With the grand opening of Schroeder Hall, the Green Music Center has been abuzz with concert-goers eager for a fresh new musical experience. Since the opening of Weill Hall in 2012, Schroeder Hall has been a structure in the background on the Sonoma State University campus that many have always been curious about.
Named after the piano-playing Peanuts character, the 250-seat hall was designed statuesque and slender in order to emphasize and accentuate the musical impact of instruments and vocals. The name Schroeder Hall was chosen by Jean Schulz, the wife of the famous and beloved late cartoonist, Charles M. Schulz, who was the visionary behind Charlie Brown and Friends.
Now that the doors of Schroeder Hall have finally been opened, it is only fitting that one of the first performances at the venue was titled a “Tribute to Charlie Brown,” performed by pianist David Benoit, along with his group which consisted of a bassist and a percussionist. Benoit began the night with a few well-known popular Charlie Brown songs, including “Linus and Lucy,” from the Christmas special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” During Benoit’s rendition of “The Great Pumpkin,” the lights of Schroeder Hall were dimmed orange in order to accentuate the song as well as spark the audience’s imagination and recollection of the cartoon and television special. Many of the songs that Benoit covered, he attributed to renowned jazz musician, Vince Guaraldi, who composed the music for the Peanuts cartoons. Guaraldi composed the music for the earlier specials, while Benoit composed the music for many of the later specials. Along with songs from Charlie Brown and Friends, he also performed songs that were favorites of Charles Schulz. One song, entitled “Pebble Beach,” was written for Schulz by Guaraldi because he loved to spend time at Pebble Beach in Monterey County, California. Another song played was called “Snow Dancing,” a song by Benoit that Schulz always asked him to play. After the death of Schulz in 2000, Benoit recorded an album in remembrance of the cartoonist entitled Here’s To You, Charlie Brown: 50 Great Years, a compilation of Peanuts songs as a tribute to him.
Throughout the performance, Benoit spoke in between songs about his longtime friendship with Schulz. He fondly remembered going out with Schulz to get burgers, which is when he asked Benoit to call him by the name “Sparky.” Benoit laughed as he recalled this memory and told the audience that he felt he could never call him by this nickname because he saw Schulz as such an iconic and exceptional person who he respected highly and greatly admired.
Benoit’s piano mastery along with his band mates’ complementary instrumentals were a joy to listen to and the audience was constantly applauding. Audience members, young and old, were brought back to memories of Peanuts cartoons that they had all grown up with throughout their childhood. Charlie Brown is an iconic and beloved character that will be adored and loved for generations to come and Sonoma State is lucky to be so highly influenced by the incredible imagination of Charles M. Schulz.