Schwarz serves as Music Director of the Emmy-winning All-Star Orchestra series, which airs on public television. Schwarz is also Music Director of the Eastern Music Festival, and is the Conductor Laureate of the Seattle Symphony. He played in the orchestras of Bernstein, Boulez, Stokowski and Leinsdorf, and was hailed as “the new Bernstein” when he gave up his solo career at age 30 to turn his talents to conducting. Schwarz raised the Seattle Symphony from obscurity to top-tier status, mostly on the basis of a comprehensive series of groundbreaking recordings. His discography of 350 titles features critically acclaimed performances of both established and new repertoire. The maestro is a renowned interpreter of nineteenth-century repertoire, in addition to his significant work with American composers.
Schwarz began his musical career as a trumpeter. His early solo recordings are collectors' items, and constitute an enduring high point of virtuoso trumpet playing for discerning fans, students and aficionados. His most influential teacher was the first trumpet of the New York Philharmonic, William Vacchiano, with whom he studied from 1962 to 1968. While still a student at Juilliard, Schwarz auditioned for Leopold Stokowski and played with the American Symphony Orchestra onstage at Carnegie Hall.
When Schwarz auditioned for the American Brass Quintet they initially turned him down, fearing he would be drafted though he had a military exemption. They accepted him a year later in 1965, when another player left the ensemble. He toured Europe and Asia with them while still a student, and remained with them until 1973.
In addition to his American Brass Ensemble performances, Schwarz kept up a busy schedule of conducting gigs and solo appearances during the late sixties. He led the Soho Ensemble and performed at the French American Festival at Lincoln Center. He also conducted the Erick Hawkins Dance Company and the Eliot Feld Ballet Company. Additionally, he became a member of the Aspen Festival and Casals Festival orchestras.
In 1973 Schwarz joined the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and became co-principal trumpet. He also worked as a freelancer, conductor and teacher during this time. In 1974 he performed Haydn's Trumpet Concerto with the orchestra, and received critical praise from Harold C. Schonberg of the New York Times. In 1975 had his orchestral conducting debut at Avery Fisher Hall with the Cosmopolitan Symphony. He also founded the Waterloo Village Music Festival in Jersey the same year. In 1977 Schwarz left the New York Philharmonic, then co-founded the New York Chamber Symphony and served as their music director until 2002. He also succeeded Sir Neville Marriner as music director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, a position he held until 1985. Schwarz joined Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival in 1982 and served as their music director until 2001. He is credited with upgrading the orchestra and expanding the festival program to include Mozart's concert operas, rarely heard arrangements of Mozart's works by 20th-century composers, and even some 20th-century examples of Neo-Classicism. He is now Conductor Emeritus of the Mostly Mozart Festival.
In 1983 Schwarz joined the Seattle Symphony Orchestra as music advisor, and was invited to become their principal conductor in 1984. In 1985 he also accepted the role of music director, which he held until 2011. Under Schwarz' leadership the Seattle Symphony produced more than 100 recordings and a number of television shows. They won two Emmys for the Seattle Symphony From Benaroya Hall series, and garnered thirteen Grammy nominations.
Schwarz has led orchestras throughout the world, including the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Berlin Radio Symphony, Ensemble Intercontemporain, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the London Symphony, the Montreal Symphony, the Orchestre National de France, the Singapore Symphony, the Tokyo Philharmonic, and the Bruckner Orchestra Linz. In the United States he has led the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Minnesota Orchestra, the National Symphony, the Oregon Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Saint Louis Symphony and the San Francisco Symphony. From 2001 to 2006, Schwarz served as music director of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
Schwarz is also known for his opera performances, and has appeared with the Juilliard Opera, the Kirov Opera, the Mostly Mozart Festival, the San Francisco Opera, the Seattle Opera, and the Washington National Opera.
Since leaving the Seattle Symphony, Schwarz has served as music director and principal conductor of the Emmy-winning All-Star Orchestra, which features a handpicked ensemble of star players who come together annually for an eight-episode American Public Television series. The performances are also made available by Naxos on DVD.
His forthcoming memoir, Schwarz on Schwarz: An American Icon Talks Music, is scheduled for release in 2016.
Gerard Schwarz Discography Tracks
- 1 Vocals
- 33 Instruments & Performance
- 6 Writing & Arrangement
- 1 Featuring & Presenting
- 191 Conducting & Leading
- 1 Production
- 12 Acting, Literary & Spoken