University of Southern California

USC News logo

Leonard Stein, pianist and music scholar, 87

07/01/04
The lecturer and musician devoted his life to the works of the émigré composer Arnold Schoenberg.
The youngest of eight children, Stein began playing the piano before he was six.

Leonard Stein, a pianist and music scholar who directed USC’s Schoenberg Institute from 1975 to 1991, died June 25 of natural causes. He was 87.

A lecturer, musician and scholar, he devoted his life to the works of the émigré composer, Arnold Schoenberg, who fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Schoenberg’s 12-tone compositional system revolutionized contemporary music.

Stein’s parents were Polish émigrés who settled in East Los Angeles. The youngest of eight children, Stein began playing the piano before he was six.

He attended Los Angeles City College, where he studied with Richard Buhlig. In the 1930s, he studied under Schoenberg at USC, and later at UCLA, where he became Schoenberg’s teaching assistant.

Stein earned his B.A. in 1939 from UCLA and his master of music in 1941. In 1965, he was awarded his DMA from USC.

Stein began teaching at Occidental College in 1946 and later taught at UCLA, UC San Diego , Cal Arts and other schools. In 1975, he was appointed adjunct professor in the USC Thornton School of Music.

The “Leonard Stein Papers: 1942-1983” are housed in the Mandeville Special Collections Library at UC San Diego’s Geisel Library. By editing Schoenberg’s books on theory and composition, Stein leading became the foremost teacher of the Schoenberg legacy. He was editor of the Journal of the Schoenberg Institute from 1977 to 1991.

Stein received the Phi Kappa Phi Diploma of Honor for Lifetime Achievement when he retired in 1991. After his retirement, he began a second career lecturing and concertizing.

He is survived by a niece, Betty Coleman, and a nephew, Phil Stein, both of Los Angeles.