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Performance Ensembles

Closeup of the front of a Glee Club folder

The music department is home to a lively community of faculty-directed performing ensembles. All students, majors and non-majors, are welcome in the department ensembles, which cover a wide variety of musical styles from all over the world.


Orchestra

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 works from the 20th and 21st century, some composed by Smith faculty and visiting artists. Recent composer residencies have included performances featuring Caroline Shaw and Reena Esmail. 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.

For more information about the Smith Orchestra, please contact the group's conductor, Jonathan Hirsh, at jhirsh@smith.edu.


Jazz Ensemble

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.


Chamber Music

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.


Wind Ensemble

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.


Wailing Banshees

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.


Smith Gamelan

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. 

Membership in the Smith Gamelan is open to students, staff and faculty of the Five College community. Questions can be directed to Margaret Sarkissian at msarkiss@smith.edu.

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; Sarah Paquet is assistant director of choral activities.

Visit the Smith College Glee Club and Chamber Singers on:

The dynamic Smith College Glee Club performs annually at Commencement and Family Weekends, Montage, Autumn Serenade, Christmas Vespers, and at various college events including Opening Convocation, Otelia Cromwell Day and Rally Day. The Glee Club selects music from a diverse repertoire, including major works for treble voices, jazz, contemporary, and folk music of the U.S. and from international traditions. Every spring, glee clubs from such universities as Harvard, Rutgers, Cornell, Michigan and Virginia come to campus to collaborate on a major work. Recent performances have included the Mozart Requiem, Orff’s Carmina Burana and Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem. Auditions for Glee Club are normally held during orientation and the first two weeks of classes in both semesters.

“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.”

Members of the Glee Club are eligible to audition for the highly selective Smith College Chamber Singers. The internationally known Chamber Singers have performed widely since 1951. Touring every two years, the program provides financial assistance enabling all members to tour regardless of financial need. Auditions for Chamber Singers are held during orientation and the first week of classes in the fall semester.

Beginning singers of all class years are welcome in the Introduction to Choral Singing course, in which students learn how to read music and establish a healthy vocal technique.  The course includes one informal performance at the end of each semester.

Introduction to Choral Singing, Glee Club and Chamber Singers meet Mondays and/or Wednesdays in the late afternoon.

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.”