10:37 a.m., Sept. 23, 2009----When Taylor Swift's speech accepting her MTV Video Music Award at the recent ceremony was interrupted by rapper Kanye West, the incident set off a flap that is still the subject of discussions and jokes.
But no one was watching the awards ceremony itself with more interest than University of Delaware alumnus Scott Swift, who saw his 19-year-old daughter win Best Female Video honors for her video “You Belong With Me.” Taylor, who writes all her own songs and whose total album sales recently topped 10 million, became the first country artist ever to win a Video Music Award.
Scott Swift, a 1974 business graduate, said Taylor's success has shown the world how talented she is, but he added that he and his family have known about her musical gifts since his daughter was a toddler.
“She was always singing music when she was 3, 5, 6, 7 years old,” he said. “It's Taylor doing what she likes to do.”
The family first realized her talent for writing when Taylor received an assignment in elementary school to write a two-sentence essay. Instead, she handed in a two-page composition, Scott said, and her teacher told the Swifts there was something different about Taylor that she had never seen before.
“We had a kid that was really passionate about it, and when she was 13 she got a development deal at RCA,” he said. “That was the confirmation that maybe she wasn't crazy, because her writing is why she got it.”
The family then moved from Pennsylvania to Nashville, Tenn., with Scott relocating his business, the Swift Group at Merrill Lynch, where he has worked for 30 years and is now a first vice president. He stays home with 17-year-old Austin, who he said is also a huge success as a photographer for Getty Images with photos in Rolling Stone and People magazines, while his wife, Andrea, tours with Taylor.
Taylor's newest album, Fearless, includes the song “The Best Day,” which she dedicated to her mother and in which she also mentions Scott and Austin.
“I have an excellent father; his strength is making me stronger,” Taylor sings on the track, which reminisces about her childhood. Fearless won Album of the Year honors from the Academy of Country Music, making Taylor the youngest artist in history to win the award.
Scott said Taylor's success has brought him word from many other UD alumni. To get back in touch with old friends, he said jokingly, “You can either go on classmates.com or have a daughter who sells 10 million CDs.”
And, he has stayed in contact over the years with a group of his fellow Brown residence hall alumni, who still meet up once a year for a reunion. One of them, Michael DiMuzio, a 1976 business graduate, facilities manager for the Philadelphia Phillies, remains a close friend. It was DiMuzio who gave Taylor the opportunity to sing the National Anthem for the Philadelphia Phillies at the 2008 World Series.
“The reason she sang the anthem is because two University of Delaware alumni kept in touch over the years,” her father said.
Although Scott's life has taken his family farther from the University geographically, he said his ties to UD remain as close as ever.
“I've heard from a lot of great alumni, and I'm convinced they live in every city, because whenever Taylor's rolling into wherever she is, we'll hear from them,” he said. “It's really powerful.”
Article by Erica Cohen
Photo courtesy of Scott Swift, by Rick Diamond, Country Music Television