William Joseph Schmidt, Jr (March 6, 1926 – April 25, 2009) was an American composer, arranger and publisher of classical music.
Schmidt was born in Chicago, Illinois and began playing the saxophone at the age of six, and later added clarinet and piano to his studies. He started playing professionally by the time he was 12, and began arranging music a few years later.
He served in the Navy (1944–46) as musician and arranger in the Admiral’s band on the USS Iowa in the Pacific. Following this he attended Chicago Musical College under the tutelage of Max Wald before moving to Los Angeles in 1952. There, he attended the University of Southern California. Studying with Ingolf Dahl, he received his Bachelor’s and Master's degrees in Music Composition with honors. During the Korean War, he served again in the Navy (1950–52) as musician and arranger on the USS Tarawa in the Mediterranean.
In 1959 Schmidt formed the company Avant Music, specializing in the publishing of classical music. In 1964, Avant became the core of Western International Music, Inc. (WIM), of which Schmidt was founder and president. The WIM Catalog lists nearly 1400 compositions and associated recordings.
In 1956 William Schmidt received a DuPont Band Composition Award, and from 1970-76 recording grants from the Ford Foundation. In 1981 he was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his Double Concerto for Trumpet, Piano and Chamber Orchestra, commissioned, premiered, broadcast and recorded by the Pasadena Chamber Orchestra in California. He was a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), and received awards from that Society from 1979 until his death. From 1956 to 2008 he received commissions from many musicians, universities, festivals, and international professional organizations, including several commissions at the University of Northern Colorado.
After moving to Greeley, Colorado in 1987 Mr. Schmidt won the City’s competition for writing a trumpet fanfare to commemorate the new performance hall. A Greeley Fanfare for 6 Trumpets opened the Union Colony Civic Center in Greeley in 1988; the original manuscript is enclosed in the time capsule of the building’s cornerstone. In 1989 he won the Creative Fellowship in Music Composition awarded by the Colorado Council on the Arts and Humanities. In 1990 he was Composer-In-Residence at the Breckenridge Music Festival.
Much of William Schmidt’s music was influenced by jazz and folk music. He composed and arranged music primarily for saxophone, woodwinds, brass and percussion — from solos and chamber music, to clarinet choir, brass choir, symphonic winds, band and orchestra — a total of 160 original compositions, and 470 arrangements.
© 1987 Bruce Duffie
This conversation was recorded in Chicago on October 1, 1987. Portions were broadcast on WNIB the following June, and again in 1991 and 1996, and on WNUR in 2007 and 2015. This transcription was made in 2018, and posted on this website at that time. My thanks to British soprano Una Barry for her help in preparing this website presentation. Additional gratitude goes to Sharon Davis, who graciously looked over the page, and made several corrections before it was uploaded to the website. She mentioned that her husband had spoken favorably about this meeting, and she complimented me on the diligence I had shown in getting everything right.
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.
Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago. You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.