Skip to main content

K. Robert Schwarz Papers

Identifier: SCA-0080

Scope and Contents

The K. Robert Schwarz papers are composed of correspondence, academic research, musical criticism, sound recordings, musical scores, brochures, press kits, notebooks, interview transcripts, magazines, autographs, newspaper clippings, and photographs documenting Schwarz’s academic and professional career. The records provide insight into Schwarz’s research style and musical tastes as well as the personal relationship he kept with many of his interviewees and research subjects.


  • 1984-1999



Collection is open for research. Staff may restrict access at its discretion on the basis of physical condition. Cassettes have been digitized and digital copies may be shared upon request (email for more information).


The K. Robert Schwarz Papers are physically owned by the Queens College Libraries. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assignees. The collection is subject to all copyright laws. Queens College assumes no responsibility for the infringement of copyrights held by the original authors, creators, or producers of materials.

Biographical Note

K. Robert Schwarz was born in Manhattan, New York on December 17, 1957 to Patricia and Boris Schwarz. His father Boris was a violinist and professor emeritus at the Queens College Music Department. Patricia Schwarz was a graduate of the Julliard School and worked as the Arts Coordinator for the America-Israel Cultural Foundation.

K. Robert Schwarz played the violin in his youth, and played with the Israel Chamber Music Program in Jerusalem in 1973. He attended Queens College for Music, earning a magna cum laude Bachelor of Arts from Queens College in 1979. He received multiple awards at Queens College, including the Karol Rathaus Memorial Award, the Arthur and Lisa Machlis Memorial Prize, and departmental honors. He continued his studies at Indiana University, earning a graduate degree in music with high distinction in 1982. He then worked as a research assistant at Brooklyn College’s Institute for Studies in American Music, where he also taught courses.

Schwarz continued his education at the City University of New York Graduate Center, where he was a candidate for a PhD in music. A particular subject of academic interest was gay composers and the relationship between sexuality and music. During this time, Schwarz worked as a freelance writer, primarily for the New York Times, though also writing for several magazines such as Out, Pulse!, Classical Pulse, and Stereo Review. He interviewed and researched hundreds of musical artists for these articles--much of his research is present in this collection. He also authored more than 100 program notes for Stage Bill.

Schwarz completed his graduate thesis on the work of Steve Reich. His detailed and thorough research is included in his papers, including correspondence with Reich. Schwarz’s doctoral dissertation focused on Paul Bowles, a world-renowned musical composer and literary writer. Schwarz traveled to Morocco to visit the elderly Bowles in the early 1990s, spending weeks interviewing him. The resulting recordings are part of this collection. The Paul Bowles dissertation was not completed before Schwarz’s death.

In his later years, Schwarz continued his academic research on minimalism, a classical music form. He compiled his research into a book entitled Minimalists, which was published by Phaidon in July 1996. Minimalists focuses on the genre’s beginnings, major exponents, and the well-known minimalist composers Steve Reich and Philip Glass.

Schwarz died of AIDS in 1999 at the age of 42, shortly after publishing an article on gay composers in The Advocate. Colleague Carol Oja wrote of Schwarz, “a percolating wit, generous heart, and razor sharp intellect... Rob was a dear soul with a big heart and strong social conscience. He had a great sense of humor as well. He was passionate about music--all kinds of it--and music was really the core of his life.”


36 Linear Feet (55 boxes)

Language of Materials



K. Robert Schwarz was a classical music critic and scholar who graduated from Queens College in 1979. He wrote for the New York Times, Out, Pulse!, and Stereo Review Magazine. His papers contain academic research files, music criticism research, subject files on various artists, printed materials, program notes, and publications written by Schwarz. Also included is in-depth research on Steve Reich and Paul Bowles, the subjects of Schwarz’s thesis and dissertation respectively. Schwarz also published a book about 20th-century composers entitled Minimalists. His final research on this project is present in the collection.


The K. Robert Schwarz Papers is organized in seven series:

Series I. Academic Research

Series II. Music Criticism

Series III. Schwarz Publications in Print

Series IV. Subject Files

Series V. Printed Material

Series VI. Personal Documents

Series VII. Interviews


Donated by the Schwarz family in 2000.

Special Formats

Magnetic tape audio cassettes, photographs.

K. Robert Schwarz Papers
Processed by Kathryn Hughes, Fall 2009, re-processed by Alexandra Dolan-Mescal, Spring 2014. Machine readable finding aid created by Dan Brenner, Spring 2014.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Queens College (New York, N.Y.) Special Collections and Archives Repository

Queens College Library, CUNY
Benjamin Rosenthal Library RO317
65-30 Kissena Boulevard
Flushing 11367 USA us