Becoming Judy Garland

Becoming Judy Garland

by Susan Neuhalfen

To say that Adkins Elementary Music Teacher Randy Schmidt is living the dream would be inaccurate.

The truth is, he’s working the dream.

He spends the day teaching what he loves to some very enthusiastic Lantana students. If you’ve ever attended one of his performances, you see the passion he puts into the songs which is reflected in the kids’ performances.

However, there’s another side to Mr. Schmidt.

Believe it or not, he is a critically acclaimed best selling author. He’s been named a New York Times Editor’s Choice and was on the Wall Street Journal’s Bestseller list for Little Girl Blue: The Life Of Karen Carpenter. He has also edited and compiled Judy Garland On Judy Garland: Interviews and Encounters, and Dolly On Dolly: Interviews and Encounters With Dolly Parton, both books from the Musicians in Their Own Words series from Chicago Review Press. Also part of his repertoire is Yesterday Once More:
The Carpenters Reader.

Now he has written a book geared more toward the students that he teaches every day. It’s all about Judy Garland and her life before stardom. It is formatted much like a scrapbook with lots of pictures of the young star.

“In my first few years of teaching I would see different biographies for children and thought it would be neat to write something like that,” he said. “I wrote this book because I feel Judy Garland is still relevant to children, even after all these years.”

As he was writing the other book on Judy Garland, certain stories and scenes would pop out to him. He started pulling those stories, crafting an outline of her young life.

He also had his own team of editors: his students.

“I would share the manuscript and ask for their opinion,” said Schmidt about his ‘captive audience’. “They were very honest and told me what parts were boring and which ones they loved.”

Schmidt mostly wanted his young audience to know that Judy Garland’s story was more than just the Wizard of Oz character of Dorothy.

“I felt it was important to keep her memory around for these younger generations,” he said.

Schmidt’s first book, Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter, took ten years of research and networking to finally complete, before it was published in 2010. It was an instant bestseller and Schmidt was profiled in People Magazine, Entertainment Tonight, Inside Edition and other news sources for his insightful writing.

From there he wrote books for the Musicians in Their Own Words series, first on Judy Garland and then on Dolly Parton. Researching Dolly’s story took him to her hometown of Sevierville, Tennessee, her Dollywood theme park, and behind the scenes in the archives of the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.

Throughout his dual career he has been very grateful about the support he has received from work as well as at home.

“Mrs. McLarty, the principal at Adkins, has been so supportive,” said Schmidt. “If I have to fly somewhere for an interview or book event, all she asks is that I come back and share my experience with our students. She sees the value in broadening my experiences and horizons and wants the kids to learn from me that a teacher can be an author, too.”

He is also grateful for his husband, Jaime Rodriguez-Schmidt and daughters Camryn (a freshman at UNT) and Kaylee (an 8th grader at Harpool Middle School) for their love and support.

Today, Schmidt still has lots of embers in the fire. There is talk about a movie based on his Karen Carpenter book. He is also thinking his next children’s book may be about Karen Carpenter or possibly a book about native Texas musicians.

“When I find a subject I’m very passionate about, I just love to write about it,” said Schmidt. “I want my students to explore and write about what they love, too.”

Becoming Judy Garland is available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com and randylschmidt.com. For those who purchase Becoming Judy Garland through the Bookstore at randylschmidt.com or one of Schmidt’s scheduled events, they get a special edition CD with the audiobook and some of Garland’s earlier recordings.


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