Alexander J. Schwarzkopf





Alexander J. Schwarzkopf was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Alexander was a finalist at the Silvio Bengalli International Piano Competition in Pianello, Italy. As a composer, Alexander received the award Composer of the Year in 2017 from the Oregon Music Teachers Association and composed “PSi: A Concerto for Piano and Six Instruments,” to fulfill the commission. Alexander has been Visiting Artist on the Piano Faculty at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, faculty at the Klavierfestival-Lindlar and DTKV "Musik Aktiv" festivals in Heek-Nienborg and Münster, Germany. Alexander’s incisive recording of Falko Steinbach’s “Figures: 17 Choreographic Etudes” on the Centaur Records label can be found on Amazon and other social media outlets. An avid teacher, Alexander’s current and former students have been prize winners at national piano competitions and participants in distinguished masterclasses as well as prizes and scholarships for university studies. As a performer, teacher and visual artist, Alexander’s research explores the intersection of visual artwork and the pathway to a more acute perception of sound through translation of musical figures and contours into shapes and colors. As a guest on the Barn Owl Series at the Kesey Ranch in Pleasant Hill, OR, Alexander had the opportunity to carry on the tradition of storytelling that was practiced by his late mother, actress and puppeteer Suzette Olga Schwarzkopf. Alexander holds the degree Doctor of Musical Arts in Piano Performance from the University of Oregon, and currently lives and conducts his private teaching studio in Eugene, Oregon. For more information on Alexander, please visit his website



What does music mean to you personally?

Music makes you move, music makes you dance! Music helps to coordinate the physical body, the conscious and sub-conscious mind. The complexity of resonant frequencies, the transference of energy through the body and through an instrument into sound forges a path to a multitude of therapeutic properties of music.

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

We need fantasy and imagination to find the sound and manner of expression. However, music is organized sound in time, so even fantasy necessitates parameters to achieve the requisite freedom of expression.

If you were not a professional musician, what would you have been?

I have a passion for creating visual art, endurance trail running (focusing on 100 miles and further) as well as nurturing plants, landscaping, tree-planting and gardening. Perhaps I would be a trail-running arborist, botanist or an ecologist!

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about the future?

Change is the only constant. In a continuum, I see this as the organic progression of things. Yes, the audience is aging, the next generation is and will be standing in line ready to act on their values, directing funding toward aspects of the arts they deem more relevant and critical. Being in the NOW is really the only way I can see this progression positively.

What do you envision the role of music to be in the 21st century? Do you see that there is a transformation of this role?

Music will remain in much the same disposition as it has, no matter how it is presented: it is therapeutic for our minds and allows us to feel emotions and the sensory experience that is our existence.

Do you think that the musician today needs to be more creative?

Yes, versatility in approach and adaptability to audiences and learning techniques/styles is imperative for success on today’s scene. Sharing the intimate process of my practice through producing short process videos from my studio, as well as posting footage from concert performances, is one way I have found to remain seen on today’s scene.

What is the role of creativity in the musical process for you?

It is a daily process of opening my mind, like yoga and meditation, to the vast possibilities of discovery through investigation of the linguistic element and of communication through art and music as a pathway for expression.

Do you think we as musicians can do something to attract the younger generation to music concerts? How would you do it?

We need to tap into a much wider reach for our work by integrating the full range of sensory experience. Through the effort to increase funding for experimental and new music collectives of players and expanding audience perception of what are acceptable venues for performances, focusing on inclusivity of all musical styles, cultures and ethnicities- is paramount to forging a future for new art and music. Diversity of programming and inclusivity on the main stage has always been problematic. We need media, publicity and visionary promoters who are, essentially, influencers for concert-goers. If they don’t hire it and promote it, all risk in the wind, audiences cannot hope to experience the artistic exploration and innovation that is happening everywhere.

Tell us about your creative process. What is your favorite piece (written by you) and how did you start working on it?

The creative process is a sacred space, one of vulnerability and honesty. In 2022, I was asked to compose a piece for the Makrokosmos Project Festival, where I have been a featured guest performer and composer since its inception. The piece was to be composed in honor of George Crumb. The title of the piece is Synergy. I focused on Crumb’s innovative ideas for every piece he wrote, a well of imaginative creativity. That lead me to creating a visual score for Part 1 and a wild creation for Part 2: I translated Lewis Carroll’s poem Jabberwocky into music by superimposing the qwerty (typing) keyboard over a 2-octave span of the piano keyboard and assigning a tone for every letter and sign. It produced a rhapsodic fantasy of a piece perfectly suited for the title “tone poem.”

Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?

I would say it is imperative to understand the origins of the art, but ultimately it is most important to find what you love in it. There is so much variety, especially today, with composers all over the globe creating music representing their world. This is how we remain investigative journalists and translators, as well as trained concert performers and interpreters. Seek out the music that moves you, attend live musical and artistic events. Feel the energy. As humans, we connect through sharing these more intimate moments in existence.

Do you think about the audience when composing?

I always address the question of the “who and where” of the audience question much later in the creative process. It is usually something closer affiliated with the editing and refining that begins after the free-writing and exploratory phases. But knowing the general audience, for instance if you’re writing for younger or more mature audiences, can be very helpful. I am always striving to embody youthful curiosity and exploration in my musical works and written essays alike, so I write as though I could present the work for the most mature audience while also including the lightness that would make it enjoyable to a younger child.

What projects are coming up?

Currently I am in the final preparation stage for recording sessions that will begin at the end of May in Boulder, CO. This first session will include my compositions titled Liquid Piano (2017), 18 Variations and a Coda on the Theme Frère Jacques (2019) and Synergy (2022). I have performed premieres of each of these works, with numerous performances along the way, so this is a real trial stage of my own artistry as performer, composer and interpreter. This process focuses on the performer in me more than the creator.

Do you experiment in your projects?

Yes. Please refer to the above description of my compositional approach for Synergy. In my cycle of pieces, 27 Pandemic Preludes, I also experimented with composing new ideas in older forms and genres.

For instance, “Smoke,” from 27 Pandemic Preludes (2020), is a composition reflecting on the mixture of sound that occurs as the tones coalesce in space, imitating the rising of smoke from a fire. The rhythms and contours of the lines reference the shape of the smoke, curling and shape-shifting as it rises into the air. This piece features a multi-layered, polytonal harmonic language, reflecting the fire, the pockets of hot air that build up pressure and the resulting smoke.