I saw Jeannie Schulz at this morning’s Sunrise Choral Concert at Weill Hall and grabbed her for a quick chat about Sonoma State University’s new art collection for the Green Music Center. Schulz, widow of Peanuts cartoonist Charles “Sparky” Schulz and President of the Board of Directors at the Charles M. Schulz Museum, purchased the late Penngrove sculptor Robert Ellison’s “Bar Note Bench” after seeing it displayed at Walter Byck’s Paradise Ridge Winery and donated it to the university several years ago. It was the second piece the university acquired for the collection and is currently installed in front of the Green Music Education building. Schulz is a long-time supporter of Sonoma State University, and donated $5 million toward the construction of Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center, naming the hall after her late husband’s beloved Peanuts piano-playing character, Schroeder.
On the way to photograph her in front of “Bar Note Bench,” she told me that she was “touched and very surprised” when she glanced at the program for this morning’s choral concert and saw that the song “Love Is our Lot,” sung by soprano Carol Menke, had been dedicated to her. She said that when she was watching Santa Rosa Children’s Chorus on stage, when she sees any group of children, she always looks at all their faces and expressions and tries to find the child that is her. “I always look for myself—for the kid that I was, what I looked like and acted like— and I think about what lies ahead, what will happen. I do that all the time. When I ask other people if they do that, they say ‘no’ and that surprises me.”
And, of course, the piece of art, that she purchased from Dr. Walter Byck —a steel bench that evokes 4 upward pointing sixteenth notes joined by a double beam—evokes memories of Schroeder, playing Beethoven on his tiny toy piano.
“I saw Bob Ellison’s bench up at Paradise Ridge after I’d given the gift, so I knew the hall was going to be Schroeder Hall,” said Schulz. “I thought it was really clever, whimsical, and also a little cartoonish and I wanted it. I thought, if they don’t like it, I’ll keep it for the museum. I asked Don (Green) to go up and see it, because I wanted to make sure it pleased him, and he liked it too. Years passed and I kept writing to Walter and telling him not to lose track of that bench and I held on to that receipt.”
“It’s really exciting that they have finally achieved this,” said Schulz. “Maybe that’s the good part of it all taking so long to come together. People had chance to really think about what they wanted and to express more of their dreams about what might happen here than if it had all gone as planned. People usually say ‘I wish I’d thought of that.’ They’ve had time.”
Schulz envisions that if, the circumstances were correct with security and light exposure, that her Charles M. Schulz Museum would also collaborate with the GMC and lend works for temporary display in its new mezzanine exhibition area, like the Sonoma County Museum has done with the 10 Christo collages from its prestigious Tom Golden Collection.
What’s it like to sit on that bench? “This steel is really pretty cold,” remarked Jeannie.
No worries, the sun will come out.
Speaking of seats, where is Jean Schultz sitting in Weill Hall? “I was sitting in the (parterre) box with the Weills this morning but I selected a permanent seat in the balcony. I like that view. I didn’t particularly want to sit down low in front. I never have.”
ARThound is publishing a feature on the art collection this coming week, so stay tuned.
Snoopy and Friends Go to the Orchestra: The Peanuts Gang found their way from the comics page to Carnegie Hall and you can hear them next Sunday, October 7, 2012, at the debut concert of the Green Music Center’s new family series. Richard Loheyde conducts with Kymry Esainko on piano while Marcy Smothers narrates. Musical sketches from Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s Peanuts Gallery for Piano and Orchestra such as “Snoopy Does the Samba,” “Charlie Brown’s Lament,” and “Lucy Freaks Out” will capture each character in turn. The spotlight focuses on superheroes with John Williams’ Superman March and movie music from Spiderman and Batman: The Dark Knight. Also on the program, a medley of familiar Looney Tunes cartoon music, which inspires Bugs Bunny to say “What Up at the Symphony?”
Pre-concert fun starts one hour before each concert. Come early and visit the GMC’s Instrument Petting Zoo. Sunday, October 14, 3:00 pm at Weill Hall. Tickets: $39 adults; $24 youth