynamics because they were designed to go over 200mph on the race track, in 1969! They have a crazy 40-inch wing on the back and look radical, Daytonas definitely stick out from other cars going down the road. A modern dream car for me would be a Dodge Viper ACR Extreme Aero. This version of the Viper is one of the best track cars in the world and is made by my favorite manufacturer Dodge.


Is there a particular car that you hope to drive someday?

There are many cars that I’d like to drive someday. At some point I would like to drive a pre-war (WWII) automobile such as a Duesenberg, Stutz, or Mercer. These are all vintage performance cars and automobiles from this period have perhaps the most driver engagement because you control every mechanical aspect of the car. The driver has to steer, change gears, engage multiple brakes, adjust the fuel mixture, change ignition timing, open and close carburetors, and in some vehicles even hand pump the fuel all from the driver’s seat. I enjoy driving a car that you feel truly connected to, that’s why I drive a manual transmission.

Is there a particular car that you hope to own someday?

Where do I begin? The list of cars I’d like to own is very long so I’ll only list a few. In addition to the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona and Dodge Viper ACR I mentioned above some cars that come to mind are of course a 1971 Dodge Challenger R/T with a 440 Six-Pack (Six-Pack is the carburetor setup) and Shaker hood in Plum Crazy Purple, a Duesenberg Model J, a 1916 Stutz Bearcat, a Porsche 911 GT3 RS, a 2016 Dodge Challenger Drag Pak and many others. It’s not very likely I’ll be able to afford any of these cars on a musician’s salary but a guy can dream!

Do you have any strange, funny, or notable stories related to your car interest to tell?

One puzzling experience I had was finding a surprise in the trunk of my Dodge Challenger. As I mentioned earlier I bought my car used from a dealership, I don’t really know anything about the previous owner. At my first track day I went to remove my spare tire for the first time before tech inspection and I found 3 unfired rifle rounds rolling around under the spare tire. That was definitely unexpected!


What are the best thing and worst things about your love of cars?

My love of cars has led me to meet countless great people who share a passion for automobiles and I have developed some great friendships from this hobby. Also I enjoy learning and improving at things that I’m interested in so I like that there is no limit to how good of a driver I can become or how much car history I can learn. The only downside is that cars are expensive! I have a long wish list of car parts and dream cars that I may never have but I do what I can with my Challenger.


Do you have any other interests that you enjoy during your non-Charlotte Symphony time?

Not really, with practicing several hours a day, working at the symphony and teaching there’s little down time. When I do have a free moment I try to do something with my friends or hit the drag strip or track. I have also been working on my house and doing a fair amount of the renovation myself when my schedule and budget allows.


Tell us a little bit about your gastronomic you find what you like to eat in local restaurants, or do you prefer to make your own meals?

I enjoy both eating out and cooking for myself. There certainly is an abundance of culinary options in Charlotte and I enjoy trying new restaurants, breweries and cocktail bars throughout the Queen City. I enjoy cooking as well, I have been diving into cooking from scratch and I enjoy trying new and increasingly difficult recipes. From risotto cacio e pepe to chicken tikka masala to bourbon pecan pie I like expanding my cooking skills and I am enjoying the results!


Is there anything else you would like our friends and family to know about you and/or your interesting hobby?

Here’s a fun fact, in addition to studying music in college I also studied Economics! Aside from that I welcome people to say hello after a concert, I’d be happy to answer any other questions and I enjoy talking to our patrons. Please come check out one of our concerts!

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