Former Peabody choral faculty member Gregg Smith died July 12, 2016, in New York. He will long be remembered for dedicating his life to the performance of American choral music. As director of the Peabody Conservatory Concert Singers from 1969 to 1975, he focused on introducing students to American music from the past to the present. From the Ainsworth and Bay Psalters and William Billings to Charles Ives and Arnold Schoenberg, Mr. Smith brought a broad range of musical literature to his students. He stretched the repertoire to include pieces not traditionally common among choral groups.
He is probably best known for founding the Gregg Smith Singers in 1955, a professional choral group that championed works of contemporary American composers over the years.
Former student John Cice (BM ’74, Piano; BM ’74, Music Education) said: “Gregg Smith was a mentor to many, bringing out the best in those who worked with him and recognizing one’s talents. He brought so much joy and sheer fun to music making!”
Mr. Smith was also a prolific composer, writing more than 400 works for chorus, orchestra, and chamber ensembles. One of his compositions, Steps, was performed by David Starobin (BM ’73, Guitar) and recorded by Bridge Records. Mr. Starobin said: “What a role model Gregg was! In addition to his spectacular musicianship, Gregg championed the composers of his time, forming his own record label, commissioning new repertoire, and adopting an entrepreneurial approach to the music business that was brave, committed, and driven by a burning desire to make things happen.”
To those of us who had the pleasure to work with him, we will always be indebted for the gifts he gave us.
— Christine Rutt Schmitz (BM ’75, Voice)