Abbey Schmidt is a talkative, enthusiastic high school junior. When she picks up her clarinet, however, this bubbly teenaged girl exudes the panache of a polished classical clarinetist.
The Destin resident comes alive with the music, swelling and moving with the melody, lost in the world of great composers like Mozart, Bach, and Tchaikovsky. Currently, Schmidt is perfecting the piece, "Weber's Concertino" for her upcoming performance with the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra.
"[It's] so exciting, I can't believe I'm going to get to do this," Schmidt said, explaining that this is her first time playing with the NFSO. "I'm a little nervous because I've never played solo with an orchestra before, but I know I'll love it."
Schmidt earned her place in the orchestra by placing first in the high school division for the 2013 NFSO Concerto Competition. She will be featured as a guest artist alongside the symphony in the "Stars of Tomorrow Meets Handel" concert Feb. 7 at 7:30 p.m. in the main stage theater of Mattie Kelly Arts Center on the Niceville campus of Northwest Florida State College.
Auditioning for the competition was no easy task, Schmidt admitted, "I was nervous… I had never memorized a piece this long for the clarinet before. It's a ten minute piece; so it's long!"
Schmidt, the daughter of Robert and Leslie Schmidt, also revealed that it is the busiest time of year for her high school music scene, as she is simultaneously preparing for the orchestra and this year's band competitions.
"It's really training me on what it's going to be like as a professional musician," she said. “It's really maturing me."
Schmidt's love for music began at the tender age of six, with the introduction of her first instrument, the piano.
"I've always lived in a musical family," she explained, noting that two of her three older brothers, her mother, and her grandparents are musically inclined.
However, it was not until middle school that she discovered her passion for the clarinet.
"When I went in to choose my instrument [for band] nothing really fit, nothing was playing well until I picked up the clarinet — the clarinet worked," she said. "I never want to stop playing.”
Schmidt hopes to major in music performance and dreams of playing clarinet professionally with an orchestra.
“I love it so much," she said, fading into her musical realm once again. "I close my eyes and listen to the strings’ tune. It's so simple, so quiet, and so good. The beautiful still sound that each one makes; it's like I'm in another world, in another dimension."