Photograph by Nick Romanenko
In the fall of 2011, W. Stephen Smith became a Professor of Voice at the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University after having served on the voice faculty at The Juilliard School from the fall of 1998 to the spring of 2011. He has held a position on the voice faculty of the Aspen Music Festival and School since 1996 where he was honored in 2001 and in 2009 as a “New Horizons” faculty member. He
has taught voice at Santa Fe Opera and Opera on the Avalon. He has also served on the adjunct voice faculty at Curtis Institute of Music, Teachers College of Columbia University, Stony Brook University, University of Southern California, Los Angeles Young Artist Program, and the Metropolitan Opera's Lindemann Young Artist Program. Mr. Smith was on the staff of Houston Grand Opera as Voice Instructor for the Houston Opera Studio from 1990 to 2003. Prior to his time a Juilliard, Mr. Smith served for eight years on the voice faculty at the Moores School of Music at the University of Houston. After moving to Houston from St. Louis where he was Chairman of the Voice Department at the Saint Louis Conservatory of Music, he maintained a voice studio in St. Louis for three years. He was a member of the music faculty at Oklahoma Christian College for eleven years and has also been on the artistic staff at Inspiration Point Fine Arts Colony and the Cimarron Circuit Opera Company.
He holds the Bachelor of Arts degree in Voice from Harding University (voice study with Erle T. Moore), the Master of Music degree in Voice from the University of Arkansas (voice study with Richard Brothers), and the Master of Performing Arts degree in Opera from Oklahoma City University where he was a voice student of the late renowned Inez Lunsford Silberg. Other teachers include Dr. William White.
Mr. Smith's book, The Naked Voice: A Wholistic Approach to Singing, was published by Oxford University Press in 2007. He has given master classes and clinics throughout the United States including the Aspen Music Festival and School, University of Southern California, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Oberlin Conservatory, Glimmerglass Opera, and at Regional and District NATS conventions. He has also been a guest lecturer at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, Brazil and at Yonsei University in Seoul, Republic of Korea.
Mr. Smith's voice students have performed leading roles in most of the major opera houses and concert halls around the world including the Metropolitan Opera, London's Royal Opera at Covent Garden, San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, La Scala, New York City Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, LA Opera, Paris Opera, Oslo Opera, Vancouver Opera, Miami Opera, Sarasota Opera, Omaha Opera, and Des Moines Metro Opera among many others. In addition to numerous places in the District and Regional Metropolitan Opera Auditions, thirty of his students have been National Finalists in the Met Auditions.
His current and former students include Joyce DiDonato, Christine Brewer, Kate Aldrich, Scott Hendricks, Rod Gilfry, Nicole Heaston, Brian Mulligan, Eric Owens, Jill Grove, Oren Gradus, Keith Phares, Robert McPherson, Gordon Gietz, Sasha Cooke, Ricardo Lugo, Brian Frutiger, Philip Horst, David Salsbery Fry, Jennifer Zetlan, Ryan McKinny, Weston Hurt, Scott Scully, Blythe Gaissert, Josh Winograde, Chenye Yuan, Raymond Very, Laura Knoop Very, Marietta Simpson, Lina Tetriani, Kirsten Gunlogson, Priti Gandhi, Shannon DeVine, Michael Smallwood, Jose Adan Perez, Michael Slattery, Haewon Moon, Bryan Hymel, Daniel Belcher, Beth Clayton, Craig Verm, James Patrick Miller, and Nicholas Pallesen among many others.
His students have also been winners in Chapter and Regional NATS Auditions, The Sullivan Awards, Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition, San Francisco Opera Merola Awards, Richard Tucker Foundation, George London Foundation, NATSAA Competition, Worldwide Audition Competition, Charlotte Andrus Brown Grant Competition, Finlandia Foundation, Minna Kaufmann Ruud Competition, Rehfuss Operatic Singing Actors Tournament, Mobile Opera Competition, CIBC National Music Festival, Houston Opera Studio McCollum Awards, Bel Canto Competition, Kansas Cultural Trust Awards, McAllister Voice Competition, Shoshana Foundation Grants, Jussi Bjorling Competition, Pittsburgh Concert Society, Collins Award of the American Opera Society, Stewart Awards, Operalia 94 Contest, Opera Company of Palm Beach, Rosa Ponselle Voice Competition, San Antonio Operatic Talent Competition, and the Naftzger Young Artist Auditions, among many others.
His students have held apprenticeships with Santa Fe Opera, Pittsburgh Opera Center, Central City Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, San Francisco Merola Program, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Chautauqua Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Wolf Trap, Miami Opera, and Orlando Opera. They have participated in music festivals with Tanglewood, Norfolk Chamber Music, Rome Festival Opera, Brevard, Aspen Opera Theater, Salzburg Music Festival, and the Ravinia Festival.
Mr. Smith himself has performed over forty roles in opera and musical theater including eight title roles. He premiered the title role in "Bonhoeffer," an opera by Ann Gebuhr. He has performed as a soloist with the St. Louis Symphony and the Oklahoma Symphony. In 1996 he performed the role of Germont in La Traviata with Aspen Opera Theatre Center on two hours’ notice. His concert performances include the title role in Mendelssohn's Elijah, baritone solos in Messiah, the Requiems of Faure and Brahms, and the Magnificat and St. John Passion of J. S. Bach. He was a finalist in the District Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and was a winner of the Robertson Award with the Oklahoma Symphony Young Artist Auditions. Performance venues have included the Aspen Music Festival, Lyric Theater, Oklahoma Theatre Center, Edmond Community Theatre, Oklahoma City University, the University of Houston, and Des Moines Metro Opera. Smith has appeared as a guest soloist from time to time, with such groups as the Houston Choral Society. He is a featured soloist on a CD of the Moores School of Music Wind Ensemble recording of the music of Percy Grainger. He is the baritone soloist on the CD of “Aleinu” by Michael Horvit. He has performed at the annual memorial service for the Hospice at the Texas Medical Center. In Houston, he sang as a volunteer choir member at his church where he occasionally directed the choir. Possessing talents in addition to voice teaching and singing, Mr. Smith has stage-directed twenty-one different productions and served as musical director/conductor for several. He has also served as a District Governor (Oklahoma) of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS). In St. Louis in the summer of 1988, he was the coordinator and host of a national vocal workshop sponsored by NATS. He has served as Vice-President for Auditions for the Houston Chapter of NATS and in the spring of 1998 completed a term as President of that organization. He has served as adjudicator for many voice competitions including the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Also an accomplished pianist and clarinetist, Smith received the 1998 Distinguished Alumni Award from the Department of Music of the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences of the University of Arkansas. In the same year he was selected the Outstanding Alumnus Award from the College of Arts and Science of Harding University.
Raised in Corning, Arkansas, Smith is the youngest of five children and the son of a retired Ford dealer. He is married to the former Carol Christine Mannen from Stuttgart, Arkansas, an excellent coach/accompanist and private piano teacher. They have two daughters, Emily Carol (Mrs. Bryan) Jobe, a bassoonist and singer who lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and Abby Christine Smith, a professional singing actress who lives in New York City. Both daughters were music majors at Harding University. The Smiths have two grandchildren, Amelia Beth Jobe and Andrew Ryan Jobe.