Dr. Gary Smart, currently the Terry Professor of Music at the University of North Florida, created the winning composition for the University of New Mexico Robb Trust’s National Biennial Composer’s Competition 2007-08. “Song of the Holy Ground” for piano and string quartet will be performed at the upcoming 2009 John Donald Robb Composers’ Symposium which will be held on the campus of UNM, March 29-April 1. Dr. Smart composed “Song of the Holy Ground” in reaction to an Apache Chant collected in 1953 by Dean Robb. “My composition is a fantasy . . . . it is not to be taken as a decorated version of the original chant, nor is it in any sense an attempt to improve upon it. If anything, “Song of the Holy Ground” is an act of artistic homage.”
A unique musician, composer-pianist Gary Smart performs, composes and improvises music that reflects an abiding interest in Americana, world music and jazz, as well as the western classical tradition. He received his education at Indiana University, the Hochschule fur Musik in Köln, Germany, and Yale University.
Dr. Smart's music has been performed in major venues in the US, including the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall and New York's Lincoln Center. An artist with a wide range of constantly developing interests, Dr. Smart has lived and worked in the eastern, midwestern and western USA as well as in Germany, Japan and Indonesia. His work is published by Margun Music and has been recorded on Mastersound Recordings. A CD featuring his songs for voice and piano was recently released by Albany Records. Projected CD projects include "American Beauty - a ragtime bouquet," "Turtles Dreams of Flight," and "Hot Sonatas."
The composer has received awards for his work from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Music Educators’ National Conference as well as from several State Arts councils. Dr. Smart has taught at institutions in Japan and has taught in Indonesia for the Fulbright Program as a "Distinguished Professor of Music."
The UNM John Donald Robb Musical Trust was established at the University of New Mexico in 1989 by John D. and Harriet Robb. During his tenure as Dean of the College of Fine Arts at UNM, Robb’s fascination with Hispanic folk music led to his collection of over 3,000 field recordings of traditional songs and dances from the American Southwest, South America and Nepal which formed the nucleus of the John Donald Robb Archive of Southwestern Music at the University of New Mexico. The Composers’ Competition focuses upon Dean Robb’s legacy by requiring entries to be based upon themes from the folk collection from the Robb Archives at the Center for Southwest Research in the UNM Zimmerman Library.
The award for the winning composition is $3,500 and includes a premiere performance at the UNM John Donald Robb Composers’ Symposium. The panel of international judges included: Julio Estrada, Composer and Research Professor, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico; Robert Morris, Composer and Research Professor of Music, Eastman School of Music; and Barbara Rettagliati, Composer and Professor of Composition, Conservatorio Statale di Musica "Luigi Cherubini", Florence, Italy.