2017 Recap: Part 2

To read about the first part of 2017, click here.

At the beginning of July, it was wonderful to join the Houston Symphony for a couple of concerts in Miller Outdoor Theater. Thankful for Miller’s air conditioned stage, making the 100+ degree heat more bearable!

during intermission

The next week, La Speranza performed at the MATCH for the first time for an enthusiastic crowd. Thomas Carroll, Andrew Schneider, and I performed a program of Romantic-era works for clarinet, viola, and piano.


Watching my friends get married on July 17!

July 29-August 13 was my second year at the American Bach Soloists Academy and Festival. It was a wonderful two weeks of Bach, Purcell, and Graun. So grateful for the wonderful experience and for the hospitality of my great friends Nathan and Stephanie Stroud.

I was able to catch up with my uncle Brian in San Francisco!

On August 14, I flew to Houston to switch violas, then flew out a few hours later to Chicago to play in the last week of Grant Park Orchestra’s season. It was lovely to spend time with Amanda, my roommate from college and to play great repertoire with wonderful colleagues!

A week after flying back to Houston, Hurricane Harvey ravaged southeast Texas. Houston received 51 inches of rain in a single weekend. I was housesitting at the time of the hurricane, and watched with bated breath as water lapped at the front step of the house (5 feet off the ground) all night one night, fell around 5:30 AM, then rose all day the next day.  My apartment and car were relatively safe (some water leaked into the apartment under the air conditioning unit) and my parents were also safe and dry. Unfortunately our storage unit was flooded and many of the contents inside were destroyed.

Also, the Wortham Center, the home of Houston Grand Opera, Houston Ballet, and Mercury, was filled with 12 feet of water, rendering it out of commission until September 2018. Huge shoutout to all arts organizations, but especially Mercury and personnel manager Judy Frow for being able to relocate all of their concerts and rehearsals for the entire season.

It was a strange, slow start to what is normally a busy time. Summer tends to be a slow financial time for freelance musicians: students are on vacation and there aren’t as many gigs. Harvey hit when we musicians were most vulnerable, and it was hard not to worry about finances. This is to say nothing for several colleagues and friends that lost property. Postal service stopped for about a month, which made getting paid for August work difficult. I was extremely grateful for some generous friends and colleagues both near and far, and I was equally grateful for the opportunities to volunteer with time and music throughout the first part of September.

September also included a quick trip to Boston, concerts with Mercury and Ars Lyrica Houston and lots of makeup lessons for my students at Tallowood. The month ended with another concert series with the Houston Symphony relocated to the beautiful Stude Concert Hall at my alma mater, Rice University.

In October, I received a long-anticipated package- a beautiful baroque viola built by Tim Johnson after a Guarneri viola. We’d been working together on it since April, and I am absolutely enthralled with the final product! It received its debut at La Speranza’s season opener on October 12 at MATCH and got a workout with 5 subsequent performances of Mendelssohn’s Octet with Mercury.


I also had the privilege of premiering a new piece for viola and strings by Adrienne Albert called In Tuo Lumine Lumen, with a wonderful orchestra conducted by my dad, Kirk Smith. At the end of the month, La Speranza was honored to perform at St. Mark’s Houston and help raise funds for Lord of the Streets. We also were thrilled to learn we’d been invited to perform at the 2018 Houston Early Music Festival this upcoming February.


November held a photo shoot for La Speranza by the wonderful Carolyn Witherspoon at Fair Star Photography and a much-anticipated album release. I really enjoy collaborating with Matt Kidd at Slow Meadow, and in September 2016, a string quartet of us worked on an album with Matt at Sonic Ranch. “Costero” was released on November 17th!

At the end of the month, I collaborated with Dr. Steve Incavo again, this time on Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet with more of my wonderful colleagues.

Our view for the performance with Dr. Incavo

This past month feels as though it has gone by in a blur, but it included several holiday-related gigs, a recording session for the clarinet quintet with Steve, appearing on Houston Life with Mercury, fundraising for La Speranza, and time spent catching up with several freelancing friends I only seem to see once or twice a year. Oh, and it snowed!!


This season I have been playing principal viola for most of the concerts with Mercury, sharing the position this year with my former professor James Dunham. I am also teaching at Tallowood Academy of Fine Arts and through the Houston Youth Symphony.


Thanks for reading if you’ve made it this far. I wish you and your loved ones a prosperous 2018!

2017 Recap: Part 1


This blog has been silent for some time but not for lack of things going on!

I rang in the New Year at the house of dear friends Matt and Anabel of Apollo Chamber Players. A few days later, La Speranza performed at Houston Methodist for the first time on the Crain Garden series with a program of clarinet quartets by Crusell and Mozart with Thomas Carroll. I had the privilege of performing with Kathleen Winkler, distinguished violin professor at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice, my alma mater, in Prokofiev’s String Quartet No. 1 in b minor. La Speranza also became fiscally sponsored by Fresh Arts, a local 501c3 arts organization. At the end of the month, Joanna Becker, wonderful violinist and friend, and I put on a winter recital for our studios at the home of our great friend and pianist extraordinaire Andrew Schneider.

I traveled to Los Angeles in February to play with Kaleidoscope which was a fun experience! When we weren’t rehearsing, the other musicians from Houston and I explored the Getty Museum and other attractions. It was great to see friends and colleagues I hadn’t seen in a while.

Hiking with friends Beth, Zach, and Beth’s dog Kingsley
Outside the Getty

The main event in March was La Speranza’s concert at Christ the King Presbyterian Church at the end of the month. We added a string trio by Wranitzky and Hummel’s clarinet quartet to our clarinet quartet by Crusell. I’m thrilled to work with such fine musicians and amazing colleagues, and we had a blast putting this program together.

Before the performance


I also traveled to Boston a few weeks prior to play a Romantic-era program with piano and clarinet with Thomas and his friend Jonathan.

Beautiful snowy day in Boston

Another highlight in March was the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. During a Mercury week, two of my colleagues who’d never been to a rodeo before came along with me!

We made a friend!

April is usually a busy month and this year was no different. Rehearsals for Houston Grand Opera’s Gotterdammerung were in full swing along with concerts and school shows with Mercury, outreach performances with Houston Early Music and an active teaching schedule. For those who don’t know, Gotterdammerung, the last opera of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle, is nearly 6 hours long. The violas have the longest book at 96 pages!

Houston Early Music performance


Getting to watch Gotterdammerung at the piano dress rehearsal

Our last performance was May 7, and on May 8 (also my birthday), I treated myself to a massage. I would need it preemptively for the week I was about to have! La Speranza’s debut at the Memorial Classical Music Series (featuring Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet) was on May 12 amidst a trial week (audition included) for principal viola of Mercury for a performance of Mozart’s Requiem on May 13.

From the Memorial Classical Music Series

The following weekend, I played in my first Groupmuse concert with Jessica Chu, flute, and Naomi Hoffmeyer, harp. We had a wonderful time putting together a diverse program of Debussy, Mathias, and Bax for an equally diverse and appreciative audience. My six viola students at Tallowood Academy of Fine Arts played beautifully in their end-of-year recital that day as well, accompanied expertly by Andrew Schneider.

Before the Tallowood recital


At the Groupmuse concert

Earlier in May, I worked with Dr. Stephen Incavo, orthopedic surgeon and clarinetist, and Charlie Tauber in a performance of Mozart and Beethoven clarinet trios in the lobby of Houston Methodist in another appearance on the Crain Garden series.

In June, I had the privilege of watching one of my best friends from childhood tie the knot with his high school sweetheart. Our trio from high school, pictured below, was reunited for an evening! Afterwards, I spent some time in Boston visiting Thomas and attending the Boston Early Music Festival! Patrick Merrill, the pianist in my trio from high school, is also a world-class harpsichordist and gave a recital at the festival. It was so great to hear him play again.


Our high school clarinet-viola-piano trio was reunited!

Sitting in a sweltering church listening to a beautiful performance by the North Texas Baroque Ensemble. It was about 95 degrees F in this photo!
Thomas and I spent some time in Rockport, MA before the festival began

In addition to these highlights, I subbed regularly with the Axiom Quartet at their weekly appearances through Harmony in the Air, a program that brings music every weekday to both Hobby and Bush airports. In the 2016-2017 school year I taught six students at Tallowood Academy of Fine Art and five students through the Houston Youth Symphony’s MELODY program on Thursdays. I also was a core member of Mercury, and I was featured in “Early to Rise”, an article in the May 2017 issue of Early Music America’s EMag.

A snapshot from EMag!
After the last Mercury performance of 2016-2017
I tried many baroque violas this year. Stay tuned for the end of the story in 2017 Recap, part 2!
This little guy fell onto my car on my way to a concert. He held on for 15 miles before I was able to rescue him at a gas station.

Part 2 coming soon!