2019 April 18 Remembering Conductor, Author, Early Music Specialist Dr. Mary Terey-Smith

Dr. Mary Terey-Smith b (?) Died July 30, 2014


She was an artist with an international reputation for her expertise in Early Music. I am honored to have known and worked with this amazing musician.

"As a WWU faculty member, in 1970 she founded the university’s Collegium Musicum, a group that focused on 17th and 18th century vocal and instrumental repertory and quickly developed an enviable reputation as one of the finest such university groups in the country." Seattle Times

Please click on the link below to hear one of her remarkable recordings of Rameau with the ensemble Capella Savaria Baroque Orchestra.

NAXOS Label: Capella Savaria Baroque Orchestra


In the early 1980's I was attending Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA to earn my K-12 Music teaching certification. My new friend Barb Robertson escorted me down into the floors of underground practice caverns. (The music building there is an insane design of modern architecture with vast hallways and rooms, many without a single window. The irony of this is that the view from the campus is truly remarkable, and looks out over the Bay of Bellingham with a nearly 500 hundred mile view of the Olympic Mountains to the west.) Walking down the practice wing you could hear the faint sound of a harpsichord accompanying a variety of vocalists and instrumentalists. Entering the studio there were stacks of music piled everywhere, along with books, books, books, and students waiting in small groups to play, as if part of some special club. Here was the music studio of Dr. Mary Terey-Smith an eccentric woman with a huge student following. Dr. Terey-Smith, had formed her early music ensemble The Collegium Musicum out of young college students beginning in 1970. During a short break at one of the practice sessions, my friend Barb introduced me and then added that I was a graduate of The Boston Conservatory of Music, whereupon Dr. Terey-Smith smiled at me and also immediately assigned me as a harpsichord and piano accompanist for a variety of student recitals.

I remember being a bit overwhelmed, for at the time I was commuting two hours round trip to school everyday just to earn my Ed degree, with hours of library time requirements, for these were the dark pre-internet days; and all knowledge came from ancient books on dusty shelves in school libraries and this is where one spent thousands of hours when attending college. This was a substantial task itself, and I had little time for piano performance practicing, that, and I was teaching privately to earn a small living.

I was assigned works by Cimarosa, Bach, Brahms, Liszt, Mozart and many other works to learn in short order, and for public performances and student recitals. Somehow I managed it all and even made Dean's list with my Ed courses.

Dr. Terey-Smith had a magic about her, an energized easy smile and a great passion for music. I remember once playing a phrase of Bach rather blandly on the harpsichord one day, and suddenly her words and temperament became quite intense and agitated, and she said "Rick, please don't ever play like that again! Always play with beauty and expression" I learned something that day, that music is a living breathing art, and that it must be treated with the highest regard and respect, no matter how small or simple the piece might be. From then on I never dared touch a key of that harpsichord or the piano without thinking deeply about the musical phrase that was about to be expressed. Her love of music had a profound effect on me. 

We remained friends after graduation, and I arranged to have the Collegium Musicum ensemble present a concert for my church in Mukilteo, and then again some years later, I arranged for Dr. Terey-Smith to speak for the Snohomish County Music Teachers Association in Everett, WA where she presented a program for us on Baroque ornamentation, and early keyboard practices. Life and time intervened and we only had an occasional letter, or phone call (for email did not yet exist), I read of her death on the internet a few years after the fact.

Partial Seattle Times Obituary:

Dr. Mary Térey-Smith, a faculty member with the Western Washington University Music Department from 1967 to 2001, passed away on July 30, 2014.

At Western, Térey-Smith was the head of the musicology/music history programs and music director of the opera workshop for eight years. Born in Hungary, Térey-Smith began her career studying conducting and composition at the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music in Budapest, studying conducting and composition with Janos Ferencsik, Ferenc Farka, Janos Viski and folk music with Zoltan Kodaly. Upon her graduation at age 19, she was engaged as resident conductor of the Tatabanya Symphony Orchestra and worked as a vocal coach for the Hungarian State Opera until 1956, when revolution forced her to leave the country. After emigrating to Canada and working as a coach and conductor at the Opera School in Toronto, she undertook graduate studies and was awarded her doctorate in musicology by the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester in New York in 1971.

As a WWU faculty member, in 1970 she founded the university’s Collegium Musicum, a group that focused on 17th and 18th century vocal and instrumental repertory and quickly developed an enviable reputation as one of the finest such university groups in the country.

She and her Collegium Musicum ensemble gave performances in Canada, the US, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and toured Europe six times. Her research interests have centered largely on French Baroque opera and in particular, the works of Rameau. She has many fine recordings on the NAXOS Label.

Térey-Smith’s activities as a musicologist focused on Baroque and early Classical operas in France, Italy, Germany, Austria and Portugal and on orchestral practice in opera accompaniment. She was particularly interested in the works of Rameau. She served as artistic adviser for and collaborating with Hungarian ensemble Capella Savaria. She also published numerous articles in various periodicals, edited music, wrote book reviews and contributed a number of essays for the New Revised Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians.

Below I am happy to have found some of my old concert programs where I performed with the Collegium Musicum, under the direction of Dr. Mary Terey-Smith.

1984 May 22 Seifert

 Rick Seifert accompanist Franz Liszt Dr

 Accompanied my friend, Soprano Georgia Lockwood on Liszt's great song Dei Loreley, I believe it was the first piece by Liszt I had ever performed.

Rick Seifert accompaniment Franz Liszt with Dr

 Seifert accompaniment Liszt  informal recital June 1


 Seifert accompanist Brahms Four Serious Songs Opus 121 Dr

 The four serious Songs performance for the Whatcom Chamber Music Series at the Art Museum with my friend and superb Trombonist James Glassgow.

Dr. Mary Terey-Smith went to bat for me over the phone one afternoon with the dean of the music school and demanded that the Steinway piano be placed on the auditorium stage because "Rick is performing this evening" Hearing this I remember thinking 'wow I had better practice another gazillion hours.'

Then on one performance where I was accompanying a cellist, I was dressed in a tuxedo, and my tux shirt had very long sleeves with heavy cuff links. The cuffs kept getting caught on the edge of the Harpsichord keys, and well let's just say that my performance was less than satisfactory that night.

 Dr. Terey-Smith was a very great musician, person and friend and she is greatly missed.