Michigan native Claudia Schmidt has covered a lot of musical ground, beginning with a stirring rendition of “Tammy” at age 4 around a neighborhood bonfire. Then came years of choirs, a guitar, a dulcimer, and some theatre thrown into the pot.
More than three decades as a touring professional have found her traversing North America as well as Europe in venues ranging from intimate clubs to 4,000 seat theatres, and festival stages in front of 25,000 rapt listeners. She is familiar with the mediums of radio and TV, including regular stints on Public Radio International’s “A Prairie Home Companion” in its early incarnation, and starring in an hour-long documentary called “I Sing Because I Can’t Fly,” produced by KTCA TV in St. Paul. She participated in the delightful Les Blank movie “Gap-Toothed Women,” contributing a song as well as an interview. She wrote an award-winning score and performed in the Goodman Theatre’s 1992 Chicago production of Brecht’s “Good Person of Szechuan.” In 2006 & 2007 she has been a lead performer along with Ruth McKenzie and Prudence Johnson in “The Gales of November.” The “Gales” is a musical retelling of the Edmund Fitzgerald tragedy from the point of view of three wives of the doomed crew of the Great Lakes ore-carrier.
Claudia has recorded fourteen albums of mostly original songs, exploring folk, blues, and jazz idioms featuring her acclaimed string guitar and mountain dulcimer playing. Recently, she collaborated with the New Reformation Jazz Band on a Dixieland gospel recording and a tribute to Gershwin and Ellington in celebration of their hundredth birthdays. Claudia’s 2003 release on Redhouse Records – Wings of Wonder- features many new songs with instrumental support by Dean Magraw and Peter Ostroushko.
“I Thought About You,” is her second effort leading her own swinging sextet – Claudia Schmidt & The JumpBoys. In the fall of 2003 Claudia released an all spoken word CD featuring some of the many pieces she’s made famous in her performances over the past thirty years. The CD, ROADS, includes 17 poems and essays from her rich performance repertoire. In the Summer of 2006 Claudia released her first self-produced folk/acoustic CD Spinning. This recording is a coming home of sorts for Claudia with a studio full of Michigan’s finest musicians. Most recently, in the fall of 2006, Claudia teamed up again with Dean Magraw this time for a live jazz recording at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis. This great example of Claudia at work on stage features classic jazz pieces along with several of her own jazz-inspired compositions – Live at the Dakota.
A musician who has always hated categories, she describes herself as a “creative noisemaker,” which has irritated some critics but delighted many audiences, who learn to expect anything at a Schmidt concert, hymn, poem, bawdy verse, torch song, satire, and the gamut of emotions. Her live performances are not to be missed. Her musicality is astonishing. Her joy and love of performing are contagious.
She can weave the elements of music and stage into a program so unified and full of life that one critic has described a Claudia Schmidt concert as “….a lot like falling in love. You never know what’s going to happen next, chances are it’s going to be wonderful, every moment is burned into your memory, and you know you’ll never be the same again.”