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Sol Schwartz

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Sol Schwartz Obituary
Schwartz, Sol
Dec. 25, 2015
Sol Schwartz of Sarasota, Florida passed away on December 25, 2015 at the age of 84. Sol was a gifted and prolific artist, the founder of the nationally acclaimed Options college counseling program, a talented musician, a dedicated art teacher and guidance counselor at Sheepshead Bay High School.
Sol was the de facto 'artist in residence' at Tanglewood Music Center in the Berkshires where he created the iconic graphic of Seiji Ozawa now immortalized on Tanglewood's poster. His work has been exhibited at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA, at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, numerous galleries, and is to be featured in an upcoming show at Wigmore Hall, London. A selection of his art can be viewed at www.solschwartz.com.
The son of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, Sol grew up on Manhattan's Lower East Side. As a child, he lugged wet wash up tenements to his father's laundry's customers. Sol started drawing at 5. He entered NYC's High School of Music and Art. By 16 Sol had joined the NY Mandolin Symphony Orchestra. At 35 he studied cello and played in a quartet, and at 60 learned jazz piano. He studied art at Brooklyn College with NY School artists Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhardt, Alfred Russell, and Robert Jay Wolff.
Following his graduation in 1952, he taught art and, after receiving a Master's degree in Counseling, served as a guidance counselor at Sheepshead Bay High School.
Frustrated by the limited college and financial aid resources available to his students, Schwartz created a program to help the students explore options, navigate applications and obtain aid. Without assistance from the public school administration, Schwartz designed the Options program, obtained mainframe computer access, and researched college and aid data nationwide. He integrated a culture of participation and giving back: seniors worked and assisted the younger students in the Options office. It was the first of its kind in the country.
After Options was instituted, students gained entrance to elite universities, graduated without debilitating debt, and achieved significant careers in the arts, investment banking, teaching, medicine and public health.
Sol's Options program relocated to NYC's Goddard Riverside in 1985 where Sol built it into the gold standard college access program that today is a key partner to Michelle Obama's Reach Higher Initiative. The program remains as Sol intended it: non-profit, free of charge, available to all, providing the finest level of college and financial aid counseling services, all delivered free with one proviso, that Options recipients give back to others when they can.
After retiring from the school system, Sol returned to his first love: drawing. Combining his love of art with his love of music, theatre and dance, Sol began bringing a sketchbook to performances. Through the years he has sketched Andre Previn, Itzhak Perlman, Emanual Ax, Seiji Ozawa, Yo-Yo Ma, James Levine, Kurt Mazur, Katherine Dunham, Savion Glover, Mark Morris, the Juilliard and Emerson string quartets and others in performance.
Sol said he drew during performances to convey 'the spirit of the concert... that ineffable nature of a great performance.' His art is published in the 'Drawing Music' series and other books, all of artists drawn in performance. Sol's work is in many of the performers' homes. His art often includes a written comment from performers, such as cellist Sharon Robinson, who wrote 'Sol, thank you for capturing my soul.' The unique nature of Sol's art - artists captured in performance - is reflected in the dual introductions to his first book, Drawing Music: The Tanglewood Sketchbooks, with one introduction by Joel Smirnoff, the Juilliard String Quartet's first violinist, who wrote 'Schwartz has captured the unique stage and musical personality of each performer. And the sound of music permeates the atmosphere of each portrait...As performers, we as artists are ever grateful that Sol Schwartz has helped our expression linger in the air yet a moment longer. We celebrate him for his work and for his musicality,' and the other introduction by art critic Colin Eisler, who wrote 'Sol's lyrical lines pay homage to the musician...retracing the mysterious union of individual, instrument and passion...(his) pages let us share the collective joy of hearing and seeing music made, we the beneficiaries of his arresting lines in all their ecstatic freedom and harmony.'
Sol was dedicated to helping people experience the joy of learning. He was a donor to many organizations, including Shakespeare & Company, Children's Book Project, Theater for a New Audience, Kids4Harmony, Norman Rockwell Museum, Tanglewood, Jacob's Pillow, Ringling School of Art and Design, the Guitar Society, Asolo State Theater, La Musica, Perlman Music Program and the Florida Studio Theater. He also quietly helped many others when he saw an opportunity. The force of his interest in people and life, and his determination to help others was palpable.
Sol was a loving husband to his first wife Lillian, a devoted father to Risa and David, and a delighted grandfather to John Cortner. After Lillian's death in 1999, Sol married Elayne P. Bernstein, who shared his passion for the arts and generosity, introducing him to Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA where he served as a trustee. In addition to his immediate family, Sol is survived by several cousins and countless friends who will deeply miss him.
Private memorial services will be held in Sarasota, FL on February 13 at 2 PM and in Lenox, MA during the summer of 2016. Condolences may be sent to the family at P.O. Box 73, Lenox, MA 01240. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Sol's honor to the Children's Book Project (www.childrensbookproject.org, 3433 21st Street, SF, CA 94110), Shakespeare & Company (www.shakespeare.org, 70 Kemble Street, Lenox, MA 01240) and Kids4Harmony (www.berkshirechildren.org, 480 West Street, Pittsfield, MA 01201).

Published in Herald Tribune from Jan. 31 to Feb. 1, 2016
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