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WESTSIDER GREGG SMITH
WESTSIDER GREGG SMITH
Founder and conductor of the Gregg Smith Singers

1-28-78

What might you guess about a man who has composed 60 major choral works, toured the world with his singing group, and recorded 50 albums including three Grammy Award winners?

If you didn't know anything else about this man, you would probably guess, first, that he is rich. Then you might imagine that his door is constantly bombarded by recording agents trying to enlist his talents. And third, you would probably think that his name is a household word.

But Westsider Gregg Smith has all of the qualifications listed and none of the imagined results. This is because his music happens to be classical — a field in which, he says, "a record that sells 10,000 copies is considered a good hit." Conducting his choral group, the Gregg Smith Singers, who usually have anywhere from 16 to 32 voices, he performs works spanning the last four centuries of the Western classical tradition. Gregg writes most of the arrangements himself. Last year his sheet music sales reached 60,000 copies.

The Gregg Smith Singers specialize in pieces that have been infrequently performed or recorded. But a more lengthy description of their music can only tell what it is, not how it sounds. Music speaks for itself better than any words can describe.

"None of the American composers of today are making a living," says Gregg, shaking his head. We're sitting in his spacious but unluxurious apartment near Lincoln Center. "It's a terrible struggle. When people talk about ghetto areas, let me tell you, no one is more in a ghetto than the American classical composer. We have more great composers in this country right now than any other country in the word, and the United States supports its composers less than any other country. … They want so desperately to perform their music. A composer does a piece and gets a performance in New York, and that may be the last performance it ever gets."

He leads me to a room lined with shelves, boxes and cabinets filled with sheet music, some of it in manuscript. This is where Gregg chooses each new selection for his group. He shrugs at the enormity of the task.

"There are at least 400 new American compositions here, waiting to be looked at. Probably at least 100 of them are of the highest quality. … When we record this type of material, we don't expect to make a profit, even with the royalties over the years. Classical records are made ............
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