Reginald Smith Jr. is a studio artist in his second year with the Houston Grand Opera, which means he's part of a small elite group getting an intense course of study and a chance to appear in operas while readying for what he hopes will be a longtime career. At this season's Studio Artists performance, HGO Music and Artistic Director Patrick Summers singled Smith out as someone who's going to be doing great things.
Smith grew up in Atlanta and says he was always singing along with his two brothers and two sisters. He was in school choir from second grade all the way through college. An eighth grade teacher spotted his talent and told him he should consider going to the city's School for the Arts. His major there was vocal music. "I just wanted to be a good choir singer.
Then in the tenth grade, he attended his first opera. "I thought I've never seen an opera before and it's ten bucks and even if it's boring, I can get out of school. So I went to see it and my first opera, and it was Tosca, a great opera."
"The thing that I can remember that was so amazing to me was that all of the main characters died. When the soprano sang Avante a Dio, most people sort of run and jump off the back of the building. She stood on the ledge and sang Avante a Dio and then jumped backwards. I thought, 'Man, that's pretty intense. I kind of like this stuff.' " Soon after he looked up more about Puccini, and the opera started taking his lessons much more seriously. "It was really then that I thought maybe I should consider more singing. " What he does:
"I sing the best music in the world. And I think that goes for opera music, that goes for art songs. It goes for French, German, Italian, English. I love singing concert works like Beethoven's symphonies. But also doing wonderful things like 'Unforgettable.' I think I have the best job in the world. I get to sing great music and experience wonderful opportunities in new and interesting places and I get paid to do it! "
Why he likes it: "I like performing. It was really when I got to college and did my first opera, which was Amahl and the Night Visitors, that I decided I really want to do this. It's a culmination of all the arts into one big thing. And the fact that I get to put on crazy wigs and funny makeup."
What Inspires Him: "If it wasn't for my high school teachers, I would never have seen an opera. I think music inspires me when I listen to things like Puccini and when I listen to the Verdi works, it just touches you in a way that nothing else can. I'm also greatly blessed to have a great support system in my family, and they always inspire me, even when I feel stressed out or tired. My best friend from high school. Religion is important to me. Always if I feel like I'm down, I always feel like I can turn to a good hymn or gospel song. The many amazing coaches I've worked with."
If Not This Then What: "I've always loved choral music. I have a degree in choral education and vocal performance. I always wanted to teach. I knew I wanted to sing but I always wanted to go back and teach. When it gets to a point to where my mind and my body and my voice tells me it's time to stop, I'd love to go back to teach at like a high school level to get youth excited about the arts and music and not just opera but jazz and blues and gospel and spirituals and show choirs."
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If Not Here Then Where: "If I were not here in Houston, I would be teaching somewhere. I have such a great passion about music. I love teaching because you can do that on a more one-on-one moment. I would probably be in Atlanta or in Kentucky, where I studied, or I might have done Teach For America. I'm not so bound to one place. But wherever I would be, I would still be teaching and I would still be singing and looking for new experiences. For me, I just want to have a wonderful, fulfilling and great career. It doesn't matter to me if it's in Croatia or if it's at the Metropolitan or if it's in Montreal or if it's in Atlanta or at the Houston Grand Opera, I just want to just sing and enjoy the great music. "
What's next: "Singing with the Atlanta Symphony's pops concert. Here in Houston I'm study covering the role of Jago in Otello. I'm study covering in Madame Butterfly. I have my first Beethoven Ninth, which I'm very excited about. I have a recital in Minnesota."
More Creatives for 2014 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).
Luke Hamilton, dancer, choreographer and actor Jera Rose Petal Lodge, metalsmith and jewelrymaker Lauren Burke, dancer and choreographer Ben Fritzsching, comic book show promoter and character actor Will Ottinger, novelist Greg Starbird, theater lighting designer Dominique Royem, symphony orchestra conductor Marc Boone, Sneaker Gang founder and designer Andy McWilliams, sound designer and composer Maria-Elisa Heg, zine queen Allan Rodewald, artist Anne-Joelle Galley, artist Michelle Ellen Jones, ballroom dancer and actress Morris Malakoff, photographer and filmmaker Terrill Mitchell, dancer Deji Osinulu, photographer Mason Sweeney, artist K.J. Russell, sci-fi author and writing teacher Emily Robison, choreographer and filmmaker John Cramer, violinist and concertmaster Shipra Mehrotra, Odissi dancer and choreographer Winston Williams, comics artist Octavio Moreno, opera singer Dylan Godwin, actor, storyteller and teacher McKenna Jordan, independent bookstore owner Steven Trimble, mixed media artist Sandria Hu, visual artist and professor of art Robert Gouner AKA Goon73, photographer Shawna Forney and Erma Tijerina (aka SHER), culture gurus Mark Bradley, photographer James Ferry, comics artist Keith Parsons, author and philosophy professor Alonzo Williams Jr., photographer Rudy Zanzibar Campos, painter Paige Kiliany, director Betirri Bengtson, visual artist Melissa Maygrove, romance novelist Natalie Harris, bridal gown designer Larry McKee, cinematographer Tiffany Heath, filmmaker Jonathan Pidcock, Jewelry Maker Mallory Bechtel, actor, singer, dancer Janine Hughes, visual artist Nyssa Juneau, artist John Merritt, artist Leslie Scates, choreographer and dance educator Denise O'Neal, producer, director, playwright Jason Poland, cartoonist Courtney Sandifer, filmmaker, actor, writer Lloyd Gite, gallery owner Henry Yau, The Children's Museum of Houston's publicity and promotions guru Angeli Pidcock, fantasy writer and mentor Jennifer Mathieu, author Scott Chitwood, writer Anat Ronen, urban artist Amber Galloway Gallego, rockstar and sign language interpreter Michael Weems, playwright Lane Montoya, artist Jordan Simpson, SLAM poet Joey & Jaime, designers Suzi Taylor, photographer Ashton Miyako, dressmaker T. Smith, artistLindsay Finnen, photographer Kaitlyn Stanley, tattoo artist Eleazar Galindo Navarro, video game maker Kate de Para, textile and clothing designer Shawn Swanner, video game painter Andy Gonzales, painter Chris Foreman, comic book sketcher Theresa DiMenno, photographer Jessica E. Jones, opera singer Atseko Factor, actor John Pluecker, writer, poet and language justice worker Ricky Ortiz, painter, tattoo artist Rabēa Ballin, artist David Wald, actor Lisa E. Harris, performing and visual artist Stephanie Todd Wong, executive director of Dance Source Houston Pamela Fagan Hutchins, novelist Heather Gordy, artist Mark Nasso, comic artist Shelbi-Nicole, artist Marian Szczepanski, novelist Jonathan Blake, fashion designer Doni Langlois, interior designer Kat Denson, dancer Blame the Comic, comedian Margaret Menchaca Alvarez, artist Jacquelyne Jay Boe, dancer Rene Fernandez, painter Teresa Chapman, choreographer and dancer