Pairing jazz music and piano keys: Looking into the musical life of Thomas Schmidt

Isabella Gentile, Features Editor

Jazz music in particular has been said to be the language of the soul — junior Thomas Schmidt definitely agrees. He is a double major in management and music, and the Vice President of The Musicians’ Guild. His extensive knowledge of jazz and other genres, along with 15 years worth of experience playing the piano, make him the go-to man for all things music. 

 Schmidt was classically trained in playing the piano from the ages of 5 to 8. His teacher was his next door neighbor, but she stopped teaching him after about three years. As far as developing his skills, he was essentially on his own after this point.

 He only received a few years of training, but he has been playing and crafting his skills ever since. He plays pretty frequently on campus with seniors Kaylee Pugliese and Colby Masse, who are part of a band called SmallTalk. To Schmidt, these events are more “crowd friendly,” where they try to play more pop tunes. But he says that personally, that’s not really his scene.

 He is particularly a jazz pianist, which he says is all-encompassing, but he loves it nonetheless.

 “The fact that I’m a jazz pianist has allowed me to develop my skills as an improviser in any style. I love playing jazz but what that really means is that I can play over anything. You could play a rock song, country song or hip hop, and I’ll play behind it,” he said.

 Thinking about how much time he spends during a single day playing the piano, Schmidt comments that it is usually a good two to three hours. Given that he is on campus for most of his days during the week, he likes to utilize the facilities and the acoustic pianos around campus. He is definitely the one to talk to about where to find a piano on school grounds, as he was prepared to disclose all of these locations off the top of his head.

CAS has a small practice room with a piano, along with a large music classroom that houses a Baby Grand piano inside. There is also a digital piano located within the building. According to Schmidt, only three other places on campus have pianos. There is a piano in GHH 01 and in the New Res Jam Room, which is designed for things like jam sessions and band practices. His favorite piano is housed in the Performing Arts Center.

 “The Barn has the Steinway Grand piano, which is without a doubt, by far the best piano on campus. I love to play that one. I don’t get there too often, but it’s nice when I do have time,” he said.

 He says that the yearning to explore music is what has kept him playing piano for all of these years. Schmidt emphasized the importance of the piano and how crucial of a tool it is when diving into the realm of music.

 “The piano, for me, is the most fundamental instrument to music. If anyone wants to learn how to do anything with music, I think you should learn how to play the piano,” he said.

 In general, music is extremely important to Schmidt. 

 “Music itself is the most important thing to me, I just love music. It is one of the oldest forms of communication we have as a civilization, and it’s very powerful,” he said. “Every note means something. How you go from one note to the other makes all the difference in a song.”

 When asked if there were any artists in particular that he looked up to, Schmidt was quick to mention The Beatles. He grew up on classic rock, hearing Paul McCartney and wanting to play like him when he was only 5 years old. For jazz specifically, the music of John Coltrane and Bill Evans are some of the sounds that he enjoys.

 Ideally, Schmidt says that he would have ended up at a music school, but that did not end up being the smartest move. He knows that the cost of music schools can be extremely expensive, so he ultimately decided to pursue a business degree, while also taking advantage of the fact that he is a student at RWU and pining for a music degree as well.

 He does not plan on being a full-time musician, but he fully intends on continuing to pursue his passions for music. Regardless of the job that he obtains in the future, Schmidt comments that he will always be playing piano, and that he will continue to play shows and gigs, possibly considering teaching. He does know one thing for sure. 

 “I’m just going to keep playing everyday,” he said.