Name: Ray Smith
BYU employee since: 1982
My job at BYU is… professor of music: I teach saxophone and other woodwind instruments. I direct BYU’s premier jazz big band, Synthesis. I play with BYU’s faculty jazz quintet, Q’d Up, and do a myriad of other things.
I’m currently working on… finishing my 40th and last year at BYU. The biggest project that is still left is taking Synthesis to the Rudin Jazz Championship at the Lincoln Center in New York City. (This is a special invitation from Wynton Marsalis himself!) Only 10 bands from the entire country were invited to come to Lincoln Center and play it off. For our program, this is at least as big as a major bowl game for the football team or the Final 4 for the basketball team. This is a very exciting capstone to 40 years with Synthesis.
I’m currently reading… books on recording, mixing and mastering music, as well as books on photography post-processing and graphic design.
I get most excited about my work when… I see my students really growing and becoming professional in their playing.
Hearing the high school jazz band at my junior high school fathers and sons night ...sparked my interest in my field.
When I tell people I work for BYU, they often say… "Jazz at BYU?" Absolutely!!
My favorite part about teaching is… the students, making new friends and seeing them learn, grow and develop! I am in the people business, but music has been a marvelous vehicle for blessing people.
My favorite lecture to teach is… "Jazz Approaches to Altered Dominant Chords in Improvisation." I also love to teach stylistic articulation, and I love to teach musical phrasing.
When I have 30 minutes of free time, you can find me… watching tutorials on YouTube.
My go-to BYU Creamery ice cream flavor is… Graham Canyon.
My favorite spot on campus is… the HFAC, because I’ve lived there for 40 years, and there are many cherished memories there.
I chose to come to BYU because… of my most incredible mentor, Newell Dayley. He mentored me to come to BYU as a student and later mentored me in coming back as a member of the music faculty and as a young faculty member. When I was considering college after my mission, Newell wrote me a letter and built up the program, but I was unimpressed. However, the last line of the letter said, “I trust you’ll let the Lord influence your decision.” Well I did, and I came to BYU. My life would be far different at this point if I had not let the Lord influence my decision. Later, when I was leaving BYU for graduate school, Newell took me out to dinner. In the parking lot afterward, he told me the Spirit had whispered to him that I would be back at BYU on the faculty. I had never thought of that before, but it later came true.
Something always found in my freezer is… ice cream.
You’ll never find me without… my cell phone or my iPad.
I’m most looking forward to… spending more time with my wife and grandchildren; pushing my recording and photography studios; promoting my books and building my YouTube channel even more.
One of my favorite quotes is… by Goethe: “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”
Some of my favorite TV shows growing up were… "Leave it to Beaver," "Father Knows Best," "Popeye," "Bewitched" and "My Three Sons."
The biggest challenge I’ve faced was… having polio as a young boy and all the challenges it has posed over the years. But I consider it a blessing, and it has led me to many of the things I do today.