Evening honors Schwartz's service
Few Bowdoin professors feel comfortable in the student
dining halls. Most teach classes and open their doors for office hours
but when faced with eating amongst students, they are more than happy
to dine in private. There are, of course, exceptions. Bill Watterson and
Dennis Corish frequent Moulton at noon, and language professors often
join the language tables for dinner at Thorne. Add to the list of exceptions
Professor Elliott Schwartz, last seen at a Thorne brunch this past Saturday.
Schwartz was on campus last weekend to attend a concert celebrating
him. After 38 years of teaching and dining at Bowdoin, Schwartz is approaching
retirement, and rather than let him clean out his office and slip quietly
out of the Gibson Hall basement, the Music Department opted for an all-Schwartz
concert in Kresge Auditorium.
Schwartz grew up in New York City and studied composition at Columbia
University before coming to Bowdoin in 1964. Symphonies and chamber groups
have performed his works across the globe, and he also has a reputation
as a writer on twentieth century music. This past December, Harvard held
a concert celebrating Schwartz's music, and last Saturday, it was Bowdoin's
The evening of Elliott Schwartz began with a performance of Elevator
Music, a theatrical composition staged in Coles Tower. Schwartz composed
the piece for the Bowdoin College Senior Center in 1969, placing musicians
on twelve floors and asking the audience to ride up and down in the elevator
during the performance. The premiere of the piece incorporated strobe
lights, balloons, and costumes, but Schwartz notes, "Of course, that
was the hippie psychedelic era." Last Saturday's version of Elevator
Music included twenty-one musicians playing everything from a harmonica
to an accordion, as well as plenty of face paint and a life-size Princess
The concert featured Bowdoin professors, alumni, and students playing
Schwartz's music. Alumni musicians returned to Brunswick from as far as
the West Coast to perform, many playing pieces Schwartz had originally
composed for them. The concert also included music composed by Schwartz's
past composition students.
Although the focus of the evening was Schwartz's music, many of the speeches
at the concert and conversations afterwards concentrated on Schwartz himself.
Robby Greenlee, Associate Professor of Music, noted Schwartz is always
"good humored," something that Schwartz demonstrated several
times during the concert. He jokingly referred to himself as "ever
the pedantic professor." When discussing his own music, he observed
that many of his pieces end quietly, which seems to be a characteristic
of his musical style. He hesitated briefly. "Or a flaw," he
Schwartz's wife and children all attended the concert. Nina Schwartz, his daughter, is a graduate of Bowdoin, and she remembers eating with her father in the dining hall during her student years. When told her father still ate on a tray every once in awhile, she laughed and replied, "I'm glad he still has someone to sit with." Nina does not have to worry. Her father will always be welcome in Bowdoin's dining halls.