LEO SMIT (1921 - 1999)
Leo Smit (1921–1999) was born to Russian immigrants in Philadelphia. His father was a violinist who performed in The Philadelphia Orchestra under Stokowski, in the Cincinnati Symphony under Reiner, and in the NBC Symphony under Toscanini. After studies with Martha Lantner, Joseph Wissof and Bert Shefter, Smit traveled to Moscow in 1929 with his mother for three months with Dmitri Kabalevsky on a scholarship at the Moscow Conservatory. Returning to Philadelphia in 1930, he continued his studies with Isabelle Vengerova at the Curtis Institute. He also studied piano with José Iturbi (1933–1935) and composition with Nicolas Nabokov in 1935. Smit made his début at Carnegie Hall in February 1939. As a composer Smit wrote three symphonies, an opera and a chamber opera, two ballets, a piano concerto, more than ninety songs, and numerous chamber, choral, and piano works. In 1962 Leo Smit began teaching at the State University of New York at Buffalo. His papers and compositions are housed there at the university library. His association with Aaron Copland was lifelong not only in the concert hall but in the recording studio. Smit recorded all of Copland’s piano works, and even appeared with Copland as a duo piano team.