Stephen Schwartz teaches master class to Long Island kids – Newsday | Start Classified

For more than five decades, Stephen Schwartz has been one of Broadway’s most prolific composers, enchanting audiences with his scores for Pippin, Godspell and the megahit Wicked. So if he took it easy at the height of the pandemic, he can be forgiven even if he personally apologizes.

“Why didn’t I write a symphony while I was just hanging around?” asked the Roslyn Heights-raised songwriter. Instead, he focused on learning meditation, improving his French, and learning Spanish on Duolingo. “In retrospect, I’m quite irritated with myself, but I just didn’t have the motivation to do anything at the time.”

As theater has returned, so has Schwartz’s mojo, and in a nod to his most famous tune from Pippin, he’s back to magic. Initially, he will be a guest artist collaborating with middle and high school students at the Long Island Music Theater Festival at Adelphi University’s Performing Arts Center in Garden City, hosting productions of “Godspell” and “Pippin” on August 12 and August 13.

Schwartz, 74, recently spoke via Zoom about his involvement with the festival as well as the shows he’s worked on.

So her role at the festival is described as a guest artist. What exactly does that mean?

For me it means I show up and do a master class with the kids and that’s something I enjoy doing. I’ve done it in other places and on other occasions. I am a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University [in Pittsburgh] and I try to come there every year and work with the students there.

The children will perform Pippin and Godspell, two of your most popular shows. Why have they stood the test of time so well?

They are still relevant today. Of course, Godspell is about creating a community of warring factions, and we could certainly use a little of that message right now. And “Pippin” is about a young person trying to figure out what to do with his life. As long as there are young people trying to figure out what to do with their lives, that will remain relevant.

Were there any Long Island programs for you while you were a student?

Not at all. The idea of ​​having musical theater programs is a recent phenomenon. I will say that I went to Mineola High School and did a pretty good drama program there. I got to direct a production of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and I got to act in a number of things. For a public high school that didn’t specialize in art, the arts programs there were very strong.

Do you remember the first Broadway show you saw?

I remember it very well. I grew up in Roslyn Heights, in a small 1-acre residential area actually called South Park. Next door to us was a composer named George Kleinsinger who had great success writing concept albums and one of them, Archy and Mehitabel, was adapted as a Broadway show. My family went to his house and George played the song he was working on from the show. I was about 6 and was told that after George did that I would go to her piano and pick out the tune. He recommended that my parents get a piano and give me lessons because I clearly had an ear for music.

A few years later when the show premiered it was called Shinbone Alley and my parents took me to see it. I was instantly smitten like a lot of people when they see their first show and I knew this is the environment I would want to live my life in if I could.

“Wicked” is still a hit after nearly 20 years on Broadway. Did you expect it to be such a phenomenon?

You can never expect that. When we were out of town with the show in San Francisco, we had a pretty good idea that we had a good chance of succeeding because it had proved popular. How it’s exploded around the world has to do with the cultural moment we’re in.

You mentioned that you still come to Long Island to visit your parents who now live in Great Neck. Are you visiting one of the old places where you grew up?

Whenever I came to Long Island and drove to the end of the island where my two kids are in Sag Harbor, there was an amazing pizza place called Roma Cafe that still has the best pizza of my life on Willis Avenue. It’s not there anymore but it was one of those family run restaurants where they had their own special recipe that they brought from a small town in Italy they were from. The pizza was so good you wouldn’t want to sully it with pepperoni.

Do you have new projects to talk about?

The Wicked movie is heating up and I’ve been working on it. I also started a new theater project based on that [2012] Documentary “The Queen of Versailles”. So I’m working on a musical version of what’s still in its infancy.

Now that theater is back, how do you feel being a part of it again?

The pandemic has certainly taught me not to take live theater for granted. …. I didn’t know how much I would miss it until it was gone.

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