Dr. Marvin Salzberg, 1930-2012
Marvin Salzberg of New York City and Block Island, died on December 29, 2012, surrounded by his family.
He grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. After receiving a PhD in Music from Cornell University, he moved to Yonkers, N.Y., where he raised a family with the late Joan Egeland-Scott and taught music composition and theory at Bronx Community College where he was chairman of the Art Department.
He began coming to Block Island in 1969 and bought a home on Beacon Hill in 1973 at the recommendation of Fred Benson who said, “a couple of handy lads could fix it up.” The house was once owned by islander Nate Ball, a fisherman, and was largely unrenovated. Keeping the outhouse and the hand-pump on the sink, as well as the coal heating stove, he enlisted friends and family to bring it up to a livable standard, but never installed a bathroom or heating system.
He was an artist and musician; summers were filled with songs that were regularly sung by family and friends around the pump organ in the house. Of course he swam almost every day, because the beach pavilion was where he and his family could take showers. He made a point of renting locker number 13 at the beach pavilion, and always sat next to the lifeguard chair that Chris Littlefield was usually sitting in. He had a son, Howard Salzberg, who died in a drowning accident several years earlier at age 15 at a remote Quaker camp in Maine — a loss Marvin never recovered from. Block Island became a safe haven for his family, and he named the house “The Haven.”
Marvin took an eccentric pride in having to shovel out the outhouse, and knew that the circle of friends that visited were decreased because most would not tolerate using an outhouse. He had a hearty laugh and was known as a natural counselor to many young people and relatives who valued his bohemian lifestyle and liberal views on the importance of leading an artistic life. Upon retirement to Block Island in 1985, he was influenced greatly by the writer Joseph Campbell, and liked to quote the phrase that we must all “follow our bliss” and pursue what we love most at any cost.
After retiring he continued to compose music and sing. In 1993, his wife of 36 years left him, and though devastated and surprised, he remarried two years later to Ellen Salzberg who was with him until he died.
His illustrious history as an artist is as follows:
Marvin composed “Where We Belong,” an original musical; “Hester,” a musical adaptation of “The Scarlet Letter,” “The Body Shop,” an original musical; “Tom Thumb,” an adaptation of the Henry Fielding novel, and “Under Milk Wood,” by Dylan Thomas.
He is the composer of numerous and widely performed classical works and was musical director at the Cherry Lane Theater in New York (Tiger Rag) and co-founder of Oceanwest Theater on Block Island. His recordings include incidental music and songs, “Under Milk Wood; String Quartet #1” (Mercury).
He was a graduate of the Hartt College of Music, the University of Illinois and of Cornell University (Doctor of Musical Arts). He was an Artist in Residence: Theater Department, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Va. He was the recipient of the Anne M. Gannett Award, Tanglewood Berkshire Music Festival; Oliver M. Ditson Award for Composition; Princeton Fellowship for Advanced Musical Studies; a Cornell Fellow and a Tanglewood Fellow. He was also a member of the Dramatist’s Guild. He was a gifted musician and composer greatly admired by his peers.
He is survived by his daughter Laura Salzberg and husband Bill, and son Brainard Carey and wife Delia, as well as grandchildren and stepchildren and his wife Ellen Salzberg. Condolences can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and will be passed on to the family.