Stephen Schwartz was born in New York City on March 6, 1948. He studied piano and composition at the Juilliard School of Music while in high school and graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 1968 with a B.F.A. in Drama. Upon coming back to live in New York City, he went to work as an A&R producer for RCA Records, but shortly thereafter began to work in the Broadway theatre. His first major credit was the title song for the play BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE; the song was eventually used in the movie version as well.
In 1971, he wrote the music and new lyrics for GODSPELL, for which he won two Grammys among other awards. This was followed by the English texts, in collaboration with Leonard Bernstein, for Bernstein’s MASS, which opened the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. The following year, he wrote the music and lyrics for PIPPIN, and two years later, THE MAGIC SHOW. At one point, GODSPELL, PIPPIN and THE MAGIC SHOW were all running on Broadway simultaneously.
He next wrote the music and lyrics for THE BAKER’S WIFE, followed by a musical version of Studs Terkel’s WORKING, to which he contributed four songs and which he also adapted and directed, winning a Drama Desk Award as best director. He also co-directed the television production, which was presented as part of the PBS “American Playhouse” series.
Other work for the musical theatre includes lyrics to RAGS (music by Charles Strouse), music and lyrics for CHILDREN OF EDEN, and two musicals produced overseas, MIT EVENTYR (MY FAIRY TALE) in Denmark and SCHIKANEDER in Austria. He has also written songs for two musicals for young audiences, CAPTAIN LOUIE and MY SON, PINOCCHIO. Compilation revues of his work include SNAPSHOTS and, for Princess Cruise Lines, MAGIC TO DO.
For film, he collaborated with composer Alan Menken on the songs for Disney’s POCAHONTAS, for which he received two Academy Awards and another Grammy, THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, and ENCHANTED. He also provided songs for DreamWorks’ first animated feature, THE PRINCE OF EGYPT, for which he won another Academy Award for the song “When You Believe.” THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME and THE PRINCE OF EGYPT have both been adapted for the stage.
Mr. Schwartz’s most recent stage musical, WICKED, opened in the fall of 2003 and is currently running on Broadway and in several other productions around the world. He received another Grammy for the cast recording, and in 2008, WICKED reached its 1900th performance on Broadway, making Mr. Schwartz the only songwriter in Broadway history ever to have three shows run more than 1900 performances.
His first opera, SEANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON, premiered at Opera Santa Barbara in the fall of 2009 and was subsequently produced by New York City Opera. His frequently-performed choral works include “Testimony”, based on the It Gets Better Project, “Keramos” and part of the “Tyler Clemente Suite.” He has also released two singer/songwriter CDs, RELUCTANT PILGRIM and UNCHARTED TERRITORY.
Mr. Schwartz has been awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2015, he received the Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award for his humanitarian and mentorship contributions to the theatre. A book about his career, “Defying Gravity,” has been released by Applause Books.
Under the auspices of the ASCAP Foundation, he has been the artistic director of musical theatre workshops in New York and Los Angeles for over twenty years, as well as conducting workshops for aspiring musical theatre writers and performers in countries around the world, including Australia, Germany, Latvia and Kenya. He is also a past President and current Council Member of the Dramatists’ Guild.