Grammys and Curds: Elk Mound native sings in Grammy-winning opera

Cassandra Kyser, photos by Jamie Schultz Photography

Former local and professional opera singer Samuel Schultz sang in the Houston Symphony’s performance of Alban Berg’s opera Wozzeck, which won a Grammy for Best Opera Recording earlier this year.
Former local and professional opera singer Samuel Schultz sang in the Houston Symphony’s performance of Alban Berg’s opera Wozzeck, which won a Grammy for Best Opera Recording earlier this year.

In the days following  Sept. 11, 2001, members of Elk Mound’s high school choir were dining out. The restaurant was unusually quiet as patrons watched the news unfold on TV. A spur-of-the-moment decision led to the students standing up and singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” By the end of the song, the entire restaurant was also standing, and many were in tears. One of the baritone voices ringing out that day belonged to Grammy winner Samuel Schultz. 

“It was the first time in my life that I remember noticing the collective feeling that we are one,” Schultz said, reflecting back on his experience in the restaurant. Recently, Schultz sang as part of the Houston Symphony’s performance of Alban Berg’s opera Wozzeck, which won a Grammy for Best Opera Recording earlier this year. 

Besides being in choir at Elk Mound, Schultz played the trumpet and French horn in band. “One of the great things about growing up in a small community is that you can do a lot of things,” Schultz said. He was also active in show choir, jazz band, and vocal jazz ensemble. Besides performing with ensembles at Elk Mound High School, Schultz was often a cast member in Eau Claire Children’s Theatre products. “I’m very thankful for my formative musical education in Wisconsin,” he said.

For 11 years, Schultz studied piano with Leland Kearney. It was Kearney’s wife, Althea, who encouraged Schultz to pursue vocal training. While still in high school, Schultz studied voice with Kathryn Proctor Duax at UW-Eau Claire. After graduating from Elk Mound, he studied vocal performance at The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

Now based in New York City, Schultz makes his way back to the Chippewa Valley area a few times a year. 

Besides enjoying a home-cooked meal, he likes eating at High Shores Supper Club in Chippewa Falls, a venue that holds special memories for him. “I visited there so many times with my late piano teacher, Leland, and his wife, Althea,” he said. Schultz is especially looking forward to the opening of the Pablo Center at the Confluence. “That part of Eau Claire has become my favorite over the years as I’ve returned home.” 

Living in New York, what does Schultz miss most about Wisconsin? “Cheese curds,” he said, simply. “So many people in New York, and other places, have no idea what they are!” 

Visit SamuelSchultzBaritone.com to learn about Schultz’s upcoming performances. In April 2019, he will appear in Opera Omaha’s performance of Faust.

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