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Music Library Special Collections: Karl Schmidt

Finding Aid


Portrait of Karl Schmidt
Karl Schmidt

Karl “Papa” Schmidt (1854-1950) was born in Schwerenin-Mechlenberg Germany and began playing the cello and piano at a young age. He graduated from the Leipzig Conservatory and soon after began preforming as a solo cellist for Johann Strauss in Vienna, where he succeeded collogue and friend Victor Herbert. He appeared a soloist and conductor with the Municipal Theatre in Zurich, Switzerland and conductor of the English Grand Opera Company.  While in Europe Schmidt as was given the opportunity to perform under Johannes Brahms, Anton Rubinstein, Arthur Nikisch, Franz Liszt, and Anton Seidl (Metropolitan Orchestra.)

In the fall 1889 Karl Schmidt relocated to Toronto, Canada to accept a teaching position at Torrington College. In 1891 Mr. Schmidt came to Louisville, Kentucky to direct the Liedarkranz Society and the Philharmonic Orchestra. (Later combing the two groups into the Liedarkranz Orchestra or The Philharmonic Society.) The same year Schmidt became the cellist for the Burch Quintette and organist of the Temple Adath Iseael. In 1906 Mr. Schmidt went to New York to direct the Henry W. Savage Opera Company through seasons of 1907 and 1908. Works conducted during Schmidt’s residence included Madame Butterfly (Puccini) and The Merry Widow (Lehar) In Madison Square Garden.

After Schmidt’s return from New York in 1908, he began teaching at the Conservatory of Music in Louisville as a private cello instructor and Music Director of WHAS Radio Station. Following these positions he became the head of advanced music theory subjects and artist cello faculty for the University of Louisville’s School of Music.

In 1930 Dr. Schmidt was awarded with the David Bispham Memorial Medal by the American Opera Society for his American Grand Opera titled, ’’The Lady of the Lake,” a vocal score of which was published in Chicago. Before his death in October of 1950, Schmidt also completed an oratorio titled, ”Judith: Biblical Cantata,” and continued as an active music director and performer for various ensembles in Louisville, Kentucky.


Collection Includes

  • Schmidt's manuscripts and published works
  • correspondence 
  • photographs
  • memorabilia and related documents

How to Use this Collection

To access materials in this collection please contact the Director of the Music Library.