The Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame has announced that Great Neck resident Alan C. Schwartz, who serves as music department chairman from Great Neck South Middle School, has been named as recipient of the 2023 ‘Music Educator of Note’ Award.
Since 2007, LIMEHOF has bestowed this award to recognize outstanding achievement in Long Island music education.
Understanding that education is the key to the development of musicians, LIMEHOF has long supported the work of those who encourage young people to explore their talents.
Each year, the recipient of the ‘Music Educator of Note’ Award’ is awarded to an instructor who has gone above and beyond in working with children in public, private, or regional programs.
“Schwarz is a virtuoso in the symphony of music education,” said Tom Needham, second vice chair and Educational Programs Director at LIMEHOF. “From shaping young talents at Great Neck South Middle School to his innovative ‘Friday in the Front’ program during the pandemic, Alan’s commitment to inclusion, collaboration, and musical excellence resonates like a timeless melody.”
The ‘Music Educator of Note’ Award celebrates outstanding achievement in music education on Long Island.
And Schwarz was indeed destined for a life as a teacher of music. His father was the longtime choral director at Jamaica High School and his mother directed the choral programs for a number of elementary and junior high schools in the New York City system.
Additionally, both of his parents held leadership positions in the All-City Chorus and Bronx-Borough Chorus. The ‘music education business’ naturally found its way to Alan as well.
Schwarz’s contributions to music education began in the 1990s, when he was called upon to return to his alma mater, Great Neck South, to take the position of teaching assistant to the Great Neck South Middle School Music Department.
Shortly thereafter, Schwarz was hired as one of the school’s full-time band and orchestra directors, and later served as the department’s chairperson—a position he has held since 2000.
Additionally, he has served repeatedly as guest conductor for Suffolk County Music Educators’ Association as well as for other honor bands and orchestras throughout Long Island.
As an accomplished pianist/accompanist, composer/arranger, improvisational actor, former principal French hornist, former All Eastern and All State Chorus member, Schwarz has attempted to blend all of these strengths into a uniquely broad and complete music education for his students.
While he currently teaches band and orchestra, he has also served as the vocal music director and pianist for the school’s musical productions for over three decades. In the early 2000s, Schwarz began a chamber music society, where small ensembles are sent each year to the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Young Ensemble Program.
In 2008, Schwarz initiated a ‘busking’ pops program called ‘Friday in the Front.’ Every Friday morning, as students enter the building, a different student performer(s) hosts a casual and informal ‘Penn Station-style‘ presentation as hundreds of students and adults pass by.
The musical selection could be classical, jazz, rock, ethnic, instrumental, vocal or dance—all directed by the student performers themselves. At the time of this writing, there have been nearly 700 of these informal concerts, hosted by nearly 1,000 student musicians and dancers.
Even during the pandemic, not a single Friday was missed, thanks to Schwarz having created a YouTube channel for the music department. In 66 weeks, there were 62 different student-made videos that were edited and posted to this channel.
The overwhelming goal for Alan is to foster a sense of inclusion and cooperation in his ensembles. In today’s world, where division can be spread so rapidly through social media, Schwarz feels it is of vital importance to teach conflict mediation, trust, and collaboration. Band, orchestra, and chorus offer the best concrete examples of these three positive practices.
Schwarz teaches the improvisational actor’s credo of, “Yes…and.” This credo emphasizes the following dynamic: If students concentrate on blending their sounds with what their neighbors are producing—and trusts that their neighbors will do the same for them—this collaborative approach will translate into greater productivity and contentment in whichever career they eventually choose.
Schwarz’s success would not be possible without his incredible colleagues in the Great Neck South Middle School Music Department. These are people who are filled with an abundance of warmth, talent, and humanity. Each of them absolutely subscribes to the “Yes…and” credo. Alan gratefully shares this honor equally with them.
Schwarz dedicates this award with love to his beautiful wife of 26 years, Linda, and their sons, Mitchell and Steven. Lastly, Schwarz is overwhelmingly grateful to his mother and father for instilling in him the love of music and—even more than that—the love of teaching.
Visit LIMEHOF’s ‘Educator of Note’ page for more information about this honor.