Ryan Case and Kevan Spencer have experienced a life milestone they say they will never forget. Both are Music majors specializing in Piano at OCC who dream of being concert pianists. They are attending the College tuition-free thanks to scholarships funded by world-renowned concert pianist Frederick Marvin and his husband, Ernst Schuh. On September 9, Marvin and Schuh came to the College’s Recital Hall and listened as Case and Spencer took turns playing for them. They did so on a Hamburg Steinway model B, a mid-sized grand piano worth more than $40,000 that Marvin and Schuh donated to the College in July. “It’s a beautiful instrument. I was so excited to play for such a legend,” said Spencer. “Knowing the history of all he’s accomplished, that he’s one of the great pianists is just amazing. I will always remember this day,” said Case.
Case (Dolgeville H.S.) and Spencer (West Genesee H.S.) are the first in a long line of students who will benefit from Marvin and Schuh whose commitment to OCC began a few years ago when they heard the College was building a new home for its music majors. “I thought this would be an ideal place for my whole microfilm collection,” said Marvin. “I donated 190 rolls.” He also gave the College all of his printed music by Franz Liszt as well as a number of books related to Liszt, a Hungarian composer, virtuoso pianist, conductor and teacher who was well-known in Europe in the early nineteenth century.
Shortly after the new building, named “Academic II,” opened in the fall of 2013, Marvin and Schuh gave $25,000 to the OCC Foundation with the request that the money be used for scholarships for Music majors specializing in piano. “Scholarships worked very well for me when I was a student,” said Marvin. “I know they’ll work well for these students. It’s important to be able to help others.”
Music has always been at the center of Marvin and Schuh’s lives. In fact, it’s what brought them together more than 50 years ago in Austria. In 1959, Marvin was a concert pianist touring the world and Schuh was an opera critic. They happened to be visiting the grave of composer Anton Bruckner in the Abbey of St. Florian at the same time. “We started talking immediately about music, concerts and opera,” said Schuh. “It brought us together.”
Schuh took over managing Marvin’s career, a career that started in 1936 with his debut concert in Los Angeles at age 16. Two years later his concert at Carnegie Hall was voted its best performance of the year. Suddenly Marvin was in demand, touring the United States and Europe. When Marvin and Schuh’s paths finally crossed they decided to make Vienna their home base while they toured the world.
Marvin’s abilities as a concert pianist earned him awards in several nations. While receiving a medal from the Spanish government he met Salvador Dali, one of the most celebrated artists of all time. Dali invited Marvin and Schuh into his home. “He was very genial and very warm,” said Marvin. “It was a very interesting experience. I had been an admirer of his for years.”
Marvin and Schuh never hid the fact they were a couple and always hoped the day would come when same-sex unions would become legal. When laws changed they were married in 2011 in both Austria and in the United States. Mayor Stephanie Miner performed the service at Syracuse City Hall in October of that year.
Now Marvin is 95 years old and Schuh is 93. They are departing Central New York for Austria. As they leave they are proud to give the gift of music to students at OCC. “We hope our gifts will help revive culture in the community,” said Marvin. “We want to make music and culture more popular so other people will want to do the same,” added Schuh.
By the way, Marvin is still an excellent pianist. On a recent trip to his home he played the beginning of Antonio Soler’s “Fandango” for us.
OCC Music Professor Kevin Moore specializes in teaching piano. He’s known Marvin and Schuh since he began working at the College in 1975. “Fred and Ernst’s generosity to Onondaga Community College’s Music Department has been and will be a wonderful way to help out our young piano students. I know that they appreciate this a great deal. Fred’s piano is a magnificent gift that will benefit the entire community every time we have a concert, which we plan to do often.”