USC Sumter presents jazz lecture, recital

BY IVY MOORE
Special to The Sumter Item
Posted 2/15/18

Special to The Sumter ItemShe's a classically trained pianist who has performed around the country and internationally, but Jane Luther Smith also has a longtime love for jazz. On Friday, Feb. 23, she'll present a recital and lecture on three of her …

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USC Sumter presents jazz lecture, recital

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She's a classically trained pianist who has performed around the country and internationally, but Jane Luther Smith also has a longtime love for jazz. On Friday, Feb. 23, she'll present a recital and lecture on three of her favorite jazz composer-pianists in the University of South Carolina Sumter Nettles Auditorium. The recital is being presented as one of the monthly programs in the USC Sumter Faculty Organization Seminar Series.

The noon recital, free and open to the public, is also a celebration of Black History Month, Smith said. She has chosen African-American musicians who composed and performed three different styles of jazz - ragtime, stride piano and swing, represented by Scott Joplin, Art Tatum and Duke Ellington.

Recognized as the Father of Ragtime, Joplin wrote dozens of ragtime pieces in the "ragged" beat that was at its height of popularity in the 1890s and enjoyed a resurrection in the 1970s. Among his best known works are "The Entertainer" and "Maple Leaf Rag."

Art Tatum's popularity peaked decades later, in the 1930s into the '50s.

"He had very large hands, was blind in one eye and partially blind in the other," Smith said. "He was remarkable. In stride piano, you have big leaps with the left hand. He was able to do this easily."

Tatum's arrangement of "Tiger Rag" was one of his most popular pieces.

Smith said Duke Ellington's music remains popular, and he is recognized as one of the most important composers, bandleaders and pianists of the past century. In addition to jazz songs such as "Mood Indigo," "It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got That Swing" and "Satin Doll," Ellington is also known for his orchestral works such as "Symphony in Black" and the jazz suite "Black, Brown and Beige."

Smith said she'll be playing much of the recital from the original published sheet music she has found in antique shops.

"The music just sort of fell into my lap," she said. "Some date back to 1929. They're real treasures. I feel like I'm meant to play it."

Smith received the Licentiate Performer's diploma in Piano from the Royal Academy of Music in London and Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees in piano performance from USC Columbia and has studied extensively with prestigious instructors in England and the U.S. Also, she has appeared as featured soloist with many orchestras, has recorded two CDs of classical music and continues to do research into jazz artists and the piano music of 19th- and 20th-century female composers.

A recent solo concert of works by Bach, Schumann and Chopin for the 150th anniversary of Steinway and Sons Pianos of New York and Hamburg at Columbia's Rice Music House resulted in her being named Top Piano Teacher for 2016 and being awarded a certificate signed by Ron Losby, chief executive officer of Steinway of New York.

Smith is a fulltime faculty member at USC Sumter and is listed on the South Carolina Arts Commission Approved Performing Artist Roster. She owns Jane Luther Smith Piano Studios in Sumter and is organist for the historic Church of the Ascension (Episcopal) in Hagood.

The public is invited to "God is in the House: A Lecture and Recital Honoring Three African-American Composers & Pianists of the 20th Century" at noon on Friday, Feb. 23, in the USC Sumter Nettles Auditorium, 200 Miller Road. Admission to the approximately 40-minute program is free, and refreshments will be served.