On Saturday evening, I had the honor to be in Kiel, Wisconsin to hear my good friend and the chairman of our Board of Trustees at VanderCook College of Music, Dr. Lew Schmidt, conduct his final concert with the Kiel Municipal Band. Lew has conducted the band for the past 29-30 years and it has been an integral part of his life.
As I sat in the audience, I could not help but look around the gymnasium. Every chair that had been carefully set up on the floor was filled. The audience was full of townspeople, family, and friends. All had come out to hear a fine community band perform, to support a family member who was also playing in the band, or to be there to thank Lew for his years of dedicated service and music making.
For these people, the Kiel Band is like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. It is an important part of their lives. They tapped their foot to the marches, they sang along as the band played selections from The Sound of Music, and they stood and applauded when Lew was presented with a plaque thanking him for his leadership, musicianship, and vision to keep this community treasure alive.
After the concert there was a reception and everyone stayed around and talked, and all were sure to make their way over to Lew to say “thanks.” For me, it was a melancholy moment, as I look ahead to the day when I put down the baton for the final time and say, “that’s it.” I don’t look forward to that day, but it will come, and when it does, I hope that I have the courage, class, and grace to do it the same way my good friend Lew did on Saturday night.
My old buddy Tim Lautzenheiser says, “when you have class it shows, and when you don’t, it shouts.” Lew, thanks for showing us what class is all about.