How Warsaw-native artist ‘Sam Ule’ is building a career as a full-time musician at Grace College
By Kyrsten Newlon
When Sam Schmidt of Warsaw was in elementary school, he would listen to the classics–Beethoven, Debussy, Brahms, anything his mom popped into the CD player. As he learned to love his favorite composers, he would often pretend to conduct his own imaginary orchestra.
Little did he know at the time, but this was the beginning of a lifelong journey that would lead him to become a full-time musician at Grace College, releasing his debut single “Paint” in 2020, and earning spots to open concerts for national acts, including Citizens and The Brilliance.
Playing under the moniker “Sam Ule,” Schmidt makes piano-pop music, self-described as “theatrical” and “upbeat.” His sound draws comparisons to Jason Mraz and Jon Bellion, and he’s currently working on his first full-length original album.
To Schmidt, music is about so much more than notes on a page.
“Music is a language,” Schmidt says. “It’s personal and transcendent at the same time. I love it, and I’m enamored by it.”
But while Schmidt loves what he does today as a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrument musician, he says that getting there has required a lot of hard work.
“The arts are often misunderstood,” he says. “People think they don’t require hours, days, and years of work. Yes, there’s a natural gift, but the majority of making music is time spent doing it.”
Since his early introduction to music, Schmidt has honed his craft by playing in many venues around the Warsaw area. From a young age, he got involved in playing music in his church, Calvary Baptist Church, in Oswego, Ind. As early as his freshman year of high school, he knew that he wanted to make music his full-time career.
“I realized that I didn’t want to do something I liked, but something I loved,” he says.
In high school, Schmidt joined the marching band, the orchestra, and played piano for the jazz band. He practiced and performed wherever he could–Warsaw’s First Fridays with his high school band, the local farmers market, restaurants, weddings, and even house shows. He focused on putting himself out in the community and developing relationships with other full-time musicians.
His senior year of high school, his band won Warsaw High School’s Battle of the Bands and had the opportunity to record with Sweetwater Sound–the nation’s leading music technology and musical instrument retailer located in Fort Wayne.
Through all of these opportunities, Schmidt slowly built a widespread network of musical connections.
After graduating from high school, he spent a year at a Bible school in New York getting a one-year degree and traveling to do music ministry. Then, he transferred to Grace College to join the new Worship Arts program there.
Assistant Professor of Worship Arts Walter Brath says Schmidt has been an integral part of the program’s traveling team, Coram Deo, as well as the chapel team at Grace.
“Sam is a very gifted multi-instrumental musician, playing guitar, piano, drums, and voice,” Brath says.
When Schmidt returned to Warsaw, he immediately plugged back into the local music scene, too. He feels that his hometown community has become increasingly more supportive of the arts.
“A healthy community produces art and supports artists,” Schmidt says. “We have a ton of passionate musicians in town.”
Since he’s been back, he’s had a few exciting opportunities come his way, too. This fall, Grace College hosted the Christian music band, Citizens, for their annual outdoor concert, and Schmidt was asked to perform an opening act. He also opened for a popular musical duo, The Brilliance, and was planning an internship with them over the summer of 2020, which was put off due to the pandemic.
Despite how COVID-19 has impacted the national music industry, Schmidt has found ways to keep playing and making music during the pandemic. He was asked to stream a virtual centerstage solo act for a Warsaw First Friday, and since he released his single “Paint” on music streaming platforms, he has been working on his album.
He plans to graduate from Grace College this spring and then rekindle collaborations with musicians across the country and around the world. He intends to record his album in Pittsburgh, work with musical friends in Seattle, and collaborate with a popular musician he is connected with in South Africa. His roots, however, will always remain in Warsaw, he says, and in all the places his career takes him, he feels a special power in what he has learned about music here.
“The role of an artist in the community is very close to the role of the prophet,” Schmidt says. “It’s never that they have something to say; it’s that something needs to be said.”
To hear Schmidt’s music and follow his adventures, find him on Instagram at @sam_ule.