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Maestro’s collection finds a home at the Frost School

During his nearly five-decade conducting career, Gerard Schwarz has amassed a large, artistically significant collection of printed music, all bearing his performance notations. Now, he has given that repertoire to the Frost School of Music for the benefit of future generations of music students and scholars.
Gerard Schwarz

Acclaimed conductor Gerard Schwarz has given his collection of printed music to the Frost School of Music. Photo: Jenny Abreu for the University of Miami

In his studio in the south wing of the Patricia Louise Frost Music Studios, Gerard Schwarz—internationally acclaimed conductor, distinguished professor of music, conducting, and orchestral studies at the University of Miami Phillip and Patricia Frost School of Music, and music director of the Frost Symphony Orchestra—opened the score for a violin part from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.” 

He pointed out the penciled-in markings. “For example, it says pianissimo and there’s a V. That means you start up-bow [bowing upward],” he said. “Then there’s another V, which means you continue up-bow, then there’s what looks like an upside-down U with corners, a down-bow sign. That’s the bowing.” 

Marking orchestra parts—to indicate bowing direction, or changes in tempo or dynamics, for example—long has been standard practice among composers, conductors, and musicians. As Schwarz explained, it’s how conductors convey their artistic vision and interpretation of the music to the ensembles they lead and the students they teach. When students, music scholars, and musicians can compare and analyze different conductors’ notes on different parts, they gain greater insight into contrasting interpretations. 

Now, after nearly 50 years of collecting scores and putting his own artistic imprint on them, Schwarz has donated his entire collection to the Frost School. Comprising more than 1,200 performance sets and parts, and valued at more than $1.24 million, the Schwarz Collection encompasses the pantheon of 18th and 19th century European composers. 

Highlights include complete performance sets for all nine symphonies by Ludwig van Beethoven, as well as numerous works by Mozart, Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Friedrich Handel, Joseph Haydn, Johannes Brahms, Hector Berlioz, Felix Mendelssohn, Franz Schubert, Peter Tchaikovsky, Antonio Vivaldi, Richard Wagner, and countless others. 

Schwarz’s gift is part of the University of Miami’s Ever Brighter: The Campaign for Our Next Century. The most ambitious in the University’s history, the $2.5 billion campaign is set to conclude in 2025, when the University will celebrate its centennial. 

Shelton G. “Shelly” Berg, dean of the Frost School of Music, said that the Schwarz Collection would accrue huge benefits to the Frost School for many decades to come. “Gerard Schwarz’s library is filled with priceless annotation for study and performance and is a huge repository of great symphonic music, from standard repertoire to new works commissioned for Maestro Schwarz,” Berg said. “The annotations include thousands of bowing instructions and other elements of style and interpretation marked by renowned orchestral musicians into the individual parts, as well as additional thousands of markings in the scores by Maestro Schwarz to prepare and guide his musical interpretations.” 

Born in New Jersey to Viennese parents, Schwarz began studying piano at the age of 5, and soon focused on the trumpet. He joined the New York Philharmonic in 1972 as co-principal trumpet, a position he held until 1977. It was during this time that he seriously began to study parts used by different conductors. 

“I spent a lot of time in the New York Philharmonic library, looking at parts that different conductors used and what markings they put in, and why,” he recalled. “Then, when I started conducting, I thought, ‘I should probably get my own parts and make sure they are marked appropriately, that everything coincides with my interpretive ideas.’ And I did it from that day on, with every piece I conducted.” 

Schwarz pointed out that earlier composers’ works leave the most scope for conductors to interpret the music. “We call it editing the music; and the earlier the music, the more you need to edit,” he said. “So, with Bach, Handel, Vivaldi [all 18th century], you have to edit dynamics, how loud, how soft, where it should be long, where it should be short, where it should be slurred. Every time you do the G minor symphony of Mozart [for example], you edit it. But it’s better just to do it once and have it and change as you need to.”

It certainly saves rehearsal time. “When everything is marked, you’re immediately beginning on a much higher artistic level,” Schwarz said. “Instead of saying to the orchestra, ‘Oh, could you try this and try that,’ it’s all there. All you have to do is convince the orchestra that these artistic ideas are good ones and that they can buy into the interpretations. That’s the hard thing about conducting orchestras.”

Hard or not, Schwarz has built a glittering career “behind the baton,” to borrow the title of his memoir. He led the Seattle Symphony Orchestra for 26 years, championing American composers and elevating the orchestra to national prominence, and he has worked with orchestras in Europe, Asia, and around the United States. 

He joined the Frost School faculty in 2019, attracted by Berg’s vision for the school, and became the inaugural holder of the Schwarz-Benaroya Endowed Chair in Conducting and Orchestral Activities in 2021. Under his tutelage, the Frost Symphony Orchestra has grown immensely in stature in the four years he has been its music director.

At the fall 2021 commencement, Schwarz received the President’s Medal from President Julio Frenk, in recognition of, in Frenk’s words, “a lifetime of bringing extraordinary music to the world.” 

In addition to his work at the Frost School, Schwarz serves as music director of the All-Star Orchestra, Eastern Music Festival, Palm Beach Symphony, and Mozart Orchestra of New York. He also is conductor emeritus of the Mostly Mozart Festival and conductor laureate of the Seattle Symphony. His discography spans more than 350 recordings and he has received numerous awards and accolades, including Emmy awards and Grammy nominations; American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers Awards; and the Ditson Conductor’s Award. He was the first American named Conductor of the Year by Musical America magazine and has received numerous honorary doctorates. 

Schwarz is also a passionate advocate for music education, especially in K–12 schools. “Educationally, it’s incredible what music can do for young people. We see many studies that prove that if you study music, [learn] an instrument in school, you do better academically, you tend to stay in school, you tend to graduate and go on to college,” he remarked. “But you need great, committed teachers. And we are doing that here at Frost in our music education department.”

For his part, Schwarz is thrilled that his collection—a central element of his life’s work—will find a home at the University of Miami. “I’ve fallen in love with the Frost School and the University of Miami. And I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to have [the collection] here, where anyone can study it? It’s a great educational tool now and will be 50 years from now when I’m not here. I discussed it with my kids and my wife, and we decided we would like to make a home for it here.”