Meet Macy Schmidt: The Music Maven Orchestrating Equity In The World Of Classical Music

Broadway Sinfonietta founder Macy Schmidt | Photo by Rebecca J Michelson

Below is an excerpt from ‘Music Mavens: 15 Women of Note in the Industry’, a young adult biography by Ashley Walker and Maureen Charles. The book is part of Chicago Review Press’s “Women of Power” series, a timely, inclusive, international biography series that profiles 15 contemporary women who are changing their field while empowering others to follow their dreams. The authors interviewed each of their 15 subjects extensively, fact-checking every detail and uncovering exclusive scenes and stories in the process.

‘Music Mavens’ transports readers around the world (and beyond)—to a jazz performance in Genoa, an instrument lab in London, a Tokyo taiko dojo, a New York City beatbox battle, and even a film scoring session aboard the starship Enterprise, to name a few. Along the way, it spotlights artists whose work spans musical genres and industry roles, including composing and songwriting, performing and conducting, audio engineering, producing, and rock photography.

In ‘Music Mavens’, 15 extraordinary women reveal how they turned their passions into platforms and how they use their power to uplift others. Their musical resumes will inspire readers, but the way each artist lives her life is the real story. 

In this excerpt, the authors introduce Broadway orchestrator, music director, producer, and orchestra founder Macy Schmidt, who is making her mark not only with her orchestrations but by hiring female-identifying musicians of color and showcasing their talents. When women are in power, everyone benefits.

Chapter One: Macy Schmidt: Orchestrating Equity

When ‘Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical’, based on the Disney animated film ‘Ratatouille’, began streaming on January 1, 2021, online viewers were treated to something rare. Every musician was female, and most were women of color. The Broadway Sinfonietta, the masterful orchestra that accompanied the musical, struck a chord with all who saw and heard it. 

The Sinfonietta’s founder, Macy Schmidt, watched the show from her Manhattan apartment. Ten years earlier she had entered high school unable to read music. Now, barely out of college, she had not only founded her own orchestra, but she had also written the orchestrations they were playing. 

While ‘Ratatouille’ streamed, Macy’s social media feeds blew up. People were filled with hope by the sight and sound of the Sinfonietta. 

Los Angeles Times theater critic Ashley Lee tweeted, “I have chills from this female, diverse #RatatouilleMusical orchestra.” “I am LIVING for the orchestra, @ratatousical really did that for poc women. Inspiring,” tweeted a college student named Tay. 

Macy had started The Broadway Sinfonietta in response to inequities she had witnessed as a woman of color working in musical theater. Now, with ‘Ratatouille’, her activism had reached 350,000 strangers, and many were reaching back. 

Music Mavens’ authorized biography of Macy Schmidt explores the life of a Forbes 30 Under 30 Music leader, including the Egyptian birth parents who gave her up for adoption by the Schmidt family, her early education, and her first meeting and subsequent love affair with musical notation. Macy’s childhood story shows teen readers both the educational opportunities and institutional inequities that fueled her art and activism as an adult. Below, two excerpts from the second half of this biography follow Macy to New York in pursuit of the elusive job of orchestrator.

For women, orchestration is the hardest Broadway music role to break into. Why? Because there’s no “assistant orchestrator” stepping‐stone position. The only way in is with a mentor. But theater orchestration is a predominantly male profession, and as in many industries, men have historically mentored other men. 

Macy compiled a list of people who had orchestrated a Broadway show over the previous 20 years—190 in all. She found 90.5 percent were white men, 5.8 percent were BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) men, 3.7 percent were white women, and none were BIPOC women. 

In a show Macy music supervised, ‘She Persisted, The Musical’ (based on Chelsea Clinton’s book), astronaut Sally Ride says, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Macy saw no one who looked like her among Broadway’s orchestrators. Still, she persisted. In search of a mentor, Macy narrowed her list to “every living Tony‐nominated orchestrator” and introduced herself to most of them. But no mentor emerged. So, like piano, she taught herself orchestration and learned enough to get non‐Broadway orchestration work. 

In 2018, Macy orchestrated the play ‘Interstate’. In 2019, she music directed, arranged, and orchestrated “Passion Project: Love Songs from Women to Their Work,” a song cycle by Angela Sclafani. She also orchestrated and arranged music for the musical comedy ‘It Came from Outer Space’ for Chicago Shakespeare Theater. 

Meanwhile, she was determined to get a music job—any job—with an actual Broadway show. This can be difficult. Musicals are developed over years of table reads, workshops, and out‐of‐town productions, and when a show originating in the US hits Broadway, it usually arrives with an established music team. 

But when she learned that ‘Tina: The Tina Turner Musical’ was coming to Broadway from London’s West End, Macy figured they wouldn’t be bringing the whole London team over. She cold e‐mailed the show’s music supervisor, Nicholas Skilbeck, and her instinct proved correct. Nick hired her to music assist for Tina through the show’s opening in November 2019, and she finished that job just before the COVID‐19 pandemic hit the United States. 

Then, on March 12, 2020, Broadway went dark. 

Two months later, George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, while three other officers failed to intervene, igniting months and months of mass protests attended by an estimated 21 million adult Americans—the largest mass protest in US history. Conversations about systemic racism and calls for justice and equity pervaded every corner of American life, including New York City theaters. Macy knew she couldn’t fix it all, but there was one thing she could do. 

All too often she’d seen highly qualified female musicians of color passed over for opportunities on Broadway. So, in the midst of the pandemic, 23‐year‐old Macy Schmidt became an agent of change. She founded and assembled The Broadway Sinfonietta, “an all female‐identifying, majority women‐of‐color orchestral collective showcasing the excellence of BIPOC women musicians on Broadway and beyond.” 

“You’re Gonna Hear from Me,” a song written by André and Dory Previn, would be their first video recording. Macy planned to orchestrate and produce the song, but how would she pay everyone else? She had an idea: She’d heard female Broadway producers talking to the press about their desire for change. So, she cold e‐mailed them asking for help. Producers Jana Shea and Daryl Roth both responded immediately with donations, and Macy made her video. 

On launch day, October 23, 2020, CBS ‘Sunday Morning’ aired the Sinfonietta’s “You’re Gonna Hear from Me,” featuring Zimbabwe‐born American singer Solea Pfeiffer. The orchestra had liftoff. Watch the video. You’ll hear a diverse cast of extraordinary musicians declaring to the world that they will be seen and heard. 

Next, they made a Black History Month campaign video of George Gershwin’s “Summertime” sponsored by MAC Cosmetics in partnership with Women of Color on Broadway. 

Then came a Sinfonietta performance of Kesha Sebert’s “Here Comes the Change,” honoring the inauguration of Vice President Kamala Harris, arranged and orchestrated by Macy, and performed by South Asian singer and Broadway star Shoba Narayan (who played Eliza Hamilton in ‘Hamilton’, Nessarose in ‘Wicked’, and Jasmine in ‘Aladdin’). 

And with three beautifully produced videos as calling cards, here came the change for both the Sinfonietta and Macy. Bookings flowed in. Sometimes Macy is hired to orchestrate and suggests the Sinfonietta for the gig; sometimes the reverse happens. 

Macy’s Sinfonietta orchestrations caught the attention of producers of ‘Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical’, and when they invited her to orchestrate, she recommended the Sinfonietta. 

“I had about 14 days to deliver 12 numbers orchestrated for a 20‐piece orchestra,” she recalls. “I would wake up every day, check my phone, turn my phone off for 12 to 15 hours, and then just not go to sleep till the song of the day was done.” Finally, her part complete, Macy watched the show on New Year’s Day, moved to tears by viewers’ reactions. 

Then came the New York Times review. Theater critic Jesse Green said she’d orchestrated a “classic Disney Act I finale in the brassy manner of Alan Menken.” A big compliment! 

Macy made her debut in London’s West End (Britain’s Broadway) in 2021 as orchestrator for Ride—a musical about Annie Londonderry, the first woman to ride a bicycle around the world—and the Sinfonietta recorded the cast album. In 2022, Macy was selected by a panel of celebrity judges, including Miley Cyrus, for Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Music list. Best of all, in fall 2022, ‘Kimberly Akimbo’, a musical for which she provided additional orchestrations, will open on Broadway—making Macy a Broadway orchestrator at last. 

Look out for Macy Schmidt. You’ll find her name under orchestrator, arranger, music director, orchestra founder, conductor, and producer. All because to Macy, “the relationship between the sound and the page is the coolest thing in the world.” 

Ashley Walker is an author, educator, and amateur musician. She holds degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Artificial Intelligence, and she recently graduated from the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she was a three-time award winner. For more information, visit Ashley’s website:

Maureen Charles also has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and has worked as a writer, editor, and writing coach for 14+ years. She sings, plays guitar and ukulele, and was married for 24 years to the late Emmy-winning arranger, orchestrator, and composer of television and film music Jon Charles. You can find her at

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