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Schmidt '93 makes final run after 20 years on the road

It has become one of the most iconic images of the Augustana Symphonic Band Tour: a burly, bearded man with a commanding voice and an infectious laugh calling instructions from the lift gate of a yellow rental truck.

Schmidt and Lambrect
From left, Dr. James Lambrecht and Paul Schmidt '93

Ask Symphonic Band members from the past decade to name him, and they will immediately tell you-it's Paul Schmidt '93. Since 2002, Schmidt has driven the equipment truck for each domestic Augustana Symphonic Band Tour. But how Schmidt became what the band lovingly calls the "tour equipment logistics manager" is a story in itself.

Schmidt played contrabass clarinet throughout his four years with the Augustana Symphonic Band. After graduating from Augustana, he rarely missed a Symphonic Band concert, even after he left his position with Augustana's financial assistance office to take a new job in his native suburban Chicago.

One of the few concerts he missed was the band's 2001 fall concert. Diagnosed with cancer earlier that year, Paul spent most of that fall undergoing extensive chemotherapy and stem cell treatment. Weak, sick and in isolation, Schmidt spent hours listening to the recording of that fall concert brought to him by "Doc," the moniker the band has given to Dr. James Lambrecht, director of bands and conductor of the Augustana Symphonic Band.

"I had played nearly all of the music on that concert as a student in the band," said Schmidt. "Listening to that CD got me through chemo."

Schmidt and Lambrect
From left, Dr. James Lambrecht and Paul Schmidt '93

The plaque presented to Schmidt recognizes him "for his many years of assistance
with equipment logistics support for the annual Symphonic Band Tour."

Schmidt has been cancer-free since 2002.

"Driving the truck for the band tour is how I have chosen to contribute, to give back to the college, to the band and especially to Doc," explained Schmidt. "Few people realize what an impact [Lambrecht] has made on my life. I am proud to call him both my conductor and my friend." 

Driving the tour equipment truck has not only brought Paul closer to Lambrecht, but also made him an integral part of tour for students in the Symphonic Band.

"Paul embodies the best attributes of an Augustana College student and alumnus. He was always a very supportive alumnus of the Symphonic Band, but after surviving cancer, he made the commitment to support the band with the greatest gift we all have - our time and effort," said Dr. Lambrecht.

Spring 2013 was Schmidt's final trip as driver for the band tour.

"It is getting harder and harder to take time away from my job," Schmidt explained. Paul is an electronic reconciliation representative in the financial assistance office of the College of DuPage in suburban Chicago.

But being gone from tour won't make Schmidt less a member of the band. Band alumni will tell you that they are members of the Augustana Symphonic Band for life. But instead of looking for Paul on a lift gate, future Symphonic Band members will have to look for him in the audience.

And Paul will be there.