Nearing end of college career that began at age 15, UMSL student has sights set on music industry

by | Jul 5, 2017

An accomplished violinist, singer and songwriter, Abigail Stahlschmidt has a new single playing on local radio.
Abigail Stahlschmidt, UMSL student

Abigail Stahlschmidt can’t remember a time when she didn’t play the violin. Now 21 years old and wrapping up an interdisciplinary degree that is equal parts business and music, the UMSL senior first began studying under the Arianna String Quartet in junior high. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Abigail Stahlschmidt happened to be riding in a car earlier this summer when she first got the news. It was the perfect place to be.

“Turn on the radio,” the text on her phone – from a local DJ – read. “I’m about to play your song for the first time!”

Minutes later, the University of Missouri­–St. Louis student listened with delight as local country station KFAV 99.9 sent “Turntable,” her new single, across St. Louis airwaves.

To Stahlschmidt, the moment felt like a pivotal one. Though the 21-year-old has been landing gigs as a violinist since her mid-teens, hearing her own music on the radio was different – and exciting.

“Right now I’m trying to focus on doing more of that solo stuff,” explains Stahlschmidt, now a senior liberal studies major at UMSL. “I’m working on my country music and putting a band together and just trying to figure out what I want to communicate, as an artist, myself.”

Despite her youth, it’s fair to say that the St. Peters, Missouri, native is already a seasoned professional on a variety of fronts. A classically trained student of the violin since age 4, she began playing with local bands at age 15 after one of her violin teachers noticed her knack for playing by ear and working out her own parts.

Abigail Stahlschmidt

As she pursues a solo career as a singer/songwriter as well as opportunities in the world of symphonic rock, Abigail Stahlschmidt is finding that her classical music background offers plenty of possibilities. (Photo courtesy of Joseph Giddens Productions)

“That kind of grew organically – starting to play with country bands and Latin American bands and all sorts of stuff,” Stahlschmidt says.

By then she’d also begun working as a model – a job that continues to take her across the country for a wide variety of shoots. In fact, she’s signed with seven different modeling agencies around the U.S.

Another change in her life as a young teen involved UMSL, where she was taking private lessons with then-faculty member and Arianna String Quartet violinist David Gillham.

“He moved to Canada, but he was the one who first mentioned the dual enrollment program to me,” Stahlschmidt says.

The chance to earn college credits while still in high school piqued her interest, and at age 14 she took her first university-level courses while continuing her violin studies with other Arianna musicians on campus as well.

Her ACT scores the following year resulted in enough scholarship funding to cover all of her tuition, and by the time she officially graduated from high school in the spring of 2013, Stahlschmidt was already technically a sophomore at UMSL.

“Then I started getting involved in the orchestra and also with Vocal Point, directed by Dr. [Jim] Henry,” she adds. “He is awesome and another huge inspiration for me. We have great music teachers here, so just to be under that kind of teaching on both the vocal and instrumental sides – and see people that are so passionate about what they do – has been really encouraging.”

Viper violin

Abigail Stahlschmidt is an endorsed artist on the six-string Viper violin pictured here. (Photo courtesy of Meadows Images)

Her time on campus isn’t over quite yet – which might come as a surprise since she got such an early start on her college career.

“I actually have one more year, because I have spread it out a little bit,” Stahlschmidt explains. “I took off about a year and a half to work on my solo stuff, and now I am pursuing basically a music business degree.”

UMSL’s online offerings have become a go-to resource for the frequent traveler, who admits that even many of her violin lessons with faculty member John McGrosso now take place via Skype.

That’s not to downplay their continued impact, however.

“They [the Arianna quartet] are phenomenal, and they have had a huge influence on my playing,” Stahlschmidt insists.

As she looks toward her last year of undergraduate study at the university, she’s also anticipating a unique opportunity come February and March. Vivaldi Metal Project – the symphonic-rock brainchild of MISTHERIA, an Italian artist – will be kicking off a U.S. tour, and there are plans to feature Stahlschmidt as the lead violinist.

“Along with the performances, we want to make it more of an educational thing,” Stahlschmidt says of the project. “It’s wonderful to have those classical roots but then be able to kind of take it out into the real world and use it in so many ways.”

She’s finding that to be the case when it comes to her solo pursuits, too.

“I’m interested in drawing on some of this stuff that I’ve been able to experience from classical music and rock music and putting it into what defines me as a sound,” she explains.

Meanwhile, the academic track she’s been able to pursue at UMSL under the flexible umbrella of the liberal studies degree – with minors in music and business – has her hopeful about her ambitions.

“There is a lot more business involved in the music business than people realize at first,” Stahlschmidt says.

And there’s also something else.

“I want to give back with the talents I’ve been given,” she adds. “It’s not just about music at the end of the day. It’s something that I want to be able to make a difference with.”

Stahlschmidt’s music video of the song “Turntable” is currently playing on The Country Network, and it can still be heard on KFAV 99.9, too. Learn more about the UMSL student’s work on her website (download the new song for free using “Countrygirl” as a promo code), and check out her “Purple Rain” tribute, which was popular last year on YouTube.

The UMSL Experience

Evie Hemphill

Evie Hemphill