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Guest Artists 2019


Sarah Kirkland SniderComposer Sarah Kirkland Snider's "ravishing" (The New York Times) and "haunting" (The Los Angeles Times) works have been commissioned and performed by the New York, San Francisco, National, Detroit, Indianapolis, and North Carolina Symphonies; the Residentie Orkest Den Haag, American Composers Orchestra, and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra; percussionist Colin Currie, violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, and vocalist Shara Nova; eighth blackbird, The Knights, Ensemble Signal, yMusic, and Roomful of Teeth, among many others. Her music has been heard at Carnegie Hall, the Elbphilharmonie, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, and Wigmore Hall, and at festivals including Big Ears, BAM Next Wave, Cross-linx, Aspen, Ecstatic, and Sundance. Her two orchestral song cycle records, Penelope (2010) and Unremembered (2015), graced Top Five lists on NPR, The Washington PostThe Nation, and Time Out New York. Recent and upcoming projects include Mass for the Endangered, a 40-min mass for Trinity Wall Street Choir/NOVUS NY; Embrace, a 40-minute orchestral ballet for Birmingham Royal Ballet; and O Ecclesia, an opera co-commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects. The winner of Detroit Symphony's 2014 Elaine Lebenbom Award, Sarah's music has also been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, New Music USA, Opera America, the Sorel Organization, and the Jerome Composers Commissioning Fund. A co-founder and co-artistic director of Brooklyn-based non-profit New Amsterdam Records, Sarah has an M.A. and A.D. from the Yale School of Music and a B.A. from Wesleyan University. Her music is published by G. Schirmer.

Charles Neidich, Clarinet and Conductor

Charles Neidich

Charles Neidich has gained worldwide recognition as one of the most mesmerizing virtuosos on his instrument. He has received unanimous accolades from critics and fellow musicians both in the United States and abroad; but it is his musical intelligence in scores as diverse as Mozart and Elliott Carter that have earned for Neidich a unique place among clarinetists.  In the words of The New Yorker, “He’s an artist of uncommon merit -- a master of his instrument and, beyond that, an interpreter who keeps listeners hanging on each phrase.” In past seasons, he has appeared in recital and as guest soloist all over the world, and has been making his mark as a conductor. In wide demand as a soloist, Neidich has collaborated with some of the world’s leading orchestras and ensembles, including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of London, Concertgebouw of Amsterdam, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Halle Staatsorchester of Germany, Orpheus, the St. Louis Symphony, Jacksonville Symphony, Pasadena Symphony, San Diego Symphony, New City Chamber Orchestra of San Francisco, Athens Chamber Music Festival, Tafelmusik, the Juilliard, Guarneri, American, and Mendelssohn String Quartets, and the Peabody Trio. He commands a repertoire of over 200 solo works, including pieces commissioned or inspired by him, as well as his own transcriptions of vocal and instrumental works. A noted exponent of 20th century music, he has premiered works by Milton Babbit, Elliott Carter, Edison Denisov, William Schumann, Ralph Shapey, Joan Tower, and other leading contemporary composers. With a growing discography to his credit, Neidich can be heard on the Chandos, Sony Classical, Sony Vivarte, Deutsche Grammophon, Musicmasters, Pantheon, and Bridge labels. His recorded repertoire ranges from familiar works by Mozart, Beethoven, Weber, and Brahms, to lesser-known compositions by Danzi, Reicha, Rossini, and Hummel, as well as music by Elliott Carter, Gyorgy Kurtag, and other contemporary masters. In addition to performing as soloist, he has led the Cobb Symphony Orchestra and Georgia Symphony in performances of the Franck Symphony in D Minor and Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto (also playing the solo clarinet part) and continues to serve as conductor of the Queens College Chamber Orchestra in Queens, New York City, with whom he has performed the works of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven in historically informed interpretations. A native New Yorker of Russian and Greek descent, he had his first clarinet lessons with his father and his first piano lessons with his mother. His early musical idols were Fritz Kreisler, pianist Artur Schnabel and other violinists and pianists, rather than clarinetists. The clarinet won out over time, and he pursued studies with the famed pedagogue Leon Russianoff. Although Neidich became quite active in music at an early age, he opted against attending a music conservatory in favor of academic studies at Yale University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, in Anthropology. In 1975, he became the first American to receive a Fulbright grant for study in the former Soviet Union, and he attended the Moscow Conservatory for three years where his teachers were Boris Dikov and Kirill Vinogradov. In 1985 Neidich became the first clarinetist to win the Walter W. Naumburg Competition, which brought him to prominence as a soloist. He then taught at the Eastman School of Music and during that tenure joined the New York Woodwind Quintet, an ensemble with which he still performs. His European honors include a top prize at the 1982 Munich International Competition sponsored by the German television network ARD, and the Geneva and Paris International Competitions. Neidich has achieved recognition as a teacher in addition to his activities as a performer, and currently is a member of the artist faculties of The Juilliard School, the Manhattan School of Music, the Mannes College of Music and Queens College. He is a former Visiting Professor at the Sibelius Academy in Finland where he taught, performed and conducted. Neidich is a long-time member of the renowned chamber ensemble Orpheus.

Guest Artists 2018

Lembit Beecher, Composer  

Lembit Beecher, Composer - 2018

Praised by the San Francisco Chronicle as “hauntingly lovely and deeply personal,” Lembit Beecher’s music combines “alluring” textures (New York Times) and vividly imaginative colors with striking emotional immediacy. Noted for his collaborative spirit and “ingenious” interdisciplinary projects (Wall Street Journal), Beecher is currently the composer-in-residence of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, having previously served a three-year term as the inaugural composer-in-residence of Opera Philadelphia. A constant across his wide range of works is a potent sense of drama, which manifests itself through a quirky, thoughtful and intimately poignant musical language. Born to Estonian and American parents, he grew up under the redwoods in Santa Cruz, California, a few miles from the wild Pacific. Since then he has lived in Boston, Houston, Ann Arbor, Berlin, New York and Philadelphia, earning degrees from Harvard, Rice and the University of Michigan. Recent and upcoming premieres include works for A Far Cry Chamber Orchestra, Diderot Quartet, Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings/University of Michigan Symphony Band, Gotham Chamber Opera, Opera Philadelphia and the Juilliard Quartet. Many of Beecher’s latest projects involve the incorporation of untraditional elements into operatic form, working with baroque instruments, electronic sounds, animation, new technologies and theater actors. Recent honors include a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, the S&R Foundation Washington Award Grand Prize and a major grant from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage to develop and produce To Hide in a Tree of Sound, a chamber opera for soprano Kiera Duffy, the Aizuri Quartet and a multi-piece sound sculpture.

Jennifer Koh, Violinist

Jennifer KohViolinist Jennifer Koh is recognized for her intense, commanding performances, delivered with dazzling virtuosity and technical assurance. An adventurous musician, she collaborates with artists of multiple disciplines and curates projects that find connections between music of all eras, from traditional to contemporary. She believes that all the arts and music of the past and present form a continuum and has premiered over 60 works written especially for her.

Koh has been heard with leading orchestras worldwide, including the New York, Los Angeles, and Helsinki Philharmonics; Cleveland, Mariinsky, Minnesota, Philadelphia and Philharmonia (London) orchestras; and the Atlanta, Baltimore, BBC, Chicago, Cincinnati, National, New World, NHK, RAI (Torino) and Singapore symphonies. This season she returns to the Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Nashville and Sydney symphonies and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. She also performs a new concerto by Christopher Cerrone, written for her New American Concerto commissioning project, with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Through commissions from a diverse collective of composers, this multi-season project explores the form of the violin concerto and its potential for artistic engagement with contemporary societal concerns and issues. The project launched at the 2017 Ojai Music Festival with the premiere of Vijay Iyer’s concerto Trouble.

This season, in addition to her New American Concerto project, Koh launches Limitless, which celebrates the collaborative relationship between composer and performer through duo commissions and contemporary works performed by Koh and the composers themselves. She also continues such projects as Shared Madness, comprising more than 30 short solo works that explore violin virtuosity in the 21st century; Bridge to Beethoven, a recital series with pianist Shai Wosner exploring the impact Beethoven has had on a diverse group of artists, pairing the composer’s sonatas for violin and piano with new works by composers Anthony Cheung, Vijay Iyer and Andrew Norman; and Bach and Beyond, which traces the history of the solo violin repertoire from Bach’s six sonatas and partitas to works by contemporary composers, including new commissions from John Harbison, Phil Kline, Missy Mazzoli, Kaija Saariaho and video artist Tal Rosner. She continues all of these projects in recital during the 2017–18 season and also recently expanded Shared Madness with a web series on WQXR’s Q2 Music (, featuring her interviews with project composers.

Koh’s discography for Cedille Records includes Tchaikovsky: Complete Works for Violin and Orchestra with the Odense Symphony Orchestra conducted by Alexander Vedernikov; Bach & Beyond: Parts 1 & 2; Two x Four with her former teacher, violinist Jaime Laredo; Signs, Games + Messages with Wosner; Rhapsodic Musings: 21st Century Works for Solo Violin; the Grammy-nominated String Poetic; Portraits with the Grant Park Orchestra under conductor Carlos Kalmar with concerti by Bartók, Martinů and Szymanowski; Violin Fantasies; and Solo Chaconnes.

Born in Chicago of Korean parents, Koh began playing the violin by chance, choosing the instrument in a Suzuki-method program only because spaces for cello and piano had been filled. She made her debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at age 11 and went on to win the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, the Concert Artists Guild Competition and an Avery Fisher career grant. In 2016, she was Musical America’s “Instrumentalist of the Year.” She has a degree in English literature from Oberlin College and studied at the Curtis Institute, where she worked with Jaime Laredo and Felix Galimir. She is artistic director of Arco Collaborative, an artist-driven nonprofit that fosters a better understanding of our world through a musical dialogue inspired by ideas and the communities around us. For further information, visit

Guest Artists 2017

Ayano Ninomiya

Ayano NinomiyaEqually at home as a soloist, recitalist and chamber musician, Ayano Ninomiya has performed throughout the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Europe, China, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand. Ayano made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2016 with the Stravinsky's Violin Concerto.  She has won numerous awards including the Naumburg and the Tibor Varga international competitions. In 2012 Ninomiya was invited to give a TEDx talk on the power of live performance. Other past projects include a benefit performance for victims of the 2009 Haiti earthquake, a fundraiser in the aftermath of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and the creation of an Elderhostel “Day of Adventure” programs.

Ayano was first violinist of the renowned Ying Quartet and recently joined the faculty of the New England Conservatory of Music. 


 Andrew Norman

Andrew NormanAndrew Norman is a Los Angeles-based composer of orchestral, chamber and vocal music. His work draws on an eclectic mix of sounds and notational practices from both the avant-garde and classical traditions. He is increasingly interested in storytelling in music, and specifically in the ways that nonlinear, narrative-scrambling techniques from other time-based media such as movies and video games might intersect with traditional symphonic forms. His distinctive, often fragmented and highly energetic voice has been cited in the New York Times for its “daring juxtapositions and dazzling colors,” in the Boston Globe for its “staggering imagination,” and in the L.A. Times for its “audacious” spirit and “Chaplinesque” wit. Norman’s symphonic works have been performed by leading ensembles worldwide, including the Los Angeles and New York philharmonics, the Philadelphia and Minnesota orchestras, the BBC, Saint Louis, Seattle, and Melbourne symphonies, the Orpheus, Saint Paul, and Los Angeles chamber orchestras, the Tonhalle Orchester, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Orchestre National de France and many others. He was named Musical America’s 2017 Composer of the Year was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2016. In recent seasons, his chamber music has been featured at the Bang on a Can Marathon, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Wordless Music Series, the Contact! series, the Ojai Festival, the MATA Festival, the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music, the Green Umbrella series, the Monday Evening Concerts and the Aspen Music Festival. Norman is a committed educator who enjoys helping people of all ages explore and create music. He recently finished two piano concertos, Suspend for Emanual Ax and Split for Jeffrey Kahane.    

Guest Artists 2016

Caroline Adelaide Shaw

Caroline ShawCaroline Adelaide Shaw is a New York-based musician appearing in many different guises. Trained primarily as a violinist from an early age in North Carolina, she is a Grammy-winning singer in Roomful of Teeth and in 2013 became the youngest-ever winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Music, for her enigmatic composition Partita for 8 Voices (also nominated for a Grammy for Best Classical Composition). She will make her solo violin debut in 2015 with the Cincinnati Symphony (MusicNOW). She is the inaugural musician in residence at Dumbarton Oaks in the fall of 2014, and she will be the composer in residence for two years (through 2016) with Vancouver's Music on Main. Shaw has also performed with ACME (American Contemporary Music Ensemble), the Trinity Wall Street Choir, Alarm Will Sound, the Mark Morris Dance Group Ensemble, the Knights, Victoire, the Yehudim and many others. (She has also appeared incognito as a backup singer or violinist, on Saturday Night Live with Paul McCartney, on Letterman with the National, on the Tonight Show with the Roots.)

Shaw was virtually unknown as a composer before the Pulitzer announcement in 2013, having written only a handful of pieces. While committed to maintaining a busy freelance career as a violinist and singer, performing primarily contemporary classical music, she has taken commissions to create new work for the Carmel Bach Festival, the Cincinnati Symphony, the Guggenheim Museum (FLUX Quartet), the Crossing, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Other personal projects include the development of an evening-length theater work, Ritornello, and a slowly evolving ambient electronic album. Shaw studied for 15 years with Suzuki violin pedagogue Joanne Bath before working with Kathleen Winkler at Rice (B.M. violin) and Syoko Aki (M.M. violin) at Yale, and she is currently a doctoral candidate in composition at Princeton. She has been a Rice Goliard fellow (busking and fiddling in Sweden) and a Yale Baroque Ensemble fellow, and she was a recipient of the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to study historical formal gardens and live out of a backpack for a year. As a teenager many years ago, she spent a life-changing summer playing chamber music at Kinhaven Music School in Vermont. Shaw was a Decoda guest artist in 2015.

Guest Artists 2015

Kim Kashkashian

Kim KashkashianKim Kashkashian studied the viola with Karen Tuttle. She also studied at the Interlochen Center for the Arts. She won the second prize at the 1980 Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition and the 1980 ARD International Music Competition in Munich. She has been featured on more than 30 albums and performs pieces from both classical and contemporary composers, working among others with Gidon Kremer and Yo Yo Ma, the Vienna Philharmonic and Nikolaus Harnoncourt. She also played the viola in the soundtrack of the film Ulysses' Gaze, together with Eleni Karaindrou. Her albums have won awards, notably the 1999 Edison Prize and the Cannes Prize for Chamber Music in 2000. 

She commissioned new works for the viola, from composers such as Tigran Mansurian and Peter Eötvös

Kashkashian won a 2013 Grammy Award for Best Classical Instrumental Solo for the 2012 album Kurtág / Ligeti: Music for Viola. 

Kashkashian currently teaches at the New England Conservatory. Previously she taught at Freiburg and in Berlin. Among her students are Julia Rebekka AdlerSheila BrowneLim Soon Lee and Diemut Poppen. She is the founder and artistic director of Music for Food, a musician-led initiative for local hunger relief. 

 John Marcus

John MarcusJohn Marcus is a native New Yorker and a graduate of the Juilliard School, where he received his pre-college division diploma, and his bachelor and master of music degrees. He also holds a postgraduate certificate from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. His teachers include Dorothy DeLay and David Takeno. As a member of the Grammy-nominated Enso String Quartet, Marcus has performed extensively as a chamber musician throughout the United States, Latin America and Europe. He gave his first public performance at age 9 at the Mozarteum in Salzburg; and at 15 he performed at Lincoln Center as the winner of the Julliard Violin Competition. For the 1993 gala opening of the Harris Concert Hall in Aspen, Colorado, Marcus appeared as a soloist alongside Pinchas Zukerman and the Aspen Chamber Symphony. For this occasion, the Stradivarius Society of Chicago lent him the 1742 "Burmeister" Guarnerius del Gesu violin. Marcus has frequently toured Germany as a recitalist and recently premiered the John Corigliano Sonata for Violin for Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Germany's leading public radio network. In his hometown of New York City, Marcus has performed for numerous concert series, including LPR, Barbes, BargeMusic and in collaboration with members of Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project. He has also performed with the Mark Morris Dance Group and the New Juilliard Ensemble. As a member of the New York-based chamber music group The Knights, Marcus has toured throughout the United States and Europe. He has performed at many festivals, including Ravinia, Aspen, Tanglewood, Interlochen, San Miguel de Allende, Campos do Jordao International Winter Festival, Verbier and Spoleto. Musicians with whom he has worked include James Dunham, Vera Beths, Ursula Oppens, Sam Rhodes, Peter Oundjian and Cho-Liang Lin. Marcus loves to cook for his family and plays on a Joseph Ceruti violin, made in 1816.

Guest Artists 2014

Michael Caterisano, percussion

Percussionist Michael Caterisano has performed all over the world with a wide range of ensembles. He regularly plays with the New York Philharmonic, New York City Ballet, and the Knights and has also performed with the Cleveland Orchestra, Detroit Symphony and Alarm Will Sound. From 2009 to 2011 he was assistant principal percussionist in La Orquesta de la Cominitat Valenciana in Valencia, Spain. He currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Stephen Dunn, trombone

Trombonist Stephen Dunn is an active orchestral and chamber musician and an avid performer of new music. In addition to regular appearances on concert stages in New York City, he has performed with the Cincinnati, Hartford and New Haven symphonies and as principal trombone of the Aspen Chamber Symphony, Hong Kong Sinfonietta and la Orquesta Sinfónica de la UANL in Monterrey, Mexico. Dunn's continued commitment to education and community engagement has led him to join the teaching artist faculties of the NY Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall's Weill Music Institute, where he works to more deeply incorporate music into educational settings. A graduate of Rutgers University and the Yale School of Music, Dunn is also an alumnus of the Academy, the prestigious postgraduate fellowship program of Carnegie Hall and the Juilliard School.

Elizabeth Janzen, flute

A native of Newfoundland, Canada, Elizabeth Janzen's playing has been hailed in the New York Times as "...athletic, graceful..." Janzen has established herself as a prominent chamber and contemporary musician. She began her flute studies at age 11, and her passion for music soon propelled her to a national competition level. She pursued formal studies at the University of Toronto, with Susan Hoeppner and at the Manhattan School of Music, where she completed her master's and doctorate degrees with Linda Chesis.

As a winner of New York's prestigious Artist International Competition, Janzen gave her debut recital at Carnegie Hall in 2005. Her performance, which included a world premiere by J. Mark Stambaugh, was praised in the New York Concert Review for the "velvety tone radiating from her flute" and her "impressive technical abilities ... flair and wit with the musical phrase." In 2007 she was invited to be the first flute fellow in the Academy, a prestigious new postgraduate program developed by Carnegie Hall, the Weill Music Institute and the Juilliard School. Since then, she has been in high demand as a recitalist, chamber musician and clinician across the United States, Canada and Mexico.

As an orchestral musician, she has had the privilege of working closely with some of the world's most recognized conductors. She has performed solo flute in Pierre Boulez's "explosante-fixe" under the composer's baton and she has worked on both contemporary and period music with conductors as diverse as David Robertson, Sir Simon Rattle and Christopher Hogwood. Her interests in promoting contemporary repertoire and community programming have also led to close collaborations with esteemed artists including Paula Robison, Orli Shaham and Dawn Upshaw.

A dedicated chamber musician, Janzen tours nationally throughout the year as a member of the Fireworks Ensemble, an amplified contemporary chamber ensemble. She plays a double role in the ensemble: in addition to her flute duties, she designs and leads the ensemble's outreach performances including master classes and family concerts. Several times a year she also tours internationally with the ACJW Alumni Ensemble; past projects have included performances in Japan, India, Germany and Mexico.

Equally devoted to her work as a teacher, Janzen's students have been invited to participate in prestigious programs including the Brevard Festival and the Tanglewood Festival. She has served as a flute teacher, chamber coach and teaching artist for many acclaimed institutions, including the Manhattan School of Music Precollege, The Diller-Quaile School of Music, the New York Summer Music Festival, the New York Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall. She is currently the Assistant Professor of Flute at Texas A&M University Kingsville.

Brandon Ridenour, trumpet

In 2006, at age 20, Brandon Ridenour became the youngest member to ever join the prestigious Canadian Brass, a position he held for seven years. The same year, he won the International Trumpet Guild solo competition playing his own composition, Sonata for Trumpet and Piano, and made his solo orchestral debut with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center. Ridenour is a recipient of several composition awards, including the Morton Gould ASCAP Young Composer's Award and the Reveille Collective Composition Prize. This year he is soloing with orchestras around the continent, playing his most recent concerto-sized composition, Fantasy Variations on a theme by Paganini. The piece is also featured on his latest solo album, Fantasies and Fairy Tales, which includes many new adaptations for the trumpet. With repertoire that spans from Monteverdi to Radiohead, Ridenour has appeared in front of many distinguished ensembles, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Aspen Festival Orchestra, Brass Band of Battle Creek, Ensemble ACJW, New Juilliard Ensemble and the San Francisco, Dallas, Detroit, Toronto, National Arts Center, Indianapolis, Nashville, Jacksonville, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo symphony orchestras. He has been invited to play in the trumpet section of some of the world's leading ensembles, including the New York Philharmonic, International Contemporary Ensemble and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra in Europe. Ridenour is a graduate of the Juilliard School and an alumnus of the Academy, a two-year fellowship program with Carnegie Hall, Juilliard and the Weill Music Institute. He began playing piano at age 5 under the tutelage of his father, Rich Ridenour. The two perform regularly now as a father-son duo and have created their own repertoire of arrangements for trumpet and piano. He currently resides in Brooklyn, New York. 

Kris Saebo, bass

Bassist Kris Saebo leads a versatile musical life in New York City. His roles regularly include recording artist, soloist, bass guitarist, chamber musician, orchestral bassist, composer/arranger and teaching artist. He is an active member of Decoda, New York Classical Players, Solisti Ensemble and the Chris Norman Ensemble, and he performs regularly with A Far Cry, Ensemble ACJW, Wordless Music Orchestra, Cygnus Ensemble and subs on the Broadway show Matilda. Saebo has worked with artists such as Sir Simon Rattle, Dawn Upshaw, Jamey Haddad and Nas. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees from the Juilliard School, where his teachers were Orin O'Brien and Homer Mensch. Saebo is also an alumnus of Carnegie Hall's Ensemble ACJW, Academy program.

James Austin Smith, oboe

Praised for his "dazzling", "virtuosic" and "brilliant" performances (New York Times), oboist James Austin Smith performs equal parts new and old music across the United States and around the world. Smith is an artist of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (CMS2), the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the Talea Ensemble and Decoda, as well as a regular guest of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and Cygnus. In the fall of 2012 he joined the faculty of the State University of New York College at Purchase.

Smith's festival appearances include Marlboro, Lucerne, Chamber Music Northwest, Schleswig-Holstein, Stellenbosch, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, OK Mozart, Schwetzingen, Music@Menlo and Spoleto USA; he has performed with the St. Lawrence and Orion string quartets and recorded for the Nonesuch, Bridge, Mode and Kairos labels. He received his master of music degree in 2008 from the Yale School of Music and graduated in 2005 with bachelor of arts (political science) and bachelor of music degrees from Northwestern University. He spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar in Leipzig, Germany, at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater "Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy" and is an alumnus of the Academy, a collaboration of Carnegie Hall, the Juilliard School, the Weill Music Institute and the New York City Department of Education. Smith's principal teachers are Stephen Taylor, Christian Wetzel, Humbert Lucarelli, Hansjörg Schellenberger and Ray Still.

The son of musician parents and eldest of four boys, Smith was born in New York and raised in Connecticut.