I realize that no one here knows who Lew Schmidt was. I'm going to tell you. I went to high school from 1971-1974 in a small, rural, Wisconsin village. Our family had moved to this town during the summer of 1969, so I was the new kid. My dad had taken the job of Chief of Police in this village of about 1100 people, so I was also the cop's kid at a time when young people were still calling police officers "pigs". I didn't like this village. All of my friends were now 100 miles away, and I wasn't having much success in making new friends.
So, I played guitar, and I played some more guitar. My dad wasn't that fond of my new interest, and he certainly didn't encourage it. Guitars were for that "rippity sh*t bang" music that the "long hairs" played, when they weren't doing drugs. I was also a member of the high school band, playing saxophone. While in school, I spent every spare moment in the band room. Our band director was tough. At a time when most schools, including ours, were doing away with dress codes for students, he would require all female students to wear skirts or dresses while in band rehearsal, and all males had to wear a collared shirt and no jeans. And you know what? Nobody quit the band.
Our high school band was one of the best in the state. We competed in concert competitions, and in marching competitions all over the state, and we usually came out with a first place trophy. It wasn't long before I had developed a deep respect for this guy, Lew Schmidt. Lew was a lover of music, but he was a taskmaster. While some grumbled about rehearsing a section of music over and over until it was perfect, I loved it. And I think he liked the fact that I was always in the band room, practicing sax, or playing piano.
Eventually some friends and I got a little band together, and we were hired to play at a post prom dance. I owned a bass guitar, but I had no amp. So I asked Lew if I could use the school's bass amp for this dance. He told me that he needed someone to play the stand up bass parts for the school musical, which was My Fair Lady, and that if I would learn how to read bass clef and learn the bass parts for the musical, then I could use the amp. And that's just what I did. Instead of my dad, who was also tough, it was Lew who encouraged me to keep playing music.
Fast forward to 2010...my then teen aged daughter was getting ready to attend a band camp sponsored by a local University. I was reading through some informational material regarding the camp and I noticed that the flute instructors name was listed as L. Schmidt. I figured that it couldn't be my Lew Schmidt, not after nearly 40 years, but knowing that he was a flute player I told my daughter that if he was an elderly man, she should tell him that he had taught me back in the '70s. Well, sure enough it was my Lew. After a camp concert, I had the opportunity to tell him how much he had meant to me all those years ago and beyond. We talked for a few minutes that night, and exchanged a few e-mails in the months that followed, but sort of lost contact after that.
Lew Schmidt and his wife were killed in a car accident a week ago today. I'm glad I got to tell him how much he inspired me when I was young. Rest in peace, Mr. and Mrs. Schmidt.