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Marjorie Black Schuller

"I caught a glimpse of an extraordinarily beautiful girl listening very intently to the music. I'll never, never forget that moment. It was October 16, 1943, only my second week in Cincinnati. I couldn't take my eyes off her. The last work on the program was, of all pieces, Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony*, with the famous horn solo in the second movement. It is quite a long exposed passage, one that is bound to attract even the most passive listener's attention. It is preceded by seven bars of the most poignantly inviting introductory music – played by the strings – and it was during those somewhat anxious thirty seconds that I fixed my eyes on that enchanting vision up there in the balcony and played the entire solo to her. Time and again, during the rest of the symphony, I kept thinking that this young lady was somebody I absolutely had to meet."
– Gunther Schuller, A Life in Pursuit of Music and Beauty p. 115, 2011

*Listen to a rare recording of Gunther practicing this solo in 1945 using the top right audio player in the Performer section of our Selected Historical & Rare Recordings page.

Portrait of Marjorie Black (1924-1992) taken in 1945. Beloved daughter, sister, wife, mother, aunt, cousin, musician, and friend. 

"Last but certainly not least, this book is an encomium to the love of my life, my dear wife and greatest supporter (as well as my severest critic), Marjorie, who passed away nineteen years ago, and without whose support and devotion I could never have accomplished the many things I have been able to achieve."
– Gunther Schuller, Preface of A Life in Pursuit of Music and Beauty, 2011
 “It is true that everything that I’ve done, creatively, particularly … in some very deep, profound, not obvious way … was in a way for her. That’s how much I was in love.”
– Gunther Schuller, Interview from The Past is in the Present, 2014
"First of all, I really loved Margie. She was a terrific woman and an amazing amount of support for Gunther. Gunther was not the most organized person. Margie was very organized and very good and she could calm him down like nobody else could. She was a wonder. He relied on her incredibly to give him sustenance. She created a wonderful environment in that house for him. She was a terrific asset."
– David Scudder, GSS Oral History Project interview, 2017
"I do want to say a couple of words about Margie, whom I loved and who was the power behind the throne absolutely and who believed with unbelievable fidelity in the quality of her husband. And one of the things we all on the faculty learned – if you crossed Gunther, you were gonna hear about it from Margie."
– John Heiss, GSS Oral History Project interview, 2017
"I used to drive my motorcycle from Mount Greylock to Tanglewood every day, and back. I had a Volkswagen Beetle and your dad didn’t drive. And he’d say to me, 'Can I call you sometime?' Sometimes your mom could take him to Tanglewood and sometimes she couldn’t ... And he said, 'If I call you sometime, can you stop by and pick me up?' I said, 'Sure.' So I had to make sure that on those days I took the car rather than the motorcycle. Somehow, this one time I ended up with the motorcycle, and I thought your mom was gonna have a fit. I can remember (laughs) that, but she let him go and he rode. Your mom told me to always leave enough time to have breakfast so I would come and have breakfast, except for that one morning. She wanted me out of there. As time went on – I mean, your mom was a delight – and she forgave me."
– Carl Atkins, GSS Oral History Project interview, 2019

Historical Recordings of Marjorie Black accompanied by future husband Gunther Schuller (1947).

Marjorie Black, solo piano

In the 1940s, Marjorie studied piano and voice at the Cincinnati College of Music. This is the only known recording of her playing the piano.

Scriabin – Masque etrangete, op. 63
00:00 / 03:28

Marjorie Black, voice
Gunther Schuller, piano

Puccini – Vissi d'arte (from Tosca)
00:00 / 02:30
Mozart – Deh vieni, non tardar (from Marriage of Figaro)
00:00 / 03:39
Schuller – Silberrieher
00:00 / 02:12
"I never really 'played piano;' I had no talent for it, and of course never practised, probably used the wrong fingerings. But I could sightread anything that wasn't too technical and/or contrapuntal. Now I can confirm that it is me also playing the piano on 'Deh Vieni,' because I hit one or two clinkers on that one.
— Gunther Schuller, from a letter to his son, George, Dec 2000

Photo Gallery

Photo Gallery


Of Reminiscences and Reflections (1993)

In Gunther's words:

"When she died twenty-one years ago, I suddenly couldn't compose anymore. And finally, after eight months, I wrote a piece which then won the Pulitzer Prize."The Past is in the Present

"God only knows how many pieces of music we heard together; this piece has references to the ones we love best and remember together. But I defy anyone to find all of them!''Sandpoint Magazine

Marjorie Schuller, Ran Blake and Christine Correa (1994)

MBS, George Schuller (2001)

Lament for M, Gunther Schuller (1994)

MBS, George Schuller (2019)

Sophisticated Lady, as performed by the Mingus Epitaph Rhythm Section featuring Ed Schuller in tribute to Marjorie Black Schuller (1993)

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