It all began with one man’s passion for the arts.
William E. Schmidt had a vision for creating opportunities for young singers that propel them on their journey toward a career in the arts. Together with his extended family, he formed the William E. Schmidt Foundation in 1992.
Among the Foundation’s funding goals was a commitment to fostering young students’ passion for classical singing. This commitment led to several successful programs and ultimately the creation of Schmidt Vocal Arts, the umbrella entity that includes the popular Schmidt Vocal Competition, Schmidt Vocal Institute, Schmidt Vocal Education and scholarship opportunities for young singers.
Schmidt Vocal Competition reaches more than 400 students each year and takes place in 17 locations throughout the U.S. The day-long competition affords singers an opportunity to perform live in front of an audience for the chance to win cash awards and scholarships, and offers coaching and master class training with premier artists. Many of Schmidt Vocal Competition’s accomplished alumni have gone on to pursue musical degrees at leading music schools and enjoy successful careers in the arts.
Building on the competition’s nationwide success and esteemed reputation, Schmidt Vocal Arts offers a two-week residential summer program, Schmidt Vocal Institute. Hosted by Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, the Institute brings together talented high school singers who are serious about pursuing a career in the arts.
Schmidt Vocal Education provides regional opportunities for singers to gain exposure to other singers and artists, to learn and challenge themselves, to participate in performance experiences, and to continue formal education and training through intensive workshops.
Education + Initiative + Hard Work = Success
– William E. Schmidt
The William E. Schmidt Foundation supports organizations that create true and lasting change in their communities by impacting as many people as possible though the arts, education and youth programs. Inspired by Anna Lee Schmidt Hamilton (who was known for her reputation as a vocal artist, instructor, and patron of the arts), the Foundation was formed in Indiana in 1992 with the love, support, and guidance of Anna Lee’s brother, Mr. Schmidt, and his extended family. Mr. Schmidt’s family is still actively involved in the operation and mission of the Foundation today.
Founder William E. Schmidt
William E. Schmidt was a decorated military pilot, successful businessman and lifelong, generous supporter of the arts and charitable organizations in the communities where he lived.
Born in Irvine, Kentucky, in 1933, Bill Schmidt came from a family that loved music and believed in the power of education. These interests continued as his family moved and eventually settled in Evansville, Indiana, where he spent the majority of his youth and adult life. These values and a strong sense of roots would influence many aspects of his philanthropy – a commitment to family and the quality of life of the people of Southern Indiana and Kentucky.
Bill received his Bachelor of Arts degree from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, and his master’s degree in business administration from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. After serving as an Air Force fighter pilot and instructor, Bill helped to raise three children while launching numerous real estate and entrepreneurial projects, including the Honey Creek Mall in Terre Haute, Indiana.
A soft-spoken man with great listening skills, Bill was known for his quick wit, astute business skills, charitable nature and wide-ranging talents. Throughout his life, he was at times a soccer coach, tenor in the choir, eager golfer, formidable card player and board member of numerous local organizations. After the death of his mother – and with close counsel of his beloved sister, Anna Lee Schmidt Hamilton – he was the patriarch of a large extended family that he continued to love and support.
A 1950 graduate of DePauw University, Anna Lee did postgraduate study at Indiana University and Heidelberg Conservatory of Music in Germany. Her career included time as a voice instructor at Butler University, vocal coach and assistant conductor of the Indianapolis Opera Company, private vocal teacher, and vocal coach, musical director and performer with the Indiana Opera Theatre.
It was with Anna Lee’s guidance that Bill committed to growing the Schmidt Vocal Competitions, an initiative that has since become a nationally renowned program, touching the lives of more than 5,000 students. With these contests, as well as with his meaningful support of other scholarship programs at numerous universities, schools and community organizations Bill provided a remarkable legacy of dedication to the arts and youth that his Foundation continues to build upon today.
In his later life, Bill moved to Sarasota, Florida, where he became a substantial behind-the-scenes supporter of several key community projects, including the Sarasota Opera. He recognized the value of participatory philanthropy, especially grassroots and need-based programs in the Sarasota area.
Bill died in 2014 after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s Disease, but his love for and commitment to the arts and the community live on in his family, friends and colleagues. The William E. Schmidt Foundation captures Bill’s entrepreneurial and hard-working spirit in the initiatives and projects it selects to fund — always grounded in innovation and led by those committed to a worthy mission.