Staff Profile: Linda Schmidt
Insects by Day, Swamp Fever on Weekends
By Cathy Cockrell, Public Affairs
Manager, by day, of the Insectary and Quarantine Facility for the College of Natural Resources, on weekends, Schmidt dons her Mardi Gras beads, black lace coat and eight-pound Fender bass -- to liven up music festivals, parties and local and West Coast dance clubs with an infectious mix of zydeco, Cajun, New Orleans and blues licks.
"It's happy, positive music, not derogatory against anyone, since we're an ethnic- and gender-mixed band," Schmidt says of Tee Fee's repertoire. "Our music isn't meant to be background."
Tee Fee (which means "sweetheart" in Cajun French) was born on Labor Day 1992, when Schmidt and local musician Annie Marie Howard met at a Berkeley barbecue.
"Annie said 'I'll be music director and you be the business manager.'" Schmidt recalls. "I had no idea what it entailed. Big bands have a booking agent, a publicist, an accountant and a travel person. I'm all of these!"
They added three more musicians to the mix -- one woman and two men -- and played their first gig in Jan. 1993, opening for zydeco great John Delafose in Sacramento. Six years later, the group has a mailing list of 600, a working repertoire of 60 to 70 songs -- many of them originals -- and two CDs.
An artist-gardener by trade during her twenties, Schmidt came to campus in the early '70s, after having her son, and was the first woman to graduate in the since-discontinued pest management major.
"Insects are three-fourths of all the species on the planet," Schmidt notes. "If you know about them, and what they do, they can be beneficial. I see those benefits every day in my garden."
After a short stint as a campus lab assistant, she worked with Miguel Altieri as a staff research associate at Gill Tract in Albany for 15 years, researching biological control of pests through intercropping and ecosystem management. "We basically solve problems; we don't create products," she says of integrated pest management.
"I counted a lot of aphids!" Schmidt recalls of her weekly trips, in those days, to monitor experimental fields of vegetables and fruits.
The care and tending of autoclaves, incubators, and light and cold boxes -- not rows of broccoli -- has been Schmidt's concern since assuming management of the Insectary and Quarantine Facility at Oxford Street two and half years ago. As quarantine officer for campus, most of the insects she handles are only a short walk from her office.
That's fine by her. She doesn't miss the 14-hour days or the long car trips in the hot sun, especially now that Tee Fee's in the picture.
"Both Annie and I work full time, so there isn't time for much rehearsing," says Schmidt. "Annie keeps me busy by writing difficult bass lines, and I have to master them. She leaves the bass line on the answering machine: 'I'm writing a song; practice this.'"