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Waynesboro grad touring with Miley

December 15, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- Mike Schmid compares the screams when he's on stage to those from the height of "Beatlemania" -- except they're from much younger girls.

Schmid realizes the tween girls aren't yelling for him, but rather television and pop music sensation Miley Cyrus, who is singing in front of him.

"It's like a sound you've never heard before," he said.

Schmid, a 1997 graduate of Waynesboro Area Senior High School, started playing keyboard with Cyrus as she embarked on a 70-show tour in October 2007. Since then, he's seen her fame grow exponentially as she moves beyond "Hannah Montana" to become a star transcending generations.

"It's kind of a dream job, really. We work for someone really talented, but she's really nice and fun to be around," Schmid said.

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In recent weeks, Schmid has followed Cyrus from his home in Los Angeles to Orlando, Houston and New York City. Among the gigs were the Rockefeller Center tree-lighting ceremony, "Dancing with the Stars" finale and American Music Awards.

"Before that, we were in Europe for a while doing promotional things," Schmid said, saying he spends much of his time on an airplane or waiting in Los Angeles International Airport.

Schmid, 28, started playing piano at age 5. Although he didn't enjoy it for a couple of years, he eventually formed a deep connection with the instrument.

"That was a perfect fit for my soul. Music is who I am," Schmid said.

He accompanied choirs in high school and enrolled in the Berkeley College of Music. There, he majored in songwriting with an emphasis in piano.

Schmid, the son of Gerry and Violet Schmid, released his third album in September. The songs on "The House We Built" were written as he struggled through divorce and the loss of custody of his now 18-month-old son, Noah. Schmid said he challenged himself to work through those issues while also not making the album too depressing.

His next album will be filled with songs written for Noah, with lyrics designed to be fun for adults and children. Schmid writes and records in a home studio.

"One of my goals is to never stop doing that," he said.

Since Cyrus' "Best of Both Worlds" tour ended in February, Schmid has found more time to concentrate on his own music. The downtime is a far cry from the months when he was one of nearly 200 people traveling across the country in 13 tractor-trailers and 18 buses. They were met by crowds of thousands as Cyrus' popularity continued to soar.

"It happened during that tour that things really took off for her," Schmid said.

He gets more anxious performing in small clubs than stadiums, saying that he can't see individual faces in a large crowd.

"You don't get nervous at all because it's like you're playing by yourself with a big noisy wall," Schmid said.

Schmid described Cyrus as "very wise and very mature" for a 16-year-old, saying she really connected with the more grown-up music on her new album "Breakout." He is excited to watch what she does next.

"It'd be nice if one day my music would be being heard at the same level as hers," he said.

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