Robert Schoen grew up in Wantagh, Long Island. Early in life, his mother, a pianist and musical theater enthusiast, introduced him to the music of Broadway and Tin Pan Alley greats such as Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, Irving Berlin and George Gershwin. During high school, Schoen played guitar in his own rock band, The Blue Velvets, as well as in the Wantagh High School Jazz Band under the direction of educator, writer and jazz musician Rollan Masciarelli. He was influenced by the recordings of pianist Bill Evans and guitarists Barney Kessel and Wes Montgomery, and later fell in love with the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim and saxophonist Stan Getz.
While a student at UC Berkeley, Jazz Ensemble program director Dr. David Tucker listened to a few of Schoen’s early songs and encouraged him to start work on a musical theater piece. This evolved into Schoen’s first show, a musical comedy, later produced at Laney College in Oakland. As a participant in the San Francisco School of Dramatic Arts, Schoen co-wrote (with composer Julie Shearer) a second show, presented at Fort Mason in San Francisco.
Robert Schoen graduated from California State University East Bay with a degree in music composition. He also holds degrees from Boston University, Laney College, and the University of California, Berkeley. Schoen attended the Peabody Preparatory School in Baltimore, and studied piano with California composer Aaron Blumenfeld and saxophone with Hal Stein, Larry Schneider, Bill Aron, and Dann Zinn. At CSU, his instructors included composers Giancarlo Aquilanti, Jeffrey Miller and Frank LaRocca. He has received awards from ASCAP, Cal State University East Bay, and the Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation.
Concert works by Robert Schoen include pieces for cello, clarinet, saxophone, piano, trombone, and mixed ensemble. Infinite Courage, written for concert band and dedicated to the memory of the crew of the space shuttle Columbia, has been performed by bands at Stanford University, Cal State East Bay, William Paterson University, the 399th Army Band (Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri), and the Oakland Municipal Band. He has also written many pieces for middle school concert band and string orchestra.
Robert Schoen performs with vocalist Catherine deCuir and his own jazz trio. He also plays flute in the Urquhart Concert Memorial Band.