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Longtime University Choir director Schmidt dies

STANFORD -- Harold C. Schmidt, professor emeritus of music at Stanford and a resident of Palo Alto, died in his sleep at his daughter's home in Englewood, Colo., Sunday, Aug. 22. He was 83.

Born in Schenectady, N.Y., Schmidt's musical education was begun in a small New England town where he played violin with a theater orchestra, a small popular dance group and the local high school orchestra. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees at Harvard, where he was a member of the Bach Cantata Club, the Harvard Glee Club and the University Chapel Choir. He also studied in Italy, France and England and was a student of Walter Piston and Gustav Holst.

From 1933 to 1944, he served on the faculty of Fisk University in Nashville and was director of the Fisk University Choir. From 1944 to 1947, he was head of the music department at Western College in Oxford, Ohio.

He came to Stanford in 1947 as associate professor of music and director of choral music. He taught undergraduate courses at Stanford and was fond of saying that, at the graduate level, "I train choral conductors to do what I am doing." The editing of 16th- and 17th-century choral music was one of his constant interests.

Schmidt established the San Francisco Symphony's early- morning open-rehearsal series in 1972 and served as lecturer for the series for more than 10 years.

In 1972, he was awarded the Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel Award for Outstanding Service to Undergraduate Education. He was cited by then-President Richard W. Lyman as "choral conductor par excellence, arranger of exciting concerts at home and afield, musical martinet who reminds us in each performance what the highest standards of musicianship can mean."

As director of the Stanford University Choir, he was in charge of the singing at Stanford commencements and of music for Sunday services in Memorial Church for nearly 30 years. His arrangement of the Thanksgiving hymn, "We Gather Together," was a favorite of Stanford President J.E. Wallace Sterling, who enjoyed bringing students, especially frosh, to Memorial Church on the first Sunday of the academic year, when this piece was sung.

On his retirement from Stanford in 1975, he said he was looking forward to a measure of freedom from the rigors of an academic schedule. Though ars may be longa, he said, he didn't see his vita as brevis.

Schmidt's wife of 50 years, Barbara Wright Schmidt, died in 1988. He is survived by his son, Carl B. Schmidt (Stanford Class of 1963), a musicologist, of Haverton, Pa.; his daughter, Ann W. Shannon (Stanford Class of 1965) of Englewood, Colo.; and six grandchildren, one of them Clea Shannon, a junior at Stanford.

A memorial service will be held at Stanford autumn quarter.



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