Jamestown Piano Teacher Selected To Be Adjucator For Prestigious Guild
When Jamestown piano teacher Andy Schmidt agreed to spend a month working in the Republic of China (also known as Taiwan) this summer, the work – not the trip – was his main focus. Schmidt, who was selected to be an adjudicator for the American College of Musicians/National Guild of Piano Teachers, agreed to a rigorous schedule of six days a week, listening to and judging the performances of about 400 students. His experience, however, proved to be much more than just work. He returned home from his trip with true friendships and beautiful memories of the time spent with his hosts, the students that he graded and their parents.
The “Piano Guild” as it is called, is the largest non-profit organization of piano teachers and students in the world. The primary purpose of the group is educational; to establish universal goals and awards for students. Each year over 100,000 students participate in non-competitive auditions that are held throughout the U.S. In recent years the Guild has expanded into the Far East, with new centers in Indonesia, Japan and China.
Schmidt became a judge for the Piano Guild in 2004, and has been adjudicating students each summer in various locations throughout the U.S. He spent three weeks last year in Texas, where the Guild headquarters are located. At that time, he was approached by the group’s directors about the possibility of working in the Far East.
“I truly love this organization,” Schmidt said. “I was honored and delighted that they would consider me for this tremendous opportunity. I believe that I was singled out because of the consistency of my judging style and detail included in my adjudications. I try to make sure that each musician comes away from the process with useful tools to help improve their skills.”
It is no secret that Schmidt’s life revolves around music. A pianist himself, he studied locally and eventually received his bachelor’s degree in piano performance from the University of Rochester’s prestigious Eastman School of Music.
He has influenced hundreds of young musicians over the past 30 years through his thriving private piano studio. His classes and recitals are conducted at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Jamestown, where he is also the director of music. He serves as organist and choir master for the Adult and Junior Choir at St. Luke’s and coordinates the church’s annual Concert Series. His piano students have received numerous awards and scholarships and several have gone on to achieve great success in the field of music.
Upon his arrival in Taiwan, Schmidt expected to spend most of his time in the studio or his hotel, with only a small amount of down time. His actual experience was quite the opposite. Amazed at the eagerness of the students and their families to interact with him, he recalls that they often asked to have their photos taken with him and sometimes even invited him to join them on outings to local landmarks, providing him with the opportunity to experience some of their country’s culture first-hand.
Remembering one particular day that he was confined to his hotel because of a typhoon, Schmidt says that he was asked to join his local host Hao-Sung and his family for a ‘simple dinner’ in their home, which was located nearby. To his surprise, his host served an exquisitely prepared whole fish that he had made himself. The fish was then consumed by the entire extended family – in bare feet and with chopsticks – around the living room table. This casual encounter was one of many that he says made the trip so much more personal and meaningful to him.
Schmidt says that one of the highlights of his visit was actually something he was quite uneasy about before he left. As a condition of his appointment, he was required to present a keynote address to his Asian peers at two different locations. Speaking engagements of this magnitude, especially in front of a large and unfamiliar audience (and with an interpreter) seemed daunting to him, but much to his relief, his speech about “Contemporary American Piano Music of the Last 30 Years” was warmly and enthusiastically received both days.
Before he left Taiwan, Schmidt was treated to a reception that included a surprise vocal performance directed by one of his hosts and sung by many of the students that he had met during his stay. He says that the song left him with tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat.
Schmidt was so impressed by his entire experience in Taiwan that he would love to go back. The Guild only allows adjudicators to return to the same site after three years have passed in order to maintain objectiveness, but he hopes to be asked after that time period has passed.
“I initially thought that a month would be a very long time, but the days just flew by,” he says. “I would jump at the opportunity to go back at some point. This is only the third country that I have ever visited in my life, and I am very happy that I decided to go. These people and this beautiful country will always be in my heart.”