For those who don’t know, David Schmidt is the University of Utah’s head of vocal studies for the theater department, an assistant professor and an amazing performer. Over the course of his career, Schmidt has been a dancer, a singer, a director and now a teacher. He currently teaches roughly 50 students at the U and privately.
His love of the stage started at a young age when he saw a ballet on television and knew that theater was where he was meant to be. Starting on the singer/dancer track in Nashville, Tennessee, Schmidt performed in a countless number of shows — one of which he performed 364 times over the course of a year (two shows a day, six days a week). The thrill of the stage continued to call to him, and he performed as a dancer until an injury re-introduced him to his first love — singing. He performed as a background singer at the Grand Ole Opry while still in Nashville. During this busy period, Schmidt and his wife had their first two kids.
After experiencing theater from the vocal perspective, Schmidt became a voice teacher, and soon enough he took on the role of a director.
“[I] had been in the business long enough and done enough shows and wanted to share what [I] had learned with others,” Schmidt said.
Over the years, Schmidt has directed 10 operas and about 15 musicals. Of all of them, his favorite to direct was “Avenue Q.” This was an incredible experience for him because he was able to work with Jennifer Barnhart, the puppeteer and actress who performed in the original Broadway run of the musical. Although “Avenue Q” was Schmidt’s favorite show to direct, he said he loves directing opera.
With a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance, a master’s in vocal pedagogy and a Ph.D. in music education, Schmidt seems to have done it all. He is excited to be sharing his knowledge with aspiring actors, musicians and dancers, and to all of his students, he has a bit of advice:
“Get out and work your butt off to get a job,” Schmidt said. “It doesn’t matter where you sing, just go sing somewhere, dance somewhere or act somewhere. Just keep doing it over and over. You’re going to meet someone who’s going to get you somewhere else and you’re going to get a job. Just keep auditioning and working.”
Although he does not have any crazy audition experiences himself, he said he loves the audition process and the challenge of getting the job. His advice on auditioning is to not be nervous and to find ways to make yourself feel confident.
“The most important thing you have to have going into an audition is knowing that the people behind the table want you to fix their problem, and that is [that] they need characters for their show,” Schmidt said. “You need to walk into that room and be the person they need, and if you’re not, you’re not, and you need to accept that. You can’t be something you’re not.”
Currently, Schmidt is working on his latest adventure: a new ensemble singing group at the U called the MTE (Music Theater Ensemble). The group began last year and you can catch them performing at games and around campus.