Will Schmitt

Will Schmitt, Pacific Crest Trail hiker

Christopher Briscoe

Music and nature go together in Will Schmitt’s mind.

“Nature is a theme that comes up a lot in my song writing,” Schmitt said. “There are either analogies for life and some are just songs about being in the wilderness. I have a lot of fond memories as a child going fishing with my dad or camping with my family.”

He’s bringing his love of music and nature to a number of counties in Iowa this summer on his “Spirit of Chautauqua” music tour.

He’s going to be bringing the tour to the Dickinson County Nature Center in Okoboji on Thursday night, June 9 at 6 p.m., and he’ll be performing a free concert at their outdoor amphitheater.

Schmitt grew up in Winterset, IA, and for many years was a part of the band, Funks G. Eventually, he set out on his own and has been traveling the U.S. seeing the sights and playing his brand of folk music along the way. He went on to hike more than 4,000 miles up the eastern and western parts of the United States. But, Iowa wasn’t a place that he spent much time exploring.

The idea for the “Spirit of Chautauqua” music tour back in his home state came when he was hundreds of miles away while he was backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail last year.

“After 700 miles of desert hiking, I reached the Sierra Nevada mountains and was awestruck by the natural beauty of the area. I felt a deeper appreciation for the public lands of America and a curiosity about the many parks that dot the landscape in my home state,” Schmitt said. “I initially thought of doing a bicycle tour but felt that by hosting concerts, I could better share the experience with others.”

You could say that Schmitt had an “ah ha” moment.

“There’s so much beauty out there and I wanted to see what was lying in my backyard all along. So far, 45 counties have offered to host concerts and my hope with this project is to not only to put a spotlight on the beauty of Iowa but also to see it with fresh eyes.” Schmitt said.

Initially, Schmitt thought it might be cool to play all 99 counties, but when he started getting positive responses and setting up concert dates, with 40-some concerts he’s booked pretty solid for both June and July.

Schmitt’s genre of music is one that will appeal to a wide audience, he believes.

He is a folk singer/songwriter who is along the lines of Paul Simon and John Denver-type sound.

“It’s very family friendly and can be appreciated by all ages. I perform at nursing homes and I perform at bars. A lot of my songs work in both settings and people really like my stuff,” Schmitt said.

And while he’s excited to be exploring the beauty of Iowa’s natural landscapes, that’s not what he’s most excited for with his upcoming concert series.

“I’m really very excited about meeting people,” Schmitt said. “I’m interested in finding kindred spirits and connecting with people and with the geography. You have to hold up a microscope to it. The natural beauty of Iowa is more subtle, but I still find it striking. I’m excited to meet people who feel the same way I do.” F

At a Glance:

What: “Spirit of Chautauqua” Will Schmitt concert

Where: Dickinson County Nature Center, Okoboji, IA

When: 6 p.m., Thursday, June 9

Cost: Free

Contact: 712-336-6352

Online: www.dickinsoncountyconservationboard.com

More concerts:

6-4: River Clean Up Day at Pammel Park, in Madison County, IA - 6:30 p.m.

6-5: Loess Hills Prairie Seminar, in Monona County, IA - 8:15–10:15 am “Backpacking Basics & Ukulele Sing-a-Long” 11:15 –12:15 Concert

6-9: Dickinson County Nature Center Outdoor Amphitheater, Dickinson County, IA - 6 p.m.

6-10: Hawkeye Point Campground Shelter House, Osceola County, IA - Evening Concert

6-11: Sandy Hollow, Sioux County, IA - 7 p.m. Concert