Tag Archives: Alan W. Smith (Roger W. Smith’s father)

My Father’s Career as a Musician

 

A message from someone who read a post on this blog, asking about my father’s career as a musician, prompted me to respond as follows:

 

— Roger W. Smith

      September 2016

 

 

 

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re my father (Alan W. Smith):

Thanks for asking! To respond to your queries:

My father was a pianist.

He also played accordion occasionally.

Plus, he was a church organist and choir director.

And a piano teacher.

He had a music degree from Harvard.

He was not famous.

He started working professionally in his teens while still in school.

He did all kinds of gigs — everything from musicals and ice skating shows to bar mitzvahs.

He played piano for years as a regular at a restaurant on Cape Cod. People loved him. He loved to meet people and socialize. Knew every tune.

He loved his work. He would frequently say to me, “I never worked a day in my life.”

 

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addendum:

 

In response to further queries from the same individual, I have added a little bit more about my father’s musical career:

I was always proud to be able to say that my father was a musician. He didn’t have the same type of job as most of my friends’ fathers did. He hated the thought of a 9 to 5 job.

My father performed with a few famous people, once or twice. I believe he made a demo record with Dinah Shore. And, he was proud to say that he performed once with a backup band behind Cab Calloway.

He hardly ever talked about it, but he played the trombone in high school. Early in his career – when he was still quite young – he performed with the Harry Marshard and his Orchestra in Boston. It was the Big Band Era (1930’s and 40’s). He may have played some trombone then.

He worked with guys from all walks of life and educational levels, ranging from cultured and highly educated (Ph.D. in one case; a bass player who used to accompany him) to crude, uneducated guys who liked to swap dirty jokes. Many of his fellow musicians moonlighted  as musicians while pursuing careers such as dentistry and academics. He learned from this how to get along with people from all walks of life and from various educational and cultural backgrounds.

My father was in the Army during World War II. I don’t think his role was as a musician — in fact, I’m certain it was not. He was proud of his military service. (He did not see combat.)

reflections on work

 

The following is the text of an email of mine to a friend:

 

I think you told me once that you like your work and don’t want to quit.

I hope that’s true.

My Dad was a freelance musician and piano teacher. He was very skilled, was a natural. Loved people. Loved entertaining them and making them happy.

He loved his work; loved being his own boss.

He started working as a musician when he was still in high school.

He used to say all the time, “I never worked a day in my life.” It was a pleasure to hear him say that. I realized that few people could honestly say that they felt that way.

My father tried to “go straight” for a while when he was starting a family. He took a regular job, the only one he ever had, selling advertisements for a radio station. He didn’t stay long.

I never liked working in an office – in fact, I hated it. Hated the office culture and the hours.

I always work better when I am working independently. I am very responsible and will go all out to do a good job. But I hate to be told what to do. I like to set my own standards and work at my own pace.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

     email to a friend, March 2, 2016

An Early Lesson in Writing

 

When I was around 13 and still in junior high school, we had a discussion at the dinner table in our home in Massachusetts one Sunday afternoon that was intellectually stimulating, as was often the case.

My older brother was telling us an anecdote about Mr. Tighe, his English teacher at Canton High School.

A girl student had written a paper for Mr. Tighe in which she used the archaic word yclept, meaning named or called. It was used by Chaucer and Milton.

Mr. Tighe ridiculed her for this. He observed that the simplest and clearest word was always desirable.

Being only 13 and not savvy, I was quite surprised to hear this. I spoke up at the dinner table, and said, “I thought that writers were supposed to use big words.”

“Oh no,” my father, Alan W. Smith — who, besides being a musician, was superbly articulate — said, “you should always use the plainest, simplest word.”

I never forgot this discussion and remark. It was a revelation to me, the start of learning how to write well.

It was a salutary “lesson.”

 

Roger W. Smith

     March 2016

poem written by choir members in tribute to Alan W. Smith, First Parish Unitarian Universalist, Canton, MA

 

My father, Alan W. Smith, was organist and choir director during the 1950’s and 60’s at the First Parish Unitarian Universalist church in Canton, MA.

I recall with pleasure the choir rehearsals every Thursday evening at our house at 233 Chapman Street in Canton.

Attached is a poem that the choir wrote as an affectionate tribute to my father.

First Parish, Canton, choir's poem in tribute to Dad.jpg