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George G. Smith IV, known as Smittie, was a musician, educator, and band leader in Cincinnati, Ohio. In addition to serving as director of Smittie's Band, he was the creator, producer, and director of The Withrow Minstrels, the very popular annual musical production of the music department at Withrow High School, in Cincinnati.

Life and career[edit]

Smith was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1909 to a family with a long musical tradition. Upon his death, The Cincinnati Enquirer editorialized that "Consistent high quality and stunning staging was one reason for the success of The Withrow Minstrels, and the institution of George Smith himself – outside of Withrow High School – helped to build the tremendous popularity of the Minstrels … He was indeed a living legend. He was the undisputed embodiment of more than 50 years of devotion to the music and entertainment of Cincinnati".[1]

Smittie's Band[edit]

Smittie’s Band was a popular Cincinnati attraction from its founding during the Spanish American War, circa 1898, by Smittie’s grandfather, George G. Smith II, who had been a thirteen year-old drummer boy in the Civil War and the son of a violin-playing farmer.[2] Smittie took over as Bandmaster upon his father’s death in 1930, and he led the popular ensemble until his death, July 3, 1985.[2] The band traditionally led the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade for the Cincinnati Reds, and performed at the inaugurals of Presidents Harding, McKinley, and Taft. Smittie’s Band maintained a full schedule of summer concerts in Cincinnati area parks and played regularly at Shriner events, country club dances, weddings, Cincinnati Reds games, and private parties. It led “the big band sound” summer dances at the city’s Fountain Square. He directed music for Roy Rogers and Bob Hope at area state fairs.[3] In the heyday of the Big Band Era, Smittie’s Band was so popular that “on one occasion in Columbus, Ohio, a police escort was required to get his band on and off the stage.” [4]

The Withrow Minstrels[edit]

According to Richard Johnson, a former student of Smith, musician in The Withrow Minstrels, and Principal Oboe Emeritus of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, “Smittie was a gifted educator. Few students who participated in The Withrow Minstrels ever forgot the experience or failed to take life lessons from it.” He was a disciplinarian and a taskmaster: when he made one a member of the Withrow Minstrels, one worked – and worked hard.[5] Smittie’s gift was his ability to instill in his students the belief that they were the absolute best – none believed there could possibly be a better show anywhere, and this belief contributed to the electrically vibrant, excitingly entertaining atmosphere of Withrow Minstrels shows.[5] Smittie and his staff made each student feel needed and responsible as a member of the show. He also taught his students that teamwork, discipline, and extremely hard work pay off, a lesson that lasted them a lifetime. The Minstrels was a heady experience that few ever forgot.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Cincinnati Enquirer, "Smittie, the Loss of a Legend", Editorial, 7/9/85
  2. ^ The Cincinnati Enquirer, "George Gilmore Smith IV", 7/6/85
  3. ^ “You Were ‘The Tops’ “, Editorial, The Pulse-Journal, Mason, Ohio, 7/10/85
  4. ^ You Were ‘The Tops’ “, Editorial, The Pulse-Journal, Mason, Ohio, 7/10/85
  5. ^ a b c The Cincinnati Post, "Before the School for Performing and Creative Arts, the Withrow Minstrels", 7/17/85

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_G._"Smittie"_Smith



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