Growing up in Waynesboro was quite an artistically nurturing experience, and is a large part of why I ended up becoming a professional musician in the first place. I work with some of the biggest names in show business, and I owe that to my time in the boro.
My love of the piano began when I started private lessons at 5 years old.
Then, in elementary school, Mrs. Smedley’s music class at Fairview Elementary inspired me often and exposed me to a myriad of diverse influences. Every Halloween, I enjoyed watching the slideshow to Saint-Saens’ Danse Macabre, and I recall learning about and playing many interesting instruments. It really framed my entire view of music as a fun thing to explore and and enjoy.
In middle school, Mrs. Wenerd me encouraged to use my piano talents to accompany the school choirs, which was very scary at first, but completely changed my life. I also played in the school bands and in the various talent shows, and developed my more theatrical side in Mrs. Hollen’s school productions.
At that point, I feel that my trajectory to be a lifelong musician was pretty much set. High school only solidified and expanded this. I played in the symphonic band, the jazz band, the marching band, and accompanied pretty much all the choirs. My academics were important, but my school experience was very centered around becoming proficient and well-rounded as a musician. I was playing in the pit orchestra for some of our all-school productions and acting/singing in others. Mr. Kowallis really championed me as an accompanist and I learned a lot about vocal technique (that I use today) just from watching him work with the kids in various choirs. I also learned how to sensitively accompany a singer and really let their performance inform my playing. By the time I reached my junior year, I went to district, then regionals and then became the state accompanist for Pennsylvania.
It wasn’t always easy, as I got made fun of by some of the students for being a “music nerd.” This was relentless and dispiriting. I very likely would have given up on music if we didn’t have such an incredible roster of encouraging art educators inspiring me and teaching me every day why music was valuable, interesting and worth the effort. It saddens me that many communities are cutting down their arts programs, as it literally saved my life. I don’t know who I would be without it.
These days, I’m playing with Miley Cyrus and many other world-class stars, and it’s really just a logical extension of accompanying those choirs in school. I wouldn’t have this amazing career without the arts education I received in Waynesboro, and for that I am incredibly grateful.
Please visit Mike’s website for more information! http://www.mikeschmid.com/