Reginald Smith, Jr. has plenty to sing about these days.
The accomplished baritone opera singer and former Atlanta Public Schools student is now a Grammy Award-winning artist. On March 14, Smith won a Grammy for Best Opera Recording for his vocal performance as part of the cast in Gerschwin’s Porgy and Bess.
Upon learning he had won, the Atlanta native described the experience as both overwhelming and exciting.
“It’s amazing, and it’s also really touching, considering that we lost two people in our cast, so this is dedicated to those individuals who were part of this historic, meaningtul and beautiful production,” the 32-year-old Smith said. “This is remarkable, and it’s also a great way to honor our colleagues who are no longer with us. It’s a blessing, it really is.”
Smith is especially thankful to two of his former teachers – Mrs. Mildred Wright at Ralph McGill Elementary School (which closed in 2005) and his choral music teacher, Ms. Sharon Phillips at King Middle School – for creating a foundation from which he could build on as a young music artist.
“My love for music was cultivated and initiated through the education and teaching that I received from the Atlanta Public Schools system,” said the rising star, who fell in love with opera in third grade and now lives in Houston, Texas. “Ralph McGill Elementary School was a great school that launched my love for music, and we were fortunate to have Mrs. Wright. While there, I was in the choir from second through fifth grades and learned choral assessment. Mrs. Wright was warm, kind and welcoming, and she encouraged us to sing and be active in music.”
At King Middle School, Smith learned the foundations of singing and choral music from Ms. Phillips.
“It’s amazing to me that all these years later as a professional opera singer who sings all over the world, the skills and foundation I gained at APS have sustained and given me a solid basis from which to grow,” said Smith, whose family moved to DeKalb County when he was in seventh grade.
Those skills have since proven invaluable throughout his musical journey. Smith began taking voice lessons in high school and matriculated to the University of Kentucky, where he earned a degree in vocal performance and music education. He started performing in college, and in 2007, began doing orchestra work. He was later hired by an opera company in 2011. One of his break-out performances included Handel’s Messiah with the Lexington Philharmonic. A graduate of the Houston Grand Opera Studio, Smith was crowned Grand Finals winner of the 2015 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Described a “passionate performer” with an “electric, hall-filling” and “thrillingly dramatic” voice, Smith’s operatic talent has taken him across the globe. In addition to traveling the United States, Smith has performed in venues all over the world from London, Australia, Russia, and New Zealand, to Austria, France, Germany, Italy, and Hong Kong.
“The only job I’ve ever had has been in music, and it’s amazing because it all started in elementary school,” said Smith, who plans to perform with the New Orleans Opera at end of April, with more concerts, recitals and other shows planned in Cincinnati and Atlanta this fall. “I’ve always gravitated to choral music.”
Learn more about Smith at: www.reginaldsmithjr.com