Pianist and conductor William Schatzkamer, professor emeritus of music in Arts & Sciences, died Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, of congestive heart failure at his home in Olivette. He was 96.
Born in New York in 1916, Schatzkamer received his musical training at The Juilliard School. From 1934-1940, he was a fellowship student in piano under Alexander Siloti, a teacher of Sergei Rachmaninoff who had himself studied with Franz Liszt.
In 1941, Schatzkamer was chosen from among 60 pianists to perform George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue at New York’s Lewisohn Stadium with a National Youth Administration Orchestra. Over the next several years, he played regular engagements with the Cleveland and other major American orchestras.
From 1940-46, Schatzkamer toured as guest piano solo artist with singer and actor Paul Robeson and his accompanist Laurence Brown. (These travels have been memorialized in Travels with Paul, a series of soon-to-be-published stories.) Beginning in 1948, he spent three years touring the United States, Canada and Mexico as a recitalist, under the direction of Columbia Artists Management, and signed a contract with RCA Victor.
In 1951, Schatzkamer joined WUSTL’s Department of Music, where he would teach for 36 years. During that time, he also served as conductor of the Washington University Orchestra, and of the Aristeia Ensemble, the Northwest Plaza Orchestra, the Belleville Philharmonic Orchestra and the University City Symphony.
Schatzkamer made his debut with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in 1956. He presented the first performance in St. Louis of Alexei Haieff’s Piano Concerto, with Aaron Copland conducting, during the 1959 season. He also presented, between 1958-59, a series of 40 half-hour television programs, titled Musical Mosaic, on KMOX-TV (now KMOV).
Schatzkamer was the founding conductor and musical director of the Gateway Festival Orchestra of St. Louis, which continues to present an annual series of summer concerts. Since 1970, those concerts have been held in WUSTL’s Brookings Quadrangle.
Schatzkamer is survived by four daughters Laura Schatzkamer, Nina Miller (Steve), Kyriena Schatzkamer and Helena Bunnow (Jeremy); one son, Mark Schatzkamer (Robin); grandchildren Maria Goldsmith (Bob); Benjamin Schatzkamer Scott; Dylan and Shiloh Schatzkamer; Alexander, Andrew and Austin Miller; and Asher, Auden and Archer Bunnow; and great-grandchildren Michael and Daniel Goldsmith.
He was preceded in death by his son, William Lawrence Schatzkamer. He was married to the late Mary Bray Schatzkamer and the late Laurel Esther Schatzkamer.
A memorial service will begin at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, in Graham Chapel.
For more information, contact the Department of Music at (314) 935-5566.