Donor Spotlight: Elaine and Peter Schweitzer
Sometimes, attending a UMS concert can lead a person on an unexpected and fulfilling journey…
Peter Schweitzer knew about UMS as a student at the University of Michigan (LSA ‘61), but after graduation, a busy career in advertising took him all over the world. After retiring, Peter and his wife, Elaine, moved from New York City to Ann Arbor — at the same time UMS President Matthew VanBesien made the same trip, leaving the New York Philharmonic to become UMS’s seventh president.
Elaine and Peter attended a swinging concert of New Orleans jazz by Henry Butler, Steven Bernstein & The Hot 9 held at Ann Arbor’s Downtown Home and Garden, as guests of UMS president emeritus Ken Fischer, whom Peter knew well from his involvement with the U-M Alumni Association. Ken introduced Peter and Elaine to Matthew, and they instantly hit it off, connecting through their time in New York and appreciation for New Orleans jazz. Later that fall, Matthew introduced Peter and Elaine to another NOLA/NYC artist — Wynton Marsalis — at a reception while the legendary musician was in town for a holiday performance.
What followed was a self-guided education about jazz.
“During my cross-country road trips, I listened to recordings of Wynton, NPR programs he hosted, watched Ken Burns’s documentary on him — really anything I could find. I became a member at Jazz at Lincoln Center so I’d get updates and new educational resources, and when UMS brought JLCO’s ‘Swing University’ series to its community during the pandemic, I watched every episode.”
A year or so later, Wynton spoke to the UMS National Council, a volunteer fundraising and advisory group for which Wynton has served as Honorary Co-Chair since 2018. “I had the great fortune to hear Wynton speak to us about his philosophy on music, on education, really on life broadly speaking,” said Schweitzer. “I’ve really come to admire him as someone who knows exactly what he’s thinking and doesn’t hold back on sharing it, always in the most eloquent way. In my opinion, he has both feet on the ground.”
Peter and Elaine’s admiration for Wynton and the ensemble led them to sponsor the JLCO in a one-week residency this October:
“The impact that an artist, educator, and thinker like Wynton Marsalis and, really, all the musicians in the band can have when they are able to sit down in Ann Arbor for a week is just extraordinary.”
In addition to their performances — which include a special, one-hour session just for K-12 students — JLCO musicians will be coaching jazz ensembles in regional high schools; rehearsing for “All Rise” with University of Michigan students in the jazz, orchestral, and choral programs; arranging a brand new set of charts for a half-time show with the Michigan Marching Band; conversing with Athletic Director and fellow NOLA native Warde Manuel as part of the Penny Stamps Speaker Series; and much more. Complete details for all public events can be found online at ums.org/jlco.
“Our message to fellow U-M alumni and to residents of the greater Ann Arbor region is this: if you want our students to have these sorts of incredible opportunities — experiences that will inspire them to reach higher, experiences with the greatest performers and artists in the world that they will remember for the rest of their lives — join Elaine and me in supporting UMS through donating and sponsoring UMS’s work. We’ve taken tremendous satisfaction and pride in helping to make the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s week of activity possible, and had a lot of fun in the process.”