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Season of Giving

Michelle Schmitt on parental influence, the holiday spirit and Detroit rock and roll

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SHARE THE MUSIC Michelle Schmitt's Holiday Concert has become a North Bay tradition. - DANIELLE RUBI-DENTZEL
  • Danielle Rubi-Dentzel
  • SHARE THE MUSIC Michelle Schmitt's Holiday Concert has become a North Bay tradition.

Singer, songwriter and Marin County resident Michelle Schmitt is a believer in giving back.

Schmitt's annual holiday concert on the first Thursday of December is a staple of the season, and with the release of her newest holiday album, Another Christmas Story, she's expanding her charitable efforts and donating 100 percent of album sales and concert tickets to Marin-based nonprofit ExtraFood. She performs Dec. 3 at the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley.

Schmitt credits her father for introducing her to holiday music. "He was a huge inspiration for me," she says. "He was kind and patient, and he loved holiday music. We learned every song."

Born and raised in Detroit, Schmitt also grew up on the rock and roll of bands like MC5, as well as folk rock like Crosby, Stills & Nash and Joni Mitchell. She has been playing music since she was 12 years old.

"I think it just became part of my cellular makeup," she says.

Schmitt moved to California in 1977 and briefly sung alongside Norton Buffalo and others. She stopped performing to raise two sons.

Fast forward 20 years, and Schmitt once again found herself drawn into music in the early 2000s.

"I decided to make a small holiday album as a way to raise funds for St. Vincent's School for Boys in Marinwood," she says. The album eventually found its way to music manager Robert Hayes, owner of San Jose's Sound Management Inc., who offered her a recording contract.

In 2005, Schmitt appeared on a benefit album alongside heavyweight artists like Bonnie Raitt, who would become a friend. Raitt encouraged Schmitt to step out of the studio and perform in front of audiences again.

Schmitt was soon fronting a band that included Raitt's longtime drummer Ricky Fataar and guitarist George Marinelli. "This whole weird thing happened," says Schmitt, "where this is the only part of my life that I let go of, that I didn't try to control, and everything's working. And I'm happy to pass it along."

In 2008, friend and restaurateur Heidi Krahling approached Schmitt to help raise funds for ExtraFood, of which Krahling is a board member. Schmitt came up with the idea of a concert, and every year she plays that show with her ultra-talented band.

As part of this year's concert, everyone will receive a copy of Another Christmas Story, which infuses much of Schmitt's personal and Detroit influence into rocking, upbeat renditions of classics and eclectic originals.

"At the end of the day, I want to show my gratitude to the community," says Schmitt. "This is what the holidays are about for me."

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