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Sun, 12.22.1907

Irene Britton Smith, Classical Composer born

Irene Britton Smith

*Irene Britton Smith was born on this date in 1907.  She was an African and Native classical composer and educator.

Irene Britton was born in Chicago, Illinois, the youngest of four siblings. She was of African, Crow, and Cherokee descent. Smith attended Ferron Grammar School, Doolittle Grammar School, and Wendell Phillips High School. Britton attended Chicago Normal School from 1924 to 1926 to train as a teacher.

In 1930, she began teaching primary grades in public schools in Chicago. Smith studied piano with V. Emanuel Johnson as a child and took violin lessons. She was active as a violinist in the all-black Harrison Farrell Orchestra from 1930 to 1931. Britton married Herbert E. Smith on August 8, 1931. From 1932 to 1943, she was a part-time student at the American Conservatory of Music, where she studied music theory with Stella Roberts and composition with Leo Sowerby. She received a Bachelor of Music degree from the American Conservatory of Music in 1943.

From 1946 to 1947, Smith took a sabbatical from teaching to complete graduate work at the Juilliard School of Music, where she studied composition. In the summer of 1948, Smith studied composition at the Eastman School of Music. The following summer, she studied composition at the Tanglewood Music Festival. In 1956, Smith completed her Master of Music degree at DePaul University, where she studied composition. In the summer of 1958, she studied composition at the Fontainebleau Summer School in France.

Smith advocated the phono-visual method of teaching reading. Chicago University Press published her monograph on Methods and Materials for Teaching Word Perception in Kindergarten Through Grade Three 1960. Smith ceased composing in 1962. She retired from teaching in June 1978 and became a docent for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at elementary schools. In 1994, Smith moved to Montgomery Place Retirement Home in Chicago. She died in Chicago on February 15, 1999.

To Become a Middle School Teacher
To become a High School Teacher
To Become a Conductor or Composer

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