In memoriam, Ruth Schonthal (1924-2006), composer and teacher

I received the sad news this past week that composer and teacher Ruth Schonthal had passed away.
Her long career as a composer spanned several decades and included an extraordinary journey from pre-Nazi Germany through Sweden to Mexico and eventually to the United States. She was also a longtime teacher at New York University and at the Music Conservatory of Westchester. I was a composition student of hers at the Westchester Conservatory from 1983 to 1991, and it was under her guidance and tutelage that I wrote several of my early award-winning compositions, including Conversational Impromptu and Earth Songs.

In addition to her contributions as a composer, musician and mentor, her passing is a reminder to make an effort to stay in touch with the people who influence your life. We had not been in touch over the last few years. It was something I planned to do one some of my twice-a-year trips back to New York, but for one reason or another I never did. Perhaps there was so much else going with family and friends, perhaps I was waiting for a good story to tell, which of course I now have with a CD of my compositions released. If there is a lesson here, it is to not wait.