Happy Belated New Year! My colleague R. Scott Barnas and I had the opportunity to sit down with Professor Gary Smith at the Midwest Clinic. We also had the pleasure of having a “party-crasher” show up; Dr. Cody Birdwell from the University of Kentucky was a welcome surprise to this interview.
Professor Smith talks about growing up in an arts family, his teaching career, favorite pieces of music, The System, and reflects on some of his highlights with the University of Illinois Bands. Dr. Birdwell reflects on teaching together with Professor Smith and how they worked together as colleagues to provide the best musical experiences for students.
Special thanks to Washington Junior High and Joliet All-City Band director R. Scott Barnas for facilitating this meeting and interviewing our guests!
Gary E. Smith
From the University of Illinois Band Page:
BA, Butler University; MA, Ball State University
From 1976 to 1998 and again in 2004, Gary was the Associate Director of Bands at the University of Illinois, Urbana - Champaign, where he conducted the nationally famous Marching Illini, Basketball Band, Symphonic Band II, and taught marching band procedures and band arranging in the School of Music.
Previously he served as Assistant Director of Bands and Marching Band Director at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana, Director of Bands at Saint Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Indiana, and Director of Bands at Northside High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In 1988 Gary was elected to membership in the prestigious American Bandmasters Association. In addition, he is a member of Phi Beta Mu, Phi Mu Alpha, and Kappa Kappa Psi music honorary fraternities and participates in the College Band Director's National Association, National Band Association, and the Illinois Music Educators Association.
Recent awards include the University of Illinois Alumni Association "Outstanding Educator", the Mary Hoffman “Outstanding Music Educator”, the "Spirit of the Illini" from the University of Illinois Athletic Association and the Kappa Kappa Psi Distinguished Service to Music Medal.
Gary has served as a consultant, guest conductor and clinician throughout the United States, Singapore, China, Australia, Japan, Canada, Ireland and France. In addition, he is the coordinator of the pre-game, halftime and parade festivities for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl (formerly the Peach Bowl) and assisted with the production of the 2005 Orange Bowl Halftime. In 2007, Gary served as co director of the Oklahoma Centennial All State Marching Band, which was be featured during the 2007 Rose Bowl Parade opening ceremonies. Presently he serves as the producer of the annual DISNEY THANKSGIVING PARADE OF BANDS held at Disney World in Orlando, FL. and head clinician for the 2011 Marching Band Directors and Drum Major Clinic in Singapore
Smith is former owner and director of the Smith Walbridge Clinics for drum majors, flags, rifles, marching percussion, marching band student leaders and directors. Since 1949, these clinics have attracted thousands of high school and college students from across the United States and several foreign countries.
Several of his articles have been published in The Instrumentalist, The School Musician and the Band Director's Guide. This guide, The System, "Marching Band Methods," is used as a textbook in several University marching band courses and marching band clinics.
Dr. John Cody Birdwell
From the University of Kentucky Fine Arts Page:
Dr. John Cody Birdwell is Director of Bands at the University of Kentucky, where his duties include conducting the University of Kentucky Wind Symphony, directing graduate programs in wind-band conducting, teaching graduate courses in instrumental conducting, history and literature, and supervising the administration of the University of Kentucky band program in the School of Music. Prior to his appointment at the University of Kentucky, Dr. Birdwell served as Director of Bands at Texas Tech University, Director of Bands at Utah State University, Assistant Director of Bands at the University of Illinois, and Director of Bands at Northern Michigan University.
Dr. Birdwell's ensembles have toured extensively throughout the United States, China, and Great Britain, and the University of Kentucky Wind Symphony was recently selected to perform at the 2013 National Convention of the College Band Directors National Association. Ensembles under Dr. Birdwell's direction have also performed at numerous CBDNA national and division Conferences, and have also performed for the Kentucky Music Educator’s Association, Texas Music Educators Convention, Texas Bandmaster's Association Convention, and the Utah Music Educators Association. In 2008 the UK Wind Symphony toured the People’s Republic of China, and performed to capacity audiences in the cities of Suzhou, Yangzhou, Changzhou, and Beijing.
Birdwell has collaborated with and premiered works by a variety of celebrated artists, conductors, and composers including Arturo Sandoval, Michael Colgrass, Luis Serrano Alarcon, Tim Reynish, Frederick Fennell, Dan Welcher, Donald Grantham, John Mackey, Anthony Barfield, Bob Mintzer, Mike Mower, and Adam Gorb. Several compact discs, including the University of Kentucky Wind Ensemble “Distilled in Kentucky – Premieres from the Bluegrass State”, and “GO! – The Music of Bob Mintzer”, along with the Texas Tech University Symphonic Wind Ensemble “LIVE!" and “Diversions” have received acclaim from composers and conductors throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia.
Dr. Birdwell is an elected member of the prestigious American Bandmasters Association and holds degrees from The University of North Texas and West Texas A&M University.
Dr. Birdwell serves as President-Elect President of the College Band Directors National Association Southern Division, and holds memberships in the College Band Directors National Association, National Band Association, Kentucky Music Educators Association, National Association for Music Education, Phi Beta Mu, Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association, Kappa Kappa Psi and Phi Mu Alpha. He remains active as a guest conductor, clinician and adjudicator throughout the United States and abroad.