The music department is home to a lively community of faculty-directed performing ensembles.
- The Smith College Orchestra, Chorus and Glee Club perform works ranging from the Baroque period to the modern day. These nationally acclaimed groups regularly premiere new work by leading composers and delve into music from the folk and popular canons. Special events include annual oratorio collaborations with visiting men's choral ensembles, selected celebratory events on campus and tours abroad.
- The Smith Gamelan, founded in 1995, serves as an immersive opportunity to study the music of Central Java. The Wailing Banshees explore Irish music, and the popular Wind, Jazz and Handbell ensembles offer a wide range of their unique repertories.
- Along with supporting other student-run a cappella groups, the department sponsors Groove a cappella, comprised of music performance students.
- Smith music performance faculty, with special guests, are presented throughout the year as the Sage Chamber Music Society, programming small-ensemble concerts and recitals of beloved classics and new discoveries.
The Smith Orchestra is conducted by Jonathan Hirsh and is open by audition to students with prior instrumental training. It rehearses one evening per week, with extra rehearsals and sectionals as needed to prepare for performances. The ensemble performs the classics of the orchestral repertoire, including key pieces from the Classical and Romantic periods, as well as 20th–century works, some composed by Smith faculty and staff. The orchestra performs several times each year, both in concerts featuring exclusively orchestral repertoire and in those where the orchestra combines forces with the Glee Club or other campus ensembles to explore works such as Orff's Carmina Burana and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
The Smith Jazz Ensemble rehearses once a week for two hours and plays music designed to teach jazz ensemble concepts (phrasing, articulation, swing feel) as well as give improvised solo space for all members. Though favoring the typical "Big Band" instrumentation (including vocalist), other instruments are welcome on an "as-needed" basis. Performing a minimum of four times each academic year, the group counts tunes as done by Basie, Ellington, and Sinatra plus more contemporary tunes among its repertoire. The group accepts members with all levels of prior jazz training. The Jazz Ensemble is directed by Genevieve Rose.
Playing in small ensembles allows for intimate music-making while exploring great works from the repertory. Groups, formed ad hoc or in consultation with faculty, may be eligible to register each semester for weekly coachings (1 credit). In recent years works from Bach to Brahms to Reich have been explored. Preference is given to students studying instruments or voice at Smith.
For more information on playing in chamber music ensembles, please contact Joel Pitchon.
Rehearsing once a week for 90 minutes, this ensemble provides Smith students with the chance to explore the standard (and less-standard) wind ensemble repertoire. Recent performances have included the music of Bernstein, P.D.Q. Bach, Holst, Grainger, Danny Elfman and Sousa. Instrumentalists of all abilities are welcome, as are students from the Five College community. No audition is required. The Wind Ensemble is directed by Ellen Redman and presents two main concerts per year and additional appearances around campus.
Started in 2005, the Wailing Banshees are Smith's Irish/Celtic music ensemble. The group is made up largely of fiddles, flutes, whistles and even bagpipes, with a rhythm section that can consist of guitar, bodhran, mandolin and even cello! The Banshees rehearse two hours per week and give two full concerts per year, and are often in demand at various events on- and off-campus. Their music is largely Scottish and Irish but includes all the Celtic lands and ranges in style from more modern arrangements, to sean nos and ceili band. The ensemble is open to all Five College students with permission of the director, Ellen Redman.
The Smith Gamelan is a performance group dedicated to the study of Central Javanese gamelan, one of the great musical traditions of Indonesia. The group was founded in 1995 as a way to introduce Five College students to this unique musical tradition and it is directed by Margaret Sarkissian, professor of music, and Sumarsam, a master of the Javanese music tradition and adjunct professor of music at Wesleyan University. The group meets once a week during the school year and presents a performance at the end of each semester.
Since 1885, thousands of Smith students have gathered to form an extraordinary community of singers. From Sage Hall, with its lovely Sweeney Concert Hall, to John M. Greene Hall, the sounds of united voices can be heard. An astonishing tradition is carried on, and lifelong friendships are formed. Jonathan Hirsh is director of orchestral and choral activities; Amanda Huntleigh is assistant director of choral activities.
A wide variety of opportunities is available to both new and veteran choral singers. Four dynamic and diverse ensembles, the Smith College Choirs perform annually at Commencement and Family Weekend, Montage, Autumn Serenade, Christmas Vespers, at a cappella jams, and at various college events including Opening Convocation and Rally Day.
Each choir, separately and together, chooses from a diverse repertoire, including the premiere women's choral pieces of Western art music, jazz, contemporary and folk music from the U.S. and from international traditions.
Every spring, men's glee clubs from universities such as Harvard, Rutgers, Cornell, Michigan, and Virginia come to campus to collaborate on a major work. Recent performances have included Mendelssohn's Elijah, the Mozart Requiem, Carmina Burana, and the Bach B-minor Mass. In alternate years, the Smith College Chamber Singers perform on tour in the United States and abroad.
All students are welcome to join, regardless of prior experience. First-year students sing in the Chorus. Most of the time, the Chorus sings together with the Glee Club, an ensemble for students who have completed one year of college. Ada Comstock Scholars are welcome to join any of the choral organizations.
“I met my best friends during my first weeks in the Smith College Chorus. The group gave me an immediate sense of home and belonging in college.”
All members of the Chorus and Glee Club are eligible to audition for the Chamber Singers, a small and selective ensemble, and for Groove, the choral program's student-run a cappella group. Chorus, Glee Club and Chamber Singers rehearse Mondays and Wednesdays in the late afternoon. Groove rehearses at various times during the week.
Formerly the Smith Chamber Music Society, the Sage Chamber Music Society is a faculty ensemble which gathers colleagues and friends dedicated to performing chamber music from baroque to new. The musicians are available for workshops, lectures and outreach performances. Please contact Joel Pitchon for more information.
Please see the Performance Calendar for information on upcoming performances.
“There is an instantaneous sense of belonging I feel when I sing with a choir. This kind of connectivity has enriched my time at Smith and has continued into Glee Club. I cannot imagine what my experience at Smith would be without Chorus and Glee Club.”