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Schmidt’s journey with Choroideremia

Timothy Schmidt, professor emeritus of music, presented a piano recital entitled “A Journey of Transformation” at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 29 in the Recital Hall.

Dr. Schmidt practicing at the piano in the recital hall

Prior to attaining the emeritus of music position in 2005, Schmidt was the main piano instructor at Waldorf since 1972.  He had to step down from that position because his eyesight deteriorated from his eye disease known as Choroideremia, a “degeneration of eye tissue.”  Only males are born with the disease which has a missing gene.  The disease slowly progresses, and Schmidt’s peripheral vision is closing in more each year like tunnel vision.

In the fall of 2012, knowing what people go through with this disease, Schmidt decided “what a better way to celebrate” his 40 years at Waldorf by utilizing the recital “as a vehicle to raise funds for the foundation.”  The Choroideremia Research Foundation funds doctors who are trying to find a cure to eliminate the eye disease.  There are current projects in Portugal, France, the United Kingdom and Philadelphia.

Schmidt performed compositions to demonstrate the transformation he has discovered in his life by becoming blind.  The compositions were “Sonata in c# minor, Op. 27, No. 2 ‘Moonlight’” by Ludwig van Beethoven, “Troika Ride” by Daniel Pinkham and “Sonata in b minor” by Franz Liszt.  Throughout his performances, Schmidt was emotionally aware while shifting from loud to quiet tones.

Schmidt introduced each composition during the program which connected the audience to the pieces and his relationship to them.  Schmidt said he was five years old when he found out he was diagnosed with the eye disease Choroideremia, and then mentioned Beethoven realized he was becoming deaf during the composition of his sonata piece.

Liszt’s sonata piece was challenging for Schmidt to learn, and he had to physically change how he approached the keyboard.

By introducing each work, Schmidt used a less formal way by presenting his compositions.  He chose to do that style because he wanted to verbally share his transformation in a musically engaging way.  By doing it that way, his audience members grew an appreciation for the performances.

“We all have challenges, and we have to transform ourselves to meet them,” Schmidt said.

“The Choroideremia Research Foundation is a great cause,” said Scott Searcy, vice president for academic affairs.

“His choice of music was fantastic,” said Abby Urness, a student who is part of the music department.  She also said watching Schmidt live with blindness has encouraged her to realize that she “can play like that someday.”