About the Department
"The cultural value of music to the college student is nowhere more highly emphasized than at Smith."
So wrote Henry Dike Sleeper, long-time chair of the Music Department at Smith in the early twentieth century. The Department was established in 1903, along with a "concert course" that brought celebrated musicians to the campus. In those years, when one quarter of the student body was enrolled in some form of musical instruction, the "course" brought international stars to the campus, among them Sergei Rachmaninoff, who played his first concert in America here in November 1909. And into the nineteen-seventies the course brought us such organizations and artists as the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, Rudolph Serkin, and Marilyn Horne.
Smith's long commitment to musical performance and study is demonstrated by the impressive list of musicians who have taught at the College, which includes composers Roger Sessions, Ross Lee Finney, Alvin Etler, Ronald Perera, Donald Wheelock, Stephen Albert, and John Duke, who taught in the Department for forty-four years. From 1939 to 1950, one of the world's greatest musical scholars, Alfred Einstein, taught music history at Smith and helped to enrich the extraordinary holdings of its music library soon named for his colleague, composer/conductor Werner Josten.
Today's music department is one of the largest departments in the college, with faculty members who offer a broad array of classroom courses in music history and literature, ethnomusicology, theory/composition, popular music, and gender/feminist studies. Smith faculty offer performance courses in voice and a wide variety of instruments, and members of the department direct renowned performance ensembles. The Department boasts extraordinary facilities and a remarkable number of notable graduates who have led distinguished musical careers in performance, advocacy, and research.