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 Lucy van Pelt's unrequited infatuation-who leans on Schroeder's piano. Charlie 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. 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.
From his first appearance at the piano on September 24, 1951, Schroeder has played classical pieces of virtuoso level, as depicted by Schulz's painstaking transcription of sheet music onto the panel. 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. 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. Schroeder generally wears a shirt with thick black stripes. In the animated TV specials and movies, it is colored purple.
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 Schroeder burst out crying, 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 leans 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, 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. 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.
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 one of Brahms' piano quartets...five cents, please." Later, Charlie Brown asked Lucy, "How carefully do you screen your assistants?"
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 more of a running gag in the strip's later years. On another occasion, Lucy asked if pianists made 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). 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.
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. She once threw it into a sewer and the piano was washed out to sea. She later threw another one into the dreaded Kite-Eating Tree, which apparently ate pianos as well. Schroeder ordered his replacement pianos from the Ace Piano Company. When Charlie Brown asked if his piano was covered by insurance Schroeder replied, "How do you explain to the insurance company that your piano was eaten by a tree?". On another occasion Lucy, armed with a baseball bat, smashed to pieces a bust of Beethoven sitting on top of his piano; Undaunted, Schroeder calmly picked out a new bust from a closet well-stocked with duplicates.
The only time 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.