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Vic Schoen, Musician and Composer, Dies at 83

He arranged for big-name bands, scored movies and broadcasts, directed music for Pageant of the Masters.

January 08, 2000|JEFF GOTTLIEB | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Vic Schoen, a musician, composer and arranger who worked with legendary performers from Al Jolson to Glenn Miller to Pat Boone, died Wednesday of pneumonia. He was 83.

"Vic could write anything," his widow, Sally-Jan Calbeck Schoen, said Friday from the couple's home in Corona del Mar. "Vic could arrange anything. He could write Big Band falling out of bed. That's his quote.

"He never retired," she said. "His music would never leave him alone to do that."

As recently as last year, he arranged an album for Patti Page that was released in China.

Victor Schoen was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on March 26, 1916. While he was still in high school, he played trumpet at local nightclubs, and music became his life.

Schoen arranged and composed for some of the most popular musicians of the era before rock 'n' roll, among them Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie, Harry James, the Weavers and Dinah Shore. He wrote and arranged for movies, including "The Road to Morocco" and "The Road to Rio" starring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, "The Court Jester" with Danny Kaye and Disney's "Little Toot."

He played on Maurice Chevalier's first American tour and was the longtime musical director for the Andrews Sisters.

In the late 1950s, Schoen was musical director of "The Big Record," a variety show on CBS that Page hosted.

When he saw that bandleader Les Brown was scheduled to appear, Schoen wrote a piece for two orchestras and talked CBS into allowing them to play for six minutes. Shortly afterward, Brown and Schoen recorded "Suite for Two Bands," now a collector's item.

In the '60s and '70s, when he lived in Laguna Beach, Schoen was musical director of the Pageant of the Masters, composing all original music each year to accompany the staging of the production, in which actors portray famous works of art.

Schoen previously was married to singer Kay Starr and to Marion Hutton, one-time lead singer with the Glenn Miller Orchestra and the sister of actress Betty Hutton.

Besides his wife, he is survived by a sister, Frances Rosen of Schenectady, N.Y., two nieces and three nephews.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Pacific View Memorial Park in Newport Beach.

Instead of flowers, the family requests contributions to a scholarship fund set up through the American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers. Donations can be sent to ASMAC-Vic Schoen Fund, P.O. Box 17840, Encino CA 91416.

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