Composer Stephen Schwartz
Stephen Schwartz is a composer and a lyricist for musical theater in the United States. He has worked in that capacity for more than 40 years. Many people are familiar with his work, even if they have not heard of his name. If they have watched a major movie or been to a major play in the last few decades, they have most likely heard music, lyrics, or both that were created by Schwartz. While he often keeps a low profile, he is an incredibly talented individual who continues to impress the musical community with his creations for major motion pictures and stage plays.
Born in New York, NY, Schwartz is the son of Sheila Lorna, who was a teacher, and Stanley Leonard Schwartz, who worked in the business field (Anderson, 1976). He grew up in Nassau County, in the Williston Park area, and graduated from Mineola High School (Anderson, 1976). While he was attending high school, Schwartz also studied composition and piano at Julliard. In 1968, he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Carnegie Mellon University (Anderson, 1976).
In 1969, Schwartz married Carole Piasecki (Schwartz, 2014). There are two children born of the marriage: Scott and Jessica (Schwartz, 2014). Schwartz was elected president of the Dramatists Guild of America in 2009, and still had that position in 2014 (Schwartz, 2014). Most of his private and personal life is kept both private and personal, as Schwartz does not consider himself a celebrity.
The most significant information on Schwartz is the information detailing his career. He has worked on projects like Godspell, Wicked, and Pippin. He also created lyrics for a number of popular films, such as The Prince of Egypt, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Enchanted, and Pocahontas. Schwartz' first serious work was as a producer at the record company RCA. He did not hold that job long, because he went to work at the theater on Broadway. Chosen as the musical director of The Survival of St. Joan, he had the privilege of working on the first U.S. rock opera (Anderson, 1976).
After that, he worked as and was created as a producer on the soundtrack that was created with progressive rock group Smoke Rise. That was on Paramount Records. However, his first major credit came with a title song that he created for a play called Butterflies are Free. That play was made into a movie, and his song was also used in that version, bringing Schwartz modest success and a much higher degree of recognition than he had previously enjoyed with his very early work (Suskin, 1992).
The lyrics and music for Godspell were written by Schwartz in 1971 (Stephen, 2014). They were widely acclaimed, and Schwartz won two Grammys for his work. In 1972, Godspell was going to be produced in Toronto, and Schwartz asked Paul Shaffer to be the musical director for it. That started Shaffer's career, which launched him into a household name. Once Godspell was completed, Schwartz worked on Mass, which was created by the legendary Leonard Bernstein (Stephen Schwartz Biography, 2014). That officially opened the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, located in Washington, D.C (Suskin, 1992). Pippin premiered on Broadway that same year (Stephen Schwartz Biography, 2014). Schwartz had started writing songs for that show while he was still attending college, but none of those ended up in the final Broadway production.
Both Godspell and Pippin are produced frequently, even though they were first created many years ago. They are popular shows for many reasons, not the least of which is the music and lyrics that Schwartz so artfully created for both of them. The dedication he has to his craft shines through in anything and everything he does, magnifying his abilities and the quality of what he does, along with the desire to see what he will create and offer to the work ethic keep him in demand.
It was two years after the debut of Pippin that Schwartz wrote The Magic Show's music and lyrics. That show ran for nearly 2,000 performances, and by the time Schwartz was in his mid-20s he had three major musicals, all of them huge hits, playing simultaneously in New York (Schwartz, 2014). Next came The Baker's Wife, a show for which he also created both the lyrics and the music. It ran on a tryout tour out of town, and closed before it reached the Broadway stage, but it was still very successful in the markets where it was offered (Stephen, 2014). The album that was produced from it attained a type of cult status that can be very hard to replicate with the shows produced today, and became so popular that several productions were made from it.
One was in New Jersey in 2005, and another in London in 1990. Even without reaching Broadway, that show provided Schwartz with another credit he could be proud of. He was onto another project, however, which was a musical version of Working, by Studs Terkel. That debuted on Broadway in 1978, and netted Schwartz the Drama Desk Award for best director (Suskin, 1992). He had adapted and directed the show, and had also written four of the songs. It became a television production and part of the American Playhouse series that ran on PBS. Schwartz was fortunate to also be able to co-direct the version that was created for television, given him a TV credit that he would not have gotten otherwise (Stephen Schwartz Biography, 2014).
Schwartz also became a writer around that same time period, with a children's book titled The Perfect Peach (Schwartz, 2014). His focus remained at least partially on children during that time. After the 1977 release of his book, the early 1980s saw him writing songs for a children's one-act musical called The Trip. It did well, and was expanded and revised 20 years later, re-titled Captain Louie (Schwartz, 2014). Once he completed that, he wrote music for three songs in Personals, which was on off-Broadway revue, and the lyrics to Charles Strouse's music for another musical production called Rags (Schwartz, 2014).
The early 1990s found Schwartz focusing on music and lyrics for another musical called Children of Eden, and then his focus turned to film. He started a collaboration with another composer, Alan Menken, and together they wrote for Disney's animated features. The first feature they created music and lyrics for was Pocahontas (Schwartz, 2014). After that, they worked on The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Then Schwartz spent some time working with DreamWorks and handled songs for The Prince of Egypt. Music and lyrics were also created for Geppetto, which was an original musical made for television and seen on a program called The Wonderful World of Disney (Schwartz, 2014).
In June of 2006, there was a stage adaptation of the piece, entitled Disney's My Son Pinocchio: Geppetto's Musical Tale, that premiered in Kansas City, Missouri at The Coterie Theater (Stephen, 2014). There was also a version developed in 2009 that was made for young performers, and it premiered in Stuart, Florida at the Lyric Theater (Schwartz, 2014). Two-thousand and three saw Schwartz return to Broadway as a lyricist and composer for Wicked, which was based on a novel that told the Oz story from the witches' point-of-view. The cast recording from Wicked won Schwartz a Grammy Award, and by March of 2006 there had been more than 1,000 performances of the show on Broadway (Schwartz, 2014).
There are only four composers to have had three shows on Broadway with that long of a run. Schwartz was one, and the other three are Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Richard Rodgers (Schwartz, 2014). Schwartz and Jerry Herman both had three shows run longer than 1,500 performances, setting them apart from others who worked as composers and lyricists for plays and musicals (Schwartz, 2014). Schwartz was in high demand and had been for some time, and his work never slowed. There was always a new project to work on or something else with which he could get involved. He did not need to look for any work at all. He wrote for a number of popular plays and musicals, and the people would always come out to see and hear what amazing things he had created next.
When Wicked was done with its run, Schwartz was asked to work on something new. He was in such demand that he was frequently sought out by others to produce, direct, or to create music and lyrics for new productions. A musical called My Fairytale had been commissioned, and it was designed to celebrate Hans Christian Andersen (Schwartz, 2014). It was to be shown on the bicentennial of Andersen's birthday, and premiered in 2005 in Copenhagen, at the Gladsaxe Theater (Schwartz, 2014). The American premiere occurred in the summer of 2011 in California. Scott Schwartz, Stephen's son, directed the musical at the PCPA Theatrefest…
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