A frequent performer on National Public Radio's A Prairie Home Companion, Schmidt was exposed to folk music after moving to Chicago in 1974 to work as a secretary and office manager. Inspired by the Windy City's folk scene, which included Steve Goodman
, Jim Post
, and Bob Gibson
, Schmidt taught herself to play Appalachian dulcimer, 12-string guitar, and the deluxe pianolin, a 52-string, zither-like instrument. Within five years, Schmidt had left her day job and sought her fortune as a musician. Schmidt's self-titled debut album, released in 1979, established her as one of the Midwest's best singer/songwriters.
Schmidt composed the score, in collaboration with director Frank Calati, of a modern translation of Bertolt Brecht
's play A Good Person in Setzuan. Presented at the Goodman Theater in Chicago in May 1992, the score received a prestigious Joseph Jefferson Award.
Although she moved temporarily to Minnesota and Wisconsin, Schmidt moved back to her home state of Michigan with her husband Bill Pellardino to operate a bed-and-breakfast in an old log farmhouse that they restored on Lake Michigan's Beaver Island. She has since relocated off the island and settled in Traverse City.
In addition to 14 solo albums, Schmidt has recorded two albums -- Closing the Distance and While We Live, with Connecticut-based singer/songwriter Sally Rogers
. During the 21st century her recordings have sometimes moved in a jazz direction, starting with 2001's I Thought About You and including 2006's Live at the Dakota, recorded at the Dakota jazz club in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Released in 2010, Promising Sky was recorded by Claudia Schmidt & Her Funtet, a band blending folk, jazz, and funk influences. She returned early in 2014 with New Whirled Order, co-produced by Conrad Uno and featuring 11 new songs. ~ Craig Harris, Rovi