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Schroeder is a fictional character in the long-running comic strip Peanuts, created by Charles M. Schulz. He is distinguished by his precocious skill at playing the toy piano, as well as by his love of classical music and the composer Ludwig van Beethoven in particular. Schroeder is also the catcher on Charlie Brown's baseball team, though he is always seen walking back to the mound with the baseball, never throwing it—admitting in one strip he didn't want the other team to discover his lack of ability. He is also the object of the unrequited infatuation of Lucy van Pelt, who constantly leans on Schroeder's piano. Charlie Brown, Sally Brown, Peppermint Patty, Frieda and Snoopy are also occasionally depicted as leaning on Schroeder's piano.
After Linus and Snoopy, Schroeder is probably Charlie Brown's closest friend; he once angrily berated Violet for giving Charlie Brown a used valentine well after Valentine's Day had come and gone, only to be undercut when Charlie Brown eagerly accepted it. Schroeder also joined Linus in dressing down the girls (Lucy, Patty, Violet and Frieda) and Snoopy in Charlie Brown's All-Stars, when it was discovered Charlie Brown wouldn't sacrifice the girls and Snoopy just to get uniforms for the baseball team. He also is one of the few players who has any respect for Charlie Brown as a manager; however, he is as capable of ire at Charlie Brown's poor performance as anyone else, but these instances are few and far between. In one game, when Frieda desperately asked Schroeder; "Wouldn't you like just once to see Charlie Brown hit that ball?", Schroeder's calm reply was; "No, I am not prepared to have the world come to an end".
He was voted as an honorary member of the Epsilon Iota chapter at Florida State University of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity, the oldest and largest music fraternity in the world. A stained glass window in New York's Buffalo Westminster Presbyterian Church honoring Albert Schweitzer has a corner showing Schroeder playing his toy piano. In honor of Schroeder's passion for Beethoven, the Charles M. Schulz Museum (Santa Rosa) and the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies announced the launching in December 2009 of a permanent online exhibit of 60 of the 300 Schulz's cartoons that involve Schroeder and Beethoven: "Schulz's Beethoven, Schroeder's Muse"
Schroeder has short blond hair. He almost always wears a striped shirt and either black and blue shorts. He is commonly seen playing his toy piano. In television and motion pictures his piano sounds like a grand piano when played.
Schroeder was introduced as a baby on May 30, 1951, but aged to the maturity level of the other characters over the next three years. On his first appearance on the strip Patty refers to him as a next door neighbor. His address is 1770 James Street, easy to remember for him because the number is Beethoven's birth year. Schroeder's birthday was in 1954 revealed to be January 18. He initially had no notable characteristics, but soon, Schulz had the idea to incorporate his daughter Meredith's toy piano into the strip. He decided to give it to the newest character in the strip, and thus the character as he is known to millions of fans was born. The origin of his name can be found in Schulz' 1975 book, Peanuts Jubilee: "Schroeder was named after a young boy with whom I used to caddy at Highland Park golf course in St. Paul. I don't recall ever knowing his first name, but just 'Schroeder' seemed right for the character in the script, even before he became the great musician he now is."
From his first appearance at the piano on September 24, 1951 Schroeder has played classical pieces of virtuoso level, as depicted by Schulz's transcription of sheet music onto the panel. The first piece Schroeder played was Rachmaninoff's Prelude in G Minor. Schroeder is often found playing selections from a sonata by Beethoven, his favorite composer. As revealed in one strip wherein Lucy took his bust of Beethoven and smashed it, he has an entire closet full of Beethoven busts. It was also found that he has an entire closet full of pianos. Every year, Schroeder marks December 16, the birthday of his hero. Schulz once revealed that he had originally planned to depict Johannes Brahms as Schroeder's idol, but decided that Beethoven simply sounded "funnier." He was once in shock when he forgot Beethoven's birthday. When Charlie Brown's baseball team is required to have a sponsor to play games, Schroeder's sponsor is Beethoven. In the early strips Schroeder also played other composers. In one strip, Lucy implies that his idolization of Beethoven is excessive, asking him what he thinks of other classical composers such as Schubert, Brahms, Bach, and Chopin. Schroeder simply replies, "They were great composers too," and continues to play Beethoven. On another occasion, Lucy remarks to Schroeder "Beethoven wasn't so great." Irritated, Schroeder asks Lucy to explain her comment. Lucy replies, "You've never seen his face on a bubblegum card, have you?"
Schroeder is usually depicted sitting at his toy piano, able to pound out multi-octave selections of music, despite the fact that such a piano has a very small realistic range (for instance, and as a running joke, the black keys are merely painted on to the white keys). On one occasion, Charlie Brown tried to get him to play a real piano and young Schroeder burst into tears, intimidated by its size.
Schroeder's other distinguishing mark as a character is his constant refusal of Lucy's love. Lucy is infatuated with Schroeder, and frequently lounges against his piano while he is playing, professing her love for him. However, Beethoven was a lifelong bachelor, and Schroeder feels he must emulate every aspect of his idol's life, even if it is insinuated that he reciprocates Lucy's feelings. In a story arc where she and the rest of her family have moved out of town (also seen in the TV special Is This Goodbye, Charlie Brown?), Schroeder becomes frustrated with his music and mutters disbelievingly that he misses her, realizing that, despite his animosity towards her, Lucy has unwittingly become Schroeder's muse and he cannot play without her (he parodies Henry Higgins by saying, "Don't tell me I've grown accustomed to THAT face!"). Sometimes, he gets so annoyed with Lucy that he outright yanks the piano out from underneath her to get her away from him which became a running gag; on one occasion both Lucy and Frieda lounge on Schroeder's piano, until he yanks it from beneath them both after Frieda mistakenly thinks Beethoven is a drink rather than a composer. However, he does allow Charlie Brown to lounge against the piano, because of their solid friendship. The question of how the unwanted Lucy nevertheless keeps getting into Schroeder's house is never addressed; presumably Schroeder's unseen parents do not take his dislike for her very seriously. Sometimes Lucy won't leave him alone or does crazy things like: Shoving his Piano into the washer, throws it into the Kite Eating tree, or smashes his Beethoven busts with a baseball bat!
It should be noted he rarely tells Lucy to go away as long as she is quiet. He is usually quite content to let her stay there, until she starts annoying him. Most times he is happy to answer her questions, but unfortunately they usually turn into themes that annoy him, eg, about them having a relationship, stupid questions about music, etc. He seems to like informing her about Beethoven, although she usually replies with silly answers. It seems he at least tolerates her coming over and it's more her annoying questions that bother him, rather than her actual presence.
Once, he appears as Lucy's psychiatric partner, and took her place when she was not available. When Charlie Brown poured out his troubles, Schroeder said simply, "Go home and listen to a Brahms piano quartet...Five cents, please!" Later, Charlie Brown asked Lucy, "Just how carefully do you screen these assistants of yours?"
Another time he appeared as a patient. He told Lucy about how Beethoven wrote all the great symphonies, but as he was deaf, he never got to hear them and everytime he thinks about it, it makes him said. Lucy simply replies with, "Try not to think about it, five cents, please!" After he leaves, she remarks, "Some cases are relatively simple".
The only times Schroeder accepted a gift from Lucy was when she gave him a sketch of Beethoven—she was then shocked to find he already had a gigantic wall-size portrait of Beethoven hanging in his room, and when Lucy gave him Elton John glasses. He also accepted a flower from her after Lucy showed it to him and explained that accepting a flower can mean love, or "just to keep from hurting the other person's feelings." Lucy promptly yanks it back and kicks it away after that response.
In reaction to her constant advances, Schroeder has been known to occasionally humor her, somewhat goodnaturedly. He gave her a Valentine after confirming that he didn't have to love her to give her one, just "barely being able to tolerate her" was fine. Schroeder demonstrates the same fondly teasing tone toward Lucy in the December 14, 1975 Sunday strip, whispering a flirtatious comments to her while she pretends to be asleep on his piano. He addresses her as "pretty girl", and says "I think you're kind of cute! You really fascinate me!" He ends his string of flirtatious remarks with "I guess I love everything about you... Sweet baby!" Lucy cannot help but grin, to which Schroeder exclaims, "Ha! I knew you weren't asleep!" Lucy responds with "Rats!"
Schroeder has only been known to kiss Lucy on the cheek once. Once when Lucy gives Schroeder a cupcake on Beethoven's birthday, he kisses her on the cheek, but when Lucy turns around she sees Snoopy immediately next to her. Thinking that it was he that kissed her, she runs away screaming.
For the most part, Schroeder and Charlie Brown were the best of friends, with the exception of one argument from the mid 1950s (when the two had more of a rivalry going) where Charlie Brown insulted his "yellow hair" and "plink, plink, plink all day long [on his piano]" and Schroeder countered with a barb at Charlie's coonskin cap and "round head." Schroeder was the catcher on Charlie brown's baseball team and, during conferences on the pitcher's mound, the two would engage in unusual conversations, mostly about Beethoven and hand signals (one finger means..., two fingers means..., etc.). He would also encourage Charlie during a baseball game often, whereas the rest of the team would say, "Don't let us down by showing up!" In the animated cartoon, he limits Charlie Brown to only two pitches, a high and low Straightball.
Schroeder's most significant act of friendship, however, came in Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown. When Violet offers Charlie Brown one of her used Valentine cards (since Charlie received no Valentines the previous day at his school's party), Schroeder thoroughly chastises her, Frieda, Lucyand Sally for their disregard for his feelings and their selfish motive of relieving their own personal guilt. Charlie Brown, however, tells the girls not to listen to him and accepts the card, although he expressed appreciation for Schroeder's gesture.
Charlie Brown is one of the few people Schroeder will allow to lounge against his piano, as he and Charlie Brown are good friends, and knows that Charlie Brown respects his love of Beethoven. In fact, when they were younger, Charlie Brown would read Schroeder the story about Beethoven's life. Charlie Brown was also the one that introduced Schroeder to the piano.
As his best friend's baby sister, she is originally the little annoying kid who is always tagging along. However, it was implied later on through the strips that he possibly had feelings for her. This small window for fandoms was almost completely extinguished however whenever he kissed Lucy on the cheek. Ironically, though...Sally always seemed a little more toned down and not quite as hyper and happy after that strip was published, implying that perhaps he was more than just her big brother's friend as well. However, the small possibility of Sally/Schroeder lives on in those with hope, forming the now-known Schroeder Decision in which he "chooses" Lucy over Sally.
The piano's capability is illustrated in 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas. Lucy asks Schroeder to play "Jingle Bells". Schroeder plays it in the style of a conventional piano, then manages to generate the warm tones of a Hammond organ, but Lucy cannot recognize the tune until the now-irritated Schroeder plays it, off-key with one finger, in the tones of a normal toy piano. This is the only time in the history of the television specials that his toy piano ever actually sounds like a toy piano. In 1966's It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Schroeder accommodated Snoopy (who was dressed in his World War I Flying Ace outfit) by playing a brief medley of World War I songs (both peppy ones and very sad depressing ones) at Violet's Halloween Party; such as "Pack up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag", "Roses of Picardy", and others.
Schroeder is normally a very passive character, content to play his music, but he can be angered quite easily, especially if his music or his idol Beethoven are insulted. In one short, Lucy points out to him the woefully inadequate single-octave range of a toy piano; an angry Schroeder yanks it out from under, causing her to conk her head on the floor. This became a frequent running gag in the strip's later years. In 1971's Play It Again Charlie Brown, Lucy asked if pianists make a lot of money, and Schroeder flew into a rage: "Who cares about money?! This is art, you blockhead! This is great music I'm playing, and playing great music is an art! Do you hear me? An art! Art! Art! Art! Art! Art!" (the last five words punctuated by slamming his hands against his piano). These instances mark the few occasions when any character successfully stand up to the notoriously aggressive Lucy. However, when Lucy asks the same question in the movie A Boy Named Charlie Brown, Schroeder admits: "Some do, if they practice real hard, I guess." In the Charlie Brown Christmas special, Lucy tells Schroeder that Beethoven "wasn't so great". When Schroeder defensively demands an explanation, Lucy replies that Beethoven has never been on a bubble gum card and that one cannot be considered great without appearing on one.
The musical notes Schroeder plays also seem to have substance; characters are able to touch them as they appear in the air. Snoopy, for example, once decorated a Christmas tree using a handful of them, and has on at least one occasion been seen dancing atop the musical staff containing the notes.
Lucy has often spoken of getting Schroeder to give up his piano, such as getting him to realize that married life has financial hardships and he may have to sell his piano in order to buy her a good set of saucepans. On two occasions, Lucy went so far as to destroy Schroeder's piano in an attempt to be rid of the "competition" for his affection, but both attempts failed:
Lucy once "accidentally" washed his piano and threw it in the dryer, thus having the piano shrink, leaving Schroeder horrified.
In one strip it was revealed that Schroeder gets his pianos from the Ace Piano Company, this was also mentioned in an episode of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show.
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