Sylvia Schmidt is a German vocalist from the three-country corner of Saxony where East German, Czech and Polish traditions meet to form the distinctive heritage of Lower Silesia. She began her musical journey at the Johann-Adam Hiller Musikschule in the enchanting city of Görlitz, a rich cultural centre where one can cross to Poland by footbridge. With the desire to pursue her study of music further, in 2008, Sylvia arrived in London to immerse herself in its vibrant international and cultural tapestry. She has since established herself as a versatile contemporary performer, both as a soloist and an ensemble musician. Her career has taken her across Europe, specialising predominantly in original and avant-garde musical projects, but her strong technical abilities have ensured that she is also in-demand as a commercial and session vocalist.
Over 20 years, Sylvia has carefully crafted her voice into a finely carved, precise instrument, a tool which she effortlessly wields to tell beautiful and emotive stories in song. Her fierce pursuit and love of melodic narratives results in imaginative interpretations of themes, both in compositional and improvised settings. She has earned a reputation as a fearless improviser and naturally knits spontaneous improvisation into performance when it is called for. This breathes her own freshness and vitality into written musical content, yet Sylvia’s disposition remains as honest and sincere as it does daring. Although Sylvia’s yearning spirit can take her on endeavours that demand deep introspection, her empathic nature ensures that her performances are strongly rooted in a connection with the audience. Her passion for taking listeners on journeys beyond the boundaries of place and time make her work both mesmerising and memorable.
The projects Sylvia has led and been invited to perform in demonstrate her natural comfortability in different musical and cultural settings. Sylvia’s exploration of disparate projects with ease, but sensitivity, shows that the labels given to the projects she is part of, be it “Jazz”, “Folk” or “Classical”, are but words which do little to constrain the open and willing human spirit. As a result, her work spans intimate settings, such as the guitar-voice duo Kitchman / Schmidt to the roaring and raucous, with the Slavic Space Jazz orchestra Mimika Ensemble. Sylvia writes and performs original music for the pensively groove-driven European Jazz band, Esquivo, as well as for the contemporary classical trio White Flower, which explores the textures, dynamics and sonic possibilities of three solo instruments. She performs regularly in choral settings with London Contemporary Voices, has collaborated with modern London Jazz trio, Glasshopper, Jazzwise Rising Star pianist Maria Chiara Argiro (Kinkajous), Thodoris Ziarkas (Valia Calda) and Mike De Souza (Big Bad Wolf), to name but a few. She has performed at the international Water Tower Art Festival in Sofia, Bulgaria and co-composed music for the Catalonian documentary film Pan Seco.
Some recent performance highlights include performing with London Contemporary Voices at Southbank Centre and Union Chapel, at Soho Jazz powerhouses Pizza Express Jazz Club and The Spice of Life, as well as London’s finest proponents of the avant-garde, Vortex Jazz Club and Café Oto in Dalston. Sylvia has toured a variety of Jazz festivals in the UK and Ireland including Edinburgh, Fife, Derry, Cork & Kinsale, Marlborough and EFG London Jazz Festival. She earned her BA (Hons.) in Jazz Performance at Middlesex University’s renowned jazz department and a PGCert in Performance Teaching at Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. Sylvia is also a dedicated musical educator specialising in group improvisation and circle-singing workshops. She leads the Church Army women’s shelter choir in Marylebone.