Melissa Smith performs solo recitals and collaborates with pianists, singers, instrumentals, theater groups and opera companies throughout the Bay Area. Her current performance project is: PianoDance!™ featuring dance music from the Old World (Europe) and the New World (the Americas) and will include collaborations with Baroque, Flamenco and Ballroom dancers. For the past two years, she performed solo and ensemble pieces for Mark Alburger’s Opus Project, a musical survey course with performances in Berkeley, Pleasant Hill and San Francisco. She was one of the pianists for the marathon performance of Erik Satie’s “Vexations” – also at the Berkeley Art Center. Smith also appears frequently on the Palo Alto Fortnightly Club recitals - most recently on January 11, 2015 with Geoffrey Cooper at the Lucie Stern Center in Palo Alto. She also was the pianist for the Palo Alto Children’s Theatre’s production of “Once Upon A Mattress”, performed at Napa Porchfest with her 8 hand piano group, “8 Hands A Foot”, performed new works by Monica Lynn at the Hidden Valley Performing Arts Center in Carmel Valley and performed on the Napa Valley Music Association’s Tribute to JS Bach.
Smith has collaborated with pianists Patti Deuter, Elizabeth Lee, David Manley and Anne Oliver for "BAC Hand Slam! A program of chance encounters". This project featured works by Bay Area Composers (BAC) performed by five pianists incorporating elements of John Cage's "chance operations". Smith also composed a work for the project. Jean Bartlett, writing for the Pacifica Tribune, stated that the collaboration was "…a meeting of 10 hands…abstract and uncommon…with a notion of wonder."
In addition to playing the works of living composers, Smith champions music by French composers. She conceived and organized a celebration of Francis Poulenc’s music, “C’est Poulenc!”, in honor of Poulenc’s 100th birthday. More than a dozen performances featuring pianists, vocalists and instrumentalists were given in the 1999/2000 season throughout the Bay Area. In 1997, Smith performed Francis Poulenc’s L’Histoire de Babar for piano and narrator with actor Steven Patterson, as part of the San Francisco Fringe Festival. Robert Hurwitt of the San Francisco Examiner described their performance as “…pure, unadulterated delight…simply blissful.”
Smith premiered the chamber operas “Antigone” and "The Little Prince" by Bay Area Composer Mark Alburger for San Francisco’s Goat Hall Productions. In addition, Smith was the pianist in five chamber operas for Goat Hall’s “Fresh Voices Festival II”, a festival of new works and chamber operas. She has also been choir pianist for many choirs throughout her career, most recently in San Mateo at First Presbyterian Church and St. Gregory’s Parish. She has also been the worship leader for San Francisco’s Calvary Presbyterian’s Vespers Service.
Smith is the owner and manager of Renditions Music Services, founded in 1995 with David Saslav to provide artist services in the Bay Area. Renditions Music Services released the CDs, The Story of Babar, with David Saslav as narrator, and a CD of solo piano music, Christmas on the Keys. Renditions has also released a CD of Palo Alto composer Nancy Bloomer Deussen's "The World Is a Butterfly's Wing" with text by poet Allen Cohen. Other Renditions offerings include piano study, voice instruction, the Renditions research library, the Brahms Ensemble, Choirs@Work™, Ora*Cappella™, PianoSmith/MadLabs™, and a blog - Diary of a Pianist and artOpia™ making creativity part of every day life.
Smith has studied piano with Eliane Lust, Dennis Alexander and Steven Hesla and Baroque keyboards with Tamara Loring. She holds a Bachelor of Arts with emphasis in Music from the University of Montana. She teaches piano privately and is a member of the Music Teacher’s Association of California – San Francisco Branch.
Pianist Melissa Smith…
“…[a] fabulous explorer of piano as pioneer, [Smith] played Fantasie in D minor beautifully … with a keyboard acceptance and fearless communication of Mozart.”…Jean Bartlett, in the Pacifica Tribune
“… a deft capturing of the wit and humor of Poulenc’s music”…Edith Günther for 21st Century Music
“…discernment and grace” Michael McDonagh in 21st Century Music, Fresh Voices II Festival review