In His Quest to Make Composing Music More Approachable, Andrew Schneider Scores with New Record Release

In His Quest to Make Composing Music More Approachable, Andrew Schneider Scores with New Record Release

IT WAS SOME time last year when Houston pianist and composer Andrew Schneider found himself on a 5am Zoom call to Prague, listening to four extremely talented musicians (flute, oboe, clarinet, cello) recording two of his compositions inside a chapel for a then-forthcoming digital album release. “I was feeling like, ‘How does somebody like me who has so little profile get to work with those awesome people?’” says Schneider, who is considered to be pretty awesome himself by many in Houston’s classical-music community.

Those two compositions — “Les Exubérants” for clarinet and oboe and “Les Enchanteresses Dansantes” for the unusual combination of flute, clarinet and cello — are featured on PINNACLE VOL. 3, a new compilation of chamber music on Navona Records by Schneider and three other composers, Alla Elana Cohen, Dušan Bavdek, and Richard E. Brown. Now a Navona artist, he’s in good company; the independent label has released recordings by Houston artists Axiom Quartet and Duo Dramatique featuring compositions by local composers Karl Blench, Arthur Gottschalk and Erberk Eryilmaz.

Born in Houston, music came into Schneider’s life at age five. He started music lessons at age seven, and in addition to picking out melodies on a keyboard at home, he began listening to classical music while following scores. “I was always so excited whenever I looked at something interesting in a score and the recording would kind of validate what I had been hearing in my mind,” says Schneider, 32. Reading books in the school library about composers such as Mozart who also started young was inspiring. “I was like, well, why don’t I start doing that?” says Schneider.

The evocative French titles to Schneider’s two works on PINNACLE VOL. 3, which perfectly match the sound and spirit of the music, came to him after each piece had been written. “These pieces were written abstractly,” explains Schneider. “I just like coming up with enigmatic titles a la François Couperin.”

The trio came from a request for Schneider to compose a set of dances. If while listening to the piece you visualize a corresponding trio of dancers moving to the music, that’s just fine with him. “Seeing dancers is a good sign,” says Schneider, “and in some ways may be inevitable!” The piece is cyclical, in that the music throughout is developed organically from the same cells of melodic material. “I like to develop melodies from the inside outwards,” says Schneider. “You only need a little bit of a link with the previous section in order to make such a connection apparent, a particular interval that is easily recognizable.”

Schneider’s upcoming projects include accompanying violinist Dominika Dancewicz at Hobby Airport as part of its “Harmony in the Air” programming, and a gig as the rehearsal pianist for Opera in the Heights’s spring production of Verdi’s Rigoletto. On Mar. 23, the Texas New Music Ensemble will perform "Les Exubérants" as part of their spring concert at Archway Gallery. In conversation and in his role as a coach, Schneider is pleased to help demystify the art of composition, a craft that he found so compelling at such a young age. “I delight in making it a lot more approachable,” says Schneider, “and giving people some insight into what this process is.”

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