After a classical training in Trossingen with Luis Martin-Diego, in Paris with Alberto Ponce, and in New York with Manuel Barrueco (crowned by several first prizes and by his winning of the First Prize for Interpretation at the 30th International Guitar Competition organized by Radio-France in Paris in 1988), Schmidt’s artistic work was decisively influenced by his meeting with the composer Maurice Ohana and the discovery of his music for ten-string guitar. Stephan Schmidt’s recording of Ohana’s complete guitar works earned him many international press awards, among them the Grand Prix du Disque de l’Académie Charles Cros, as well as an award at the French Victoires de la Musique in 1994. Among his later recordings, his CDs of the music of Bach and Scarlatti gained him numerous international press awards and much attention.
His repertoire is now based on two different aspects: the performance of masterpieces by great composers such as J.S. Bach, Helmut Lachenmann, Brian Ferneyhough and Bruno Maderna, and work in collaboration with other artists from very different aesthetic worlds, as exemplified in his concerts with Pedro Bacan (flamenco guitar), Fred Frith (electric guitar), Ivan Monighetti (Cello), Elisabeth Chojnacka (harpsichord), Juliane Banse (voice), Heinz Holliger (Oboe), Mats Scheidegger (guitar), David Moss (voice-performance), and many others.
From 1988 until 2001 Stephan Schmidt taught at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Bern (Switzerland). In 1998 he was appointed artistic director in charge of master classes at the Conservatoire in Bern, which became the Freie Akademie der Hochschule für Musik und Theater Bern. He has initiated, organized, and directed many international artistic and interdisciplinary meetings and festivals.
Since 2002, Stephan Schmidt has been working as principal and professor at the Hochschule für Musik Basel – Musik-Akademie Basel in Switzerland.