For the past four years, William H. Scheide has celebrated his birthday by indulging two of his passions: Music and philanthropy. This year, the noted nonegenarian (he turns 98 January 6), adds another of his interests to the mix. Mr. Scheide is a famed bibliophile, and he and his wife Judith McCartin Scheide will donate the proceeds of this year’s birthday concert on Friday, January 27, to the Princeton Public Library.
“It’s a perfect fit,” says Linda David Pizzico, who is producing the concert. “It’s a marriage between his love of books and his love of music.”
Tickets are $35 for the 8 p.m. concert, which will be led by Mark Laycock, former conductor of the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, with stellar soloists Jaime Laredo on violin and Sharon Robinson on cello. The Vienna Chamber Orchestra and the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York complete the bill, which will feature the Overture to Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, Brahms’s Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and Mr. Laycock’s special birthday arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.
Mr. and Mrs. Scheide are longtime benefactors of the Princeton Public Library. Books have been a passion for Mr. Scheide since childhood. His family founded the Scheide Library, which includes books and manuscripts collected by three generations. Today, the Scheide Library is housed at Princeton University’s Firestone Library, and it contains copies of the first four Bibles ever printed, materials on the invention and history of printing, and prized musical manuscripts by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, and Wagner, to name a few.
Mr. Scheide has also made gifts to libraries at Princeton Theological Seminary, Westminster Choir College, and the Seed School in Washington, D.C. as well as the Bodleian libraries at Oxford University.
Music came into Mr. Scheide’s life early. His father played piano and his mother sang. He began piano lessons at age six, and soon took up the organ as well. He graduated from Princeton University in 1936 and earned a master’s degree at Columbia University four years later. His thesis topic was “What Happened to Bach’s Music in the First Century After his Death.” Mr. Scheide taught at Cornell University for two years, playing the oboe with a group of amateur musicians who performed an all-Bach repertory. He founded the Bach Aria Group in 1946 to bring some of his music that was virtually unknown to a wider audience, and was its director until 1980.
A concern for human rights has also figured highly in Mr. Scheide’s life. He played a vital role in advancing the goals of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Past concerts honoring his birthday have benefitted Princeton Healthcare System, the Arts Council of Princeton, Centurion Ministries and Isles, Inc.
The Scheides don’t limit their sponsorship of arts events to the annual January concerts. The couple also host musical events each summer. But the birthday concert is clearly a highlight and a focus. “They do this instead of throwing a birthday bash, and every year a community organization is selected as a recipient,” says Ms. Pizzico. “This is going to be a great concert, with a packed stage. We’re hoping for packed seating as well.”