Woman settles in Sharpsburg and performs with Women's Ensemble

April 25, 2007|by JANET HEIM

Editor's note - There are a lot of people you see around town that you recognize, but don't know anything about. People like...

Elena Smidt

Age - 46.

Occupation - Regulatory Affairs Specialist for Contract Research Organization and contract medical writer.

Hometown - Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Where would you see Smidt? - Elena Smidt, a founding member of the Antietam Women's Ensemble, will be singing with the ensemble at their spring concert this weekend.

The concert, titled "What the World Needs Now," will benefit hunger relief efforts in the community and world.

For Smidt, singing with the 30-plus member ensemble is a return to something she loves - music. She has a degree in music theory and composition from the University of Maryland in College Park, even though she now does contract medical writing as her profession.


Smidt was born and raised in Argentina. She said her family moved around because of her father's job with the gas company, settling in Buenos Aires when she was 7.

Her parents were forward-thinking, signing her up for English as a second language classes after school. They also supported her liberal arts education in college, even though Smidt said she realized before graduation that it wasn't going to be a career for her.

"I believe a strong liberal arts education prepares you for anything," Smidt said.

She began attending a private university in Argentina. At the age of 20, she moved to the United States on her own, because she was unhappy with the political situation in her home country.

"The political environment at the time was not conducive to freedom of expression. I felt the pressure of not being able to express myself freely," Smidt said.

She said she considered moving to Germany where her father had friends, but chose the U.S. after some of her Argentinean friends came here to attend the Boston Conservatory. Smidt decided to visit a friend in Washington, D.C., visited the University of Maryland and met a couple of professors who encouraged her to study at the university instead of in Boston.

Smidt married, and she and her husband, who are now divorced, moved to Sharpsburg about 14 years ago from New Carrollton, Md.

They thought it would be nice to live near the mountains, decided to take a car ride and ended up at the Century 21 Real Estate office in Boonsboro.

It was at Antietam Battlefield in August 2004, where alternative events to a Klan rally were held, that Smidt decided to join the Antietam Women's Ensemble that was forming that fall. Georgiann Toole, who was starting the group, had a table set up with information.

It turns out that Toole is a neighbor of Smidt's in Sharpsburg.

"It was one of those strange things. The way we met - a negative thing in the community - sparked something positive," Smidt said.

The slower pace of Sharpsburg has been an adjustment for Smidt, who has an 11-year-old daughter, Amanda Frey. Smidt said she was used to the "big city, caf life" of Buenos Aires, where her social life was more spontaneous and required less planning.

Smidt said her involvement with the women's ensemble, Salem United Methodist Church in Keedysville and the Sharpsburg Historical Society have helped her feel more connected.

"You realize by getting involved in your community you are not so alone as you thought," Smidt said.

The Antietam Women's Ensemble concert will be held at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Sharpsburg on Saturday, April 28, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 29, at 3 p.m. The group asks that those attending give what they can, with a suggested donation of $10.

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"I like the fact that Georgiann is always able to come up with very eclectic programs. It is challenging even for someone with a background in music," Smidt said.

She added that this program has lyrics in Hebrew, the language of Ghana and Ladino, the old Spanish the Jews spoke before they were expelled from Spain. Smidt herself is bilingual in English and Spanish, understands French pretty well and can "fake" Italian, she said.

Hobbies - Smidt said she enjoys the outdoors, especially biking and camping in nice weather. She also volunteers as a soccer referee for the American Youth Soccer Association in Boonsboro, where her daughter plays soccer. She said even though she was born near the Andes Mountains, where it was cold and very windy, she prefers warmer weather.

What does Smidt like best about Washington County? - Smidt likes the rural environment and hopes it stays this way a little longer, conscious of the development that's occurring in the county.

"I like the small villages. I like the geography. I like the river and the mountains," Smidt said.

She added that she also likes what she describes as relatively mild weather.

If you know anyone in the community who might make an interesting Our Town feature, contact Janet Heim at 301-733-5131, ext. 2024 or e-mail

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