The Smith Family Making Music with Mansfield for Decades

 Howard and Olynda Smith in 2015
Howard and Olynda Smith in 2015

By Casey Wood

The importance of music for developing healthy communities and societies has been known since ancient times. Plato said, “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”

However, in a time of limited public funds, music is often cut in favor of more “practical” disciplines.  Given this reality, it is important that we, as private individuals, support institutions that continue to feed the soul of our communities through music. Mansfield University and its vocal music program is such an institution. 

The Smith family has long been associated with the vocal program at Mansfield, beginning in 1957 when Olynda Chaffee Smith received her music education degree. Over the years, Howard and Olynda Smith have supported the program with their time and gifts. They saw this as an essential way to strengthen their community. It is with this in mind that the Smith family continues to support the vocal program in honor of the important work that our parents started.  

The Smith family has touched countless Mansfield students through several decades of loyalty and support to Music at Mansfield. Howard and Olynda participated in six European tours with the Concert Choir traveling to 10 different countries from 1996-2011.  They were present when Mansfield earned Gold at the World Choir Games in Graz, Austria. The Smith family has sponsored countless scholarships for voice majors and provided funding for choral travel. Mansfield Choral Director Dr. Peggy Dettwiler shared, “Mansfield’s esteemed choral program wouldn’t be where it is today without the Smith family and their generosity.”

On Sunday, Jan. 15 at 2 p.m., more than 300 singers composed of Mansfield’s Concert Choir, Alumni Choir, and six schools in Pennsylvania will converge in New York City to perform a concert in Carnegie Hall celebrating the life of Martin Luther King. Four of the high schools participating are directed by Mansfield Alumni. This is yet another opportunity made possible by the generosity of the Smith family and their belief that music makes better. 

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