College mourns death of Dr. Larry Smithee, MC music professor and band director

College mourns death of Dr. Larry Smithee, MC music professor and band director

Oct. 12, 2017 

Dr. Larry Smithee, former associate professor of music at Maryville College and longtime director of the Maryville College-Community Concert Band, died Oct. 9, 2017 in Maryville, after a brief illness. He was 74.

An accomplished jazz trumpeter, Smithee began his trumpet studies at age 12 in Munford, Tenn., after his father suggested that he might enjoy playing an instrument in the school band. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in music education from Arkansas State University and received a doctor of education degree from Washington University in St. Louis.

Smithee joined the Maryville College music faculty in 1991, after being director of bands at the University of Southern Colorado and teaching in public secondary schools. He led the Maryville College Jazz Band during his first nine years on the faculty and founded the Maryville College-Community Concert Band in 1992, which he directed until his retirement. What began as a small group of mostly high school marching band veterans grew under his tenure into an ensemble of more than 60 musicians that performs two concerts per year and included working musicians, educators, high school and college students, business professionals and retirees from the local community.

During his 21 years at the College, he taught a variety of courses, including the history of music in the United States, conducting and introduction to orchestral music. He also taught individual music lessons. He served on several Maryville College committees, including the Teacher Education Committee, Judicial Committee, Covenant Committee, Student Life Committee and Student Judiciary Committee.

He retired in 2012 but served as an adjunct instructor and taught trumpet lessons at Maryville College from 2013 until 2017.

“Larry was the first friend I made here at Maryville College back in 1999, acting as an unofficial faculty mentor. When I took over as director of the jazz band that he had created, he was supportive and always offered helpful advice about leading the group,” said Dr. Bill Swann, professor of music at Maryville College. “I always knew when Larry was at work because his door would either be open, or he'd close it to practice trumpet. Over the years many people have told me that the sound of Larry practicing was something they associated with the old Fine Arts Center. He was a good friend and will be deeply missed.”

Smithee’s impressive career includes serving as the music arranger for the United States Air Force Band (Shreveport, La.), performing with the rhythm-and-blues group The Louisiana Purchase, and performing with several nationally known artists and touring groups, including Ray Charles, Mel Torme and the Bob Hope Show.

A former recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant, Smithee was responsible for initiating a regional jazz outreach program called “Jazz in the Schools” in Northeast Arkansas’s public schools. Smithee also was instrumental in creating and directing the East Tennessee Jazz Orchestra. He regularly gave jazz recitals both on campus and in the region and performed with numerous jazz ensembles. Most recently, he performed with the Tennessee Wind Symphony, Ensemble Swing Time, and Knoxville Concert Band.

He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Christine Smithee; mother, Juanita Smithee; sister, Diane Dodd; and several nephews, great nieces, aunts, uncles and cousins.

The family will receive friends on Sat., Oct. 14 from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church (858 Louisville Road, Alcoa, TN). A Mass of Christian Burial will follow with interment at the church columbarium. Flowers are acceptable, or donations may be made to The Smoky Mountain Animal Care Foundation, 233 Currie Ave., Maryville, TN 37803. 

Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the Fall 2018 semester is 1,154.