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This is Ann McGrath interviewing Allan Schiller at my house at 295 Frances Street on October 10, 1984 for the Teaneck Library Oral History Project.
(I) Allan, when did you move to Teaneck?
(N) I moved to Teaneck (inaudible) 1971.
(I) And why, why did you pick Teaneck?
(N) We had looked around (inaudible) and a lot of my colleagues where I work live in this area and finally decided on Teaneck because we liked it the most.
(I) Well, did you look in any other communities?
(N) Yes, we looked in Paramus and various other houses in different places.
(I) And how about Teaneck, how many houses did you look at here?
(N) Probably about twenty.
(I) Just in Teaneck?
(I) So you had more than one that you liked?
(N) Well we obviously liked the most we bought the most. There were a lot of nice houses but each one had its own pluses and minuses.
(I) Did you have children?
(N) When we moved, we had one little girl.
(I) How many children do you have now?
(I) How old are they now?
(N) Now they are fourteen and twelve.
(I) Were you pleased with the realtors that showed you around?
(N) Yes, very much.
(I) Were they honest about Teaneck and its racial balance and those kinds of things?
(N) I think so, yes. I was never that concerned about racial problems.
(I) Allan, where did you live before you moved to Teaneck?
(N) We lived in New York City. Manhattan. (I) For how long?
(N) Well I lived most of my life in Manhattan. Since I was 15.
(I) And where did you live before you were 15?
(N) Before I was 15, I lived allover the world. I was born in Poland. I lived in Israel and France.
(I) Could you just take time to tell us what age you were when you moved where?
(N) I was born in Poland and we moved away during World War II. I was about four or five years old. Then we lived in Israel for about nine years and then we lived in France for about one year. And then we came here.
(I) Why were your parents moving?
(N) We moved because of World War II. To escape the Germans. We moved to Israel and after nine years, it took many years. .
(I) Was it a state then? No, it wasn't a state.
(N) No, it was Palestine. You are right. It was Palestine until 1948 and we moved in 1950. And it took many years to get to this country because of the Polish quota which was very slow. So that's basically what happened.
(I) Did your father have to change his job with each move?
(I) You mean it was just really picking up and moving.
(I) Do you remember what he did?
(N) Well in Poland he was the director of a bank. And after that, he did things like bookkeeping and things like that and in this country he didn't do anything. He died after coming here a year.
(I) So your mother brought you up then. And what did she do?
(N) She worked as a seamstress.
(I) Where did you live in New York?
(N) You mean where did we live allover New York?
(I) Well, mainly. What areas?
(N) We lived on 10lst Street and then I lived on (inaudible - either 7lst Street or 73rd Street).
(I) Did you have brothers and sisters?
(I) It was just you and your mother. What was her maiden name?
(I) And does your name Schiller have a meaning?
(N) Yeah, in German it means pupil, student.
(I) Is it a Polish name, Schiller?
(N) I think it is a German name but I was born in Poland.
(I) Was your father German?
(N) No, he was Polish.
(I) And your mother was Polish? OK. You went to school then in New York. Where did you go, what schools?
(N) I went to the High School of Performing Arts and I went to a school called Franklin School, a private school. And I went to Julliard School.
(I) And how did you get into music and how did you pick your instrument?
(N) When I was still in Israel, about the age of nine, I somehow got a violin and I took to it and liked it and that was it.
(I) You didn't have formal teaching?
(N) Oh sure. Privately. I had private lessons.
(I) So your parents loved music. Did either of them play?
(N) No, nobody played.
(I) They just had a respect for it.
(N) It just came about.
(I) And when you moved to New York did you have a violin? And you continued studying. Did you study in the schools?
(N) No. I studied at Julliard School. Not the public school.
(I) Who were your teachers?
(N) At Julliard School? Louis Persinger and (inaudible)
(I) And after your studying at Julliard, where did you go then with your music?
(N) I did some free lance work and after that, I joined the New York Philharmonic, after two years.
(I) Where do you work now?
(N) Still the New York Philharmonic.
(I) And how do you get to work?
(N) I commute by carpool.
(I) That's what I want to ask you. Who else in Teaneck works there and how does the carpool work?
(N) Well we have about twelve or thirteen people who live in Teaneck who work in the New York Philharmonic but there are more people in Bergen County and the people I commute with don't happen to live in Teaneck. One lives in Ridgewood and one lives in Oradell and we meet.
(I) Where do you meet?
(N) Well one of them picks me up and then we meet the other one at, near the high school, Elizabeth Street, and we park our car there.
(I) You park on the street?
(I) And how often do you have to go in?
(N) Well we have about eight services. A service is either a rehearsal or a concert. So it is about seven trips a week.
(I) What was your wife's' maiden name and where did you meet?
(N) Eleanor Brooks. We met, I think a mutual friend of our introduced us.
(I) She plays violin too.
(N) Yes she does.
(I) Was this after school that you met her?
(N) Yes, she went to another, she went to Manhattan School.
(I) And was she performing with the violin or working as a violinist?
(N) She was studying.
(I) Has she worked as you have freelancing and. .
(N) Yes, she did a lot of freelancing and now she teaches in the Teaneck schools, music, violin and strings.
(I) Do you know what age she teaches?
(N) I think fourth grade on through high school.
(I) She teaches all. And then I know she teaches privately.
(I) So you have two children. Can you tell me their names and ages.
(N) Jackie is 14 and Laura is 12.
(I) What do you think of the Teaneck schools because they've gone to Teaneck schools.
(N) So far I think they are excellent. I am really amazed at how much they are learning compared to what I learned or didn't learn.
(I) Did they start at the K-l's, both of them?
(I) Do you remember any of their teachers' names?
(N) Yes a lot of them. Several anyway. There was a Mrs. Harris in kindergarten or first grade. At Whittier there was a Barbara Pinchek and Mrs. Gold and that's about it.
(I) What schools are they in now?
(N) Now Jackie is in the high school, ninth grade since they reorganized, she started high school and Laura has just started junior high school, seventh grade.
(I) And what junior high is that?
(N) Benjamin Franklin.
(I) I was going to ask you how you compared their education with yours. Why do you think they have a better education?
(N) Well I think probably they have a better education and probably they are better students. I was a very bad student. I was primarily interested in the violin. So I didn't do much.
(I) What about the curriculum. Do you think they have a better curriculum?
(N) They are doing things that are way advanced, more things than when I was in school. Like the SNICKS Program which is like calculus I think.
(I) They are both in SNICKS?
(N) The older one is.
(I) And she is going to take it in the high school?
(I) Do you think it is like calculus? Can you describe it at all?
(N) It is very abstract, like abstract algebra. What used to be abstract algebra. And I don't understand it and I used to be pretty good in math but this is beyond me.
(I) What else do they take that you like? Their subjects?
(N) Well they take French. French is very good. Any language is very good. Social studies and English. All the necessary. . writing, my little one writes, creative writing.
(I) Are they in any other programs in school?
(N) My older one plays tennis now. My little one is in the band and my older one was in the orchestra.
(I) What instruments do they play?
(N) The older one plays piano but she plays in school violin and the little one plays flute.
(I) Do you think they have a good band at Benjamin Franklin?
(N) I haven't heard it yet. They just started band.
(I) Oh she just started band. What do you think of the reorganization?
(N) Well maybe it is too early to tell. I think it is too bad that they did such a drastic move, you know cut down two schools, but time will tell I guess.
(I) It did effect your family. In what ways did it effect them?
(N) Both girls started the next higher school a year earlier which is fine. It is not bad.
(I) You didn't mind that.
(I) Did you see any confusion with Jackie going into the high school?
(N) I don't think so but I was away when they started school. I was in the Far East. But I think they adjusted very well.
(I) Has it made any difference in your wife's scheduling?
(N) Yes, I think so. She didn't used to go to the high school and now she goes to the high school.
(I) She teaches all four years or just ninth and tenth grade there?
(N) Oh, in the high school. She teaches whoever is interested. It is a voluntary thing. So it doesn't have that much to do with grade.
(I) Have you belonged to any organizations in Teaneck?
(I) I think you mentioned TAP.
(N) Oh, yes, right. I didn't think of it as an organization. It is a kind of artistic group.
(I) What have you done for them?
(N) I've been on the Board of Directors and also. .
(I) For how long?
(N) About four or five years. But I've played with the group since practically its beginning, about ten years.
(I) Could you tell us what kind of concerts they put on and what you've played and. .
(N) Yes. TAP means Teaneck Artists Perform and they have usually four or five concerts a year; one usually consists of chamber music; one consists of folk dancing or jazz or some other form in the arts; and I participate only in the chamber music because that's the only think I know.
(I) Do you play with the same people?
(N) Some are the same and sometimes we get different people. It depends on the music, depends on what we choose to play.
(I) Did you play last year?
(I) And who did you play with. Do you remember what your program was?
(N) Last year, gee offhand I don't remember. Just a second. I know I played with Joan Stein. Oh yes, Joan Stein played with her own, she has her own group called the Walden Trio and they themselves were guests on the TAP series and I played with them so there was Joan Stein and Gwen Mansfield, the flutist, and then I was their guest.
(I) On violin. They didn't have guitar. Sometimes they have guitar. Do you remember, did you have to practice a lot for this?
(N) You always have to practice for everything. I do anyway.
(I) How much time went into this is what I am trying to say to put on a concert?
(N) I don't know what you mean. Practice individually. .
(I) No, together.
(N) Together maybe about four or five rehearsals. But you also have to practice individually.
(I) Do you remember any part of your program?
(N) Yes, there was a piece by Tellerman I think for violin, flute, cello and piano and there was a piano quartet by Follet (?) which actually included two other people, two other guests.
(I) Who's on the board this year?
(N) Joan Stein and myself and that's the (inaudible) part and I am not sure about the other people right now because there has been some changes.
(I) And who is running it this year?
(N) Claudia Biel.
(I) What do you think the purpose of the organization is, TAP?
(N) The purpose is to present different forms of music to the community, I think. I hope.
(1) Do you find that Teaneck is into the arts?
(I) More than other communities?
(N) Very much so. Everybody seems to be very interested. A lot of people go into New York and there is a lot going on in Teaneck.
(I) Do you, this is a funny question but could you name the thirteen people that live in Teaneck.
(N) Of the Philharmonic?
(I) I think so. Buster Bailey plays percussion; Myer Rosen plays harp, as a matter of fact he lives two blocks from here; Steve Freeman plays bass clarinet; Burt Beal plays contrabassoon; Gerry Appelman plays cello; Tom Liberti plays cello; Bill Keiper plays horn; myself violin, that's eight; when I said thirteen, that was about two or three years ago. Two members retired. So that would make it ten. That was (inaudible) played viola and (inaudible) played violin. So who am I missing?
(I) I get mixed up with the ones that play at the Met.
(N) Yes. We have those too.
(I) What was the trumpeter's name?
(N) John Weir.
(I) What do you like the most about living in Teaneck?
(N) I like everything. I love it.
(I) How does it differ than living in the city?
(N) From the city, it is very different. The city is different from Teaneck.
(I) The police describe it as urban situation, urban.
(N) It is. Well for us it was a big change because we both, I mean my wife and I, both lived in the city all our lives so it was a big shock to move into a private home. But now I could never live in the city. I love it.
(I) Do you garden? Do you have any hobbies?
(N) No, I get somebody to do the lawn. I don't enjoy it too much.
(I) What kind of recreation do you have?
(N) I like to play tennis; I like to go swimming.
(I) Where do you swim?
(N) In the Palisadium in Fort Lee. And in Teaneck in the summertime at the swim club.
(I) Have you been a member of the swim club for long?
(N) Since the beginning.
(I) Were you involved in the beginning of it at all?
(N) No. We just joined it right away.
(I) Do your children enjoy it?
(N) They love it. They could live there. They could just live there all the time.
(I) How often do you use it in the summer?
(N) Very often. My kids are there every day and we go as much as we can.
(I) What else besides the tennis and the swimming do you. . do you go into the city often, you and your wife, for.
(N) Not too often because it is just another trip for me. But we go to shows sometimes or concerts.
(I) Do you. . and what about vacations, where do you go on vacation?
(N) We try to go different places. We have been to several of the Caribbean islands. Florida. Upstate New York.
(I) When is your best time for vacation, when you work at the Philharmonic?
(I) They have a break in the Summer?
(I) This summer you went on a wonderful tour though.
(N) Yes, the Far East.
(I) And how long were you gone?
(N) Five weeks.
(I) Did your wife go?
(N) Yes, I took my wife and the kids for two and a half weeks for a concert trip.
(I) And where did they go?
(N) They went to Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Taipei and that's it. And then we continued to Bangkok, Singapore, Jakarta and India.
(I) That is a lot of traveling. Was anyone sick?
(N) Not seriously, no. Some people had stomach problems.
(I) But you all made it through the whole thing.
(N) We all made it and. .
(I) And a lot of wives did go.
(N) Several wives.
(I) That's wonderful. If you could change anything about Teaneck, what would you change as far as the government or its recreation department. Do your girls have anything to do with. .
(N) Not too much. We don't. . what do you mean by Recreation Department?
(I) They have summer projects and things during the school year. Do you know if your children have done anything. .
(I) We haven't taken advantage of it too much. I play tennis in their courts. That's nice.
(I) Is there anything that you would like to see changed about Teaneck? Do you think that they have good, they give you good service in town?
(N) I would say so.
(I) Is there anything you'd like to change about it if you could?
(N) I can't think of anything right now but if I think of something. .
(I) What do you think about crime in Teaneck? Do you lock your house up and. .
(N) We do lock our house definitely. We have a burglar alarm and I hear of things happening but I say thank God so far we've had no crime.
(I) Do you have any animals or pets?
(I) I was going to ask you how Teaneck will change in the future. Do you see any changes coming about in Teaneck?
(N) I don't know. I haven't really noticed that many changes since I moved here. Except that there are more Orthodox Jews in my neighborhood.
(I) I was going to ask you about your block. What is your block like?
(N) My block is fine.
(I) Do you know most of your neighbors on the block?
(N) Yes. I really only know my immediate neighbors and not very well either. I am just friendly with them.
(I) Do you know, are they mostly professional people? Are they commuters like yourself?
(N) Yeah., I think they are commuters. My neighbor on my right works in advertising I think and on my left works in some kind of chemistry or biology and across the street is an actor.
(I) So they are all actually going into New York, commuting into New York too.
(N) But we really don't socialize that much.
(I) Does your wife give lessons at home?
(I) And do you teach too?
(I) How many students do you have?
(N) I just have two or three.
(I) Do you take more advanced students?
(N) Yes, usually.
(I) And she will take the beginners?
(I) Do you know how many she has at home?
(N) Maybe five, six this year.
(I). So your life is really just commuting. Now you do have some time during the day, don't you. You don't have a 9 to 5 job. How do you fill those spaces?
(I) Well, we have to practice so that's part of it and we have to, we don't have to but we want to play chamber music, so we have rehearsals so we do that.
(I) Do you have a regular group that you belong to?
(N) Not now. I used to but not now. Otherwise, as I told you, I like to play tennis and swim so I do that and I like to spend time with my kids whenever they are home, whenever it is possible.
(I) Do you bicycle?
(N) I bicycle a little bit.
(I) With them?
(N) Yes. Sometimes I take my daughter to piano lessons.
(I) Does your younger daughter take anything besides the flute?
(N) Not right now, no.
(I) Do you think either one of them will be musical?
(N) Yeah, probably. We don't force them. They do it if they want to.
(I) Who does your daughter take piano from?
(N) She is just going to start next week at the Manhattan School so she will be studying with Mr. Fader.
(I) Does she go in on Saturday with their Saturday program?
(I) That's wonderful, great. And does she also play violin or not any more.
(N) She plays a little bit. Mostly piano.
(I) Did you teach her, you and your wife?
(N) No, my wife taught her. Actually she learned it in school. In the public school.
(END OF TAPE)
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