40° Good Morning
40° Good Morning
Long IslandObituaries

Catherine Baker Schnabel dies; LI piano teacher and political advocate was 95

Catherine Baker Schnabel, who taught piano to generations

Catherine Baker Schnabel, who taught piano to generations of Long Island children, using her family's Levittown home as a base of operations, died Sept. 17, 2015, at Glen Cove Hospital. She was 95.

Catherine Baker Schnabel, a political activist who taught piano to generations of Long Island children, died Sept. 17 at Glen Cove Hospital. She was 95.

The cause was pneumonia, said her daughter, Kate Baker, of Locust Valley.

Schnabel crisscrossed Nassau County, giving home lessons from 1964 through the early 1990s, and using her home studio in Levittown as a base of operations, with two baby grand pianos sitting back to back, for annual recitals.

A founding member of the Association of Piano Teachers of Long Island, Schnabel did not enter the field until middle age, studying under concert pianist Rose Raymond, whose students included Burt Bacharach.

Schnabel was also active in the League of Women Voters, heading the group's Nassau County chapter.

Catherine "Kay" Baker Schnabel was born in Valparaiso, Indiana. The family struggled after her father lost his railroad job in the teeth of the Great Depression.

Schnabel attended Evanston Collegiate Institute in Illinois, paying her way with a job at Nielsen, which then rated radio programs.

At college, she met her first husband, Robert Baker, a writer and professor from Freeport. They married in 1940 and moved to Long Island after stints in California and upstate New York. By the standards of postwar suburban Long Island, they kept an unusual household, one that included injured stray animals Schnabel nursed to health, and occasional friends from Europe.

"We were probably the only people in Levittown that ate yogurt," recalled a son, also named Robert Baker, of Douglaston. "And being a working mother was not the norm in those days."

After her husband's death in 1992, Schnabel met Artie Schnabel at Sonny's Place Jazz Club in Seaford. The couple married in 1996 and lived in Heritage Village, a retirement community in Southbury, Connecticut, where they performed jazz and standards at community functions for more than a decade, he on clarinet and she on keyboards.

They moved to the Atria Glen Cove in 2014. Artie Schnabel died this year.

Besides children Kate and Robert, Schnabel is survived by another son, Eric Baker, of Brentwood.

Schnabel was cremated, and a memorial service was held Sept. 25 at Whitting Funeral Home in Glen Head.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Cove Animal Rescue, 40 Shore Rd., Glen Cove, NY 11542.

Latest Long Island News