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Classical Happenings

Conductor Henry Charles Smith dies

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Interlochen Center for the Arts
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Henry Charles Smith conducts at Interlochen in 1982

Smith was the music director of Interlochen's World Youth Symphony Orchestra for 16 years.

Grammy Award-winning brass player, conductor and educator Henry Charles Smith has died.

During his career, Smith conducted the Minnesota Orchestra, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, among many others. He also led the Young Artists Orchestra at Tanglewood.

Smith taught at Interlochen Arts Camp for many summers, including serving as the music director of the World Youth Symphony Orchestra for 16 years.

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Tony Nelson
Henry Charles Smith conducts the Mississippi Valley Orchestra in 2015

As principal trombonist of the Philadelphia Orchestra and a member of the Philadelphia Brass Quintet, Smith and his colleagues won a Grammy Award in 1969 for Classical Record of the Year.

Smith was a champion of music for low brass instruments. He commissioned the Symphony no. 29 for Baritone Horn and Band by Alan Hovhaness, performing as the soloist in the 1977 world premiere given at Interlochen.

He taught at the Curtis Institute of Music, Indiana University and the University of Texas, among others, and was also Professor Emeritus at Arizona State University.

Colleagues, friends and students remember his gentle and respectful nature, as well as his memorable sayings such as "Tu-tu-ka-tut."

In a statement on Facebook, radio host and conductor Bill McGlaughlin recalled, "At a time when brass players had a reputation for being the tough guys of the orchestra, Henry eschewed bravado. He was always a very gentle gentleman. In fact, he was a natural, both in life and and as a musician."

Smith died Wednesday, Sept. 8. He was 90.