OSWEGO — A new CD features the music of a family of composers: SUNY Oswego music faculty member Eric Schmitz, his father and his brother.
Ravello Records recently published “ACE Composers: 21st Century Chamber Music by Alan, Christopher & Eric Schmitz,” a collection linked by both bloodline and connections to popular genres.
Eric Schmitz — whose father Alan is a professor at the University of Northern Iowa School of Music and brother Christopher is on the faculty of Mercer University’s Townsend School of Music — said listeners should not expect a great deal of obvious similarity among the works on “ACE (for Alan, Christopher and Eric) Composers.”
“We created our individual pieces, and we all have pretty different approaches and influences,” he said. “But we were able to agree on a family-focused vision for it. What ties the project together is we decided that this would be chamber music — smaller groups and no large ensembles.”
Yet, Schmitz acknowledged, there’s something deep and intangible going on.
Schmitz grew up as part of a music-filled house: Suzuki violin as a toddler, early attendance at college recitals, music students of his own in his early teens, a doctorate in musical arts, a career on the music faculty at Oswego and now the new CD.
Music motivates the entire Schmitz family: His mother has taught piano and flute for years, his younger brother Lee is a professional pianist in Cleveland and his sister, Emily, plays violin professionally in Texas.
“One interesting thing for me is that I know I’ve been influenced by my dad’s composition, even though I can’t recall ever talking with him about it (as a boy),” Schmitz said. “The project is emotional for all of us, because it’s interesting, I think, to hear the results of all this family atmosphere — what happens when you live together and experience music.”
Eric Schmitz, longtime percussionist for the music faculty’s Oswego Jazz Project, said his three pieces for the album — “Reflections,” “Trio” and “Big Changes Ahead” — carry with them his love of jazz. They also utilize the talents of diverse musicians.
“The pieces I have on this project don’t belong in a typical jazz context, because of their instrumentation,” he said.
Musicians performing in “Trio” are fellow University of Rochester Eastman School of Music alumnus Brian Shaw on flugelhorn and current Eastman students Andrew Blanke on English horn and Hyugrai Kim on cello.
On Schmitz’s “Big Changes Ahead,” noted trombonist Michael Davis — who has appeared for the college’s Ke-Nekt Chamber Music Series — plays all four trombone parts, overdubbed.
“Reflections” features the work of Eastman jazz professors Charles Pillow on English horn, Bob Sneider on electric guitar, bassist Jeff Campbell and drummer Rich Thompson.
Alan Schmitz offers “Brass Trio,” “Hexachord Fantasy” and “Tango Fantasy” on the new CD, while Christopher composed “Five Miniatures,” “Rhapsody for Violin and Piano” and “The Playful Lark.”
“We talked about performing together, but we’re all in different states and the distances are great,” Eric Schmitz said. “For years, we said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could make a CD happen?’ My dad has a couple of CDs from this (Ravello) label. They thought this would be an interesting situation. They’ve been very supportive of this project.”
While the CD is available through Amazon and other music retailers, it also is available for streaming on the Naxos subscription service for classical music.
“That’s a thrill, because it’s distributed through educational institutions throughout the world,” Schmitz said.