Saturday, April 9, 2011
It is hard to know what is most important or how it all began.
...They grew up - quickly - went to school, became shy in their own ways and for different reasons. Read romances, studied cloud formations in the lazy afternoon and instead of reading textbooks tried to memorize the moon."
Harvey Schmidt, the son of a Methodist minister, traveled from town to town in Texas as his father's assignments changed. It was his mother, with her love of music had the most significant impact on the young Harvey. She made a living as a piano teacher. Harvey was one of her student's, but as he admits, one of her worst students. It was his mother and her love for music that made an impression.
In those small Texas towns long before TV radio was king. He listened to hour upon hour of symphony broadcasts and operas on the radio, it was the highlight of his weekend. That and the movies that came to town. "People growing up today can't imagine how different the world was before television," Schmidt says, "We had movies, radio, and some live performances and I loved them all because they were all separate. TV smears them all together. In those days I didn't know quite what was real and what was fantasy. I'd see these old 30's musicals where everybody'd be dancing on black glass floors and that supposedly was New York. I thought, well that looks swell."
Although reading notes baffled the young Schmidt it in no way stopped his love of music. He did learn to play and as soon as he knew how a song went he could play it by ear. He had a wild imagination and would meander down the dirt roads of Texas creating wild productions with huge production numbers like the one's he had seen in the movies. "Only mine were even bigger, and grander, because out of door, under the sky, I was not restricted by a studio budget!"
He did excel in one other thing and at a very early age....art. "A precocious artist, Schmidt's drawing so impressed his first grade teacher that the teacher announced to the class that he could grow up to be a commercial artist in New York. 'That sounded good to me.' Schmidt said , so I always claimed, I'd do that.'"
By 1948 he was headed to the University of Texas as a commercial art student but the Siren call of music and the theatre led him to a performing group on campus called The Curtain Club, his first audition as a pianist, and his first meeting with Tom Jones that sealed his fate.