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Composer and lyricist to the nation wide hits Wicked and Godspell, Steven Schwartz is one of the most talented composers for musicals and film working in America today. He was born on March 6, 1948, and is still alive today, creating even more amazing works.
Steven Schwartz was raised in the area of Williston Park in New York City, and attended Mineola High School. During his teen years, he pursued his interest in music through classes at Julliard School of Music, where he studied piano and composition.
After earning a B.F.A. (Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts) in drama at Carnegie Mellon University, Schwartz moved back to New York and got a job as a producer at RCA records. Subsequently, he left his job and began to work in Broadway theater. In 1969, Steven Schwartz married Carole, and they later had two children, Scott and Jessica.
At age 23, he wrote the music and lyrics for Godspell and earned his first recognition: two Grammys. In the next three years, he completed the English texts of Burnstien's MASS, and the music and lyrics for Pippin and The Magic Show.
He also wrote the music and lyrics to The Baker's Wife, though it did not succeed and never made it to Broadway. Later, he adapted and directed a musical version of Studs Terkel's Waiting, which won the Drama Desk Award.
Schwartz's talent was not limited to music. He also wrote a children's book, titled The Perfect Peach. Soon after, he contributed songs to a one act children's musical, The Trip, and in 1991 wrote the music for the musical Children of Eden. This concluded his early years in musicals, because until he returned to Broadway in 2003, he worked strictly in film.
His first tribute to film was his partnership with Alan Menken and work on the musical scores of the Disney movie Pocahontas, for which he earned two Academy Awards. He worked with Alan again on the scores of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and wrote songs for DreamWorks' first animated feature, The Prince of Egypt. He won another Academy Award for his song in the film, When You Believe.
Schwartz went on to write the music and lyrics to the original television musical, Geppetto. Later, in 1997, Schwartz released his first CD that included music, lyrics, vocals, and keyboarding by him.
In 2003, Schwartz came back to Broadway with a bang, writing the music and lyrics to the nation-wide sensation, the musical Wicked. He won Grammy Awards for his music, production, and cast recording.
The recent movie release Enchanted included three songs by Schwartz. At the current time, he is working on an opera based on the film Seance on a Wet Afternoon.
Steven Schwartz's most famous work is probably Wicked, based on the book, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. The musical tells the story of The Wizard of Oz from the Wicked Witch's perspective. Wicked made Schwartz one of only four composers to have written a musical the has been performed more than 1,000 times (the other three are Andrew Lloyd Webber, Jerry Herman, and Richard Rodgers). The show opened in 2003 and are still running today, as popular as ever.
Steven Schwartz works in the contemporary/modern fields of music, writing for films and musicals. His contributions to music are countless, but besides Wicked, his most famous works include Godspell, When You Believe from The Prince of Egypt, and Pippin.
In his early life, Schwartz admits most of his influence came from his mother, a music lover. As a child, he attended many shows and even a few Broadway performances, which surely influenced him as well. Gilbert and Sullivan shows, which he remembers seeing during his childhood influenced the songs from Pippin and The Magic Show greatly.
As a child and teenager, Steven Schwartz used to listen to the radio. One particular time he felt inspired was a morning when, waking up to Leonard Bernstein's overture for Candide, Schwartz was entranced.
He also remembers his life in college, and all the memories of sounds and feelings, and they still influence him today.
In many ways, the late twentieth century was an era of new perspective. Wicked and Pocahontas are both examples, finding that the wicked witch may actually be a misunderstood lover, or that an Indian girl could be really truly a sympathetic character. Steven Schwartz witnessed all the events that created this new era, he saw the blaming of Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq, and then the people realizing he didn’t really have weapons of mass destruction. He saw Martin Luther King, the civil rights activist, show everybody blacks and whites are equal, and now is seeing Barrack Obama, our future president prove that fact even further. All these thing must have guided Schwartz in his music writing.
Schwartz’s music is romantic, influential, and holds a treasured place in every female teen’s ipod.
Romance. No matter who it is, there has got to be a place in their mind that longs for it. Schwartz’s music embraces this longing, with his songs of love and loss of love. Whenever somebody is feeling down, they can click on his music to feel better.
If nothing, Steven Schwartz’s music gives one something to ponder, whether it’s wickedness or love or loss. One could think about these topics forever. One can be truly influenced from his works, the truth and depth of all his songs.
Music is quite an art, something original that somebody only with true talent can achieve. Steven Schwartz was that talent, and he chose to chair this amazing talent with his family, his country, his world. We should all be thankful for what he has brought to us and what he will continue to create through the rest of his lifetime.
De Giere, Carol. Defying Gravity: The Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz, from
Godspell to Wicked. Applause Books, 2008.
"Schwartz Musical Influences." Musical Schwartz. 6 Jan 2009
"Stephen Schwartz: biography from answers.com." Answers.com. Jan. 6,2009. 6
Jan 2009 <http://www.answers.com/topic/stephen-schwartz-composer>.
"Stephen Schwartz." Classic Cat. Sun, Dec 28, 2008. 6 Jan 2009