In October 2009, Hal Schaefer was nominated for the nation’s most prestigious jazz award, the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Fellowship. His nomination in the “pianist” category was submitted by singing great Michael Feinstein, with supporting letters from Hollywood legend Jane Russell and renowned jazz educator Herb Wong.
- Click below to read the NEA nominating letters.
Schaefer’s career has spanned 70 years and 18 albums to date in addition to his Hollywood and Broadway music created for stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Mitzi Gaynor, Susan Hayward, Betty Grable and Judy Garland. He was vocal coach for many of those same performers, including Monroe, Russell and Gaynor as well as for a young Barbra Streisand. And Schaefer has worked with directors and producers such as Howard Hawks, George Cukor, Walter Lang, Hal Prince and Otto Preminger.
- Click here to watch a brief video compilation of Schaefer’s Hollywood work.
Schaefer was a longtime protégé of jazz legend Duke Ellington, who routinely introduced his young performer with the words, “Now you’re going to hear a real piano player!” At 18, he was the pianist for jazz great Benny Carter in a group with such other renowned jazz artists as Max Roach and J.J. Johnson. Later he joined big bands fronted by Harry James and Boyd Raeburn. Schaefer continues to record and play live jazz piano concerts. As Michael Feinstein said in his letter to the National Endowment for the Arts, “Mr. Schaefer now is 84-years-old and still performing faster and better than most young jazz piano phenoms.”
- Click here for a sample of Schaefer’s piano playing.
Schaefer’s recording career includes albums for labels such as RCA Victor, Summit, Discovery and United Artists. He received co-billing with Benny Carter on the album “Can-Can and Anything Goes” – both musicians performing on all tracks and taking turns arranging the tunes. This album recently was remastered and re-released by Capitol Records on CD. Schaefer also led his own bands and orchestras, with Phil Woods, Milt Hinton and Alvin Stoller among the jazz greats playing for him.
- Click here for a sample of Schaefer’s arrangements and orchestrations.
Schaefer often has composed and arranged jazz using instruments considered unconventional for this genre, including harpsichord, oboe, bassoon, timpani, alto sax trio, trombone choir and more. He wrote commissioned music for the United Nations’ 10th Anniversary in 1955, a gala event where Eleanor Roosevelt spoke, Burl Ives sang and Michael Redgrave narrated. He continues to compose music at his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
- Click here for a sample of Schaefer’s compositions.