Hitting all the right notes

May 29, 2013

Joseph Pratt

PDT Contributor

The Portsmouth Area Arts Council will be hosting their inaugural presentation of “A Town and Its Artists: Awards for Artistic and Creative Achievement” Sat., June 8. One of the awards being given at the event will be for “outstanding educator” and recipient of the award, Mary Smalley, is definitely outstanding.

Mary Smalley, of West Portsmouth, graduated from Washington High School, which is now Portsmouth West high School, in 1946. Smalley continued her education at the Conservatory of Music in Portsmouth with Sister Mary Clair and Sister Beata. Smalley began her path in educating in 1953, when she began giving piano lessons in her home. Smalley continues to give lessons today, with 60 years of education and two generations of students under her belt.

“She taught my uncle, aunt, mother and an untold number of other individuals who never became great pianists but whose lives were enriched by learning and appreciating music. She also taught her share of students who went on to use their music to touch the lives of others directly,” local 21-year-old, David Pettit, said in his letter of recommendation.

There have been many of Smalley’s students that have gone out and continued her legacy. Local music teachers Linda Tieman and Justin Wiget both took lessons from Smalley, as well as local Jacob Tolliver, who was recently cast in the Las Vegas production of “Million Dollar Quartet” as Jerry Lee Lewis.

While educating has been a major part of Smalley’s life, she has also had various positions over the years. Smalley volunteered as an accompanist for the Portsmouth West High School choirs, from the ’50s until 1967, she accompanied a touring violinist in the ’50s, she also accompanied Michelle Horsefiled Carney — a prominent Ohio jazz singer, she is the organist at Nauvoo United Methodist Church — a job she started in 1952, she was also the organist at First Lutheran Church from 1967 until 1995, she has been the organist for hundreds of local weddings and funerals, she was the organist for Lynn Funeral Home for five years, and also worked for Daehler’s Funeral Home.

“Today, as a piano performance major at The Ohio State University, I can proudly say that my professor, Dr. Caroline Hong, who trained at Peabody, Julliard, and Indiana University, has called me her ‘virtuoso’, and is very pleased with the preparation I received from my first and only piano teacher,” Pettit said. “Mrs. Smalley gave me an excellent foundation to build on, but more importantly, she gave me a passion and love for music that instilled in me the desire to continually challenge myself to become a better musician. I will be forever grateful to Mrs. Smalley for that and it is for that reason I nominate her for the ACE Arts Educator Award.”

West High School is known for their grand musical theatre productions directed by their music teacher, Linda Tieman. Tieman began her training from Smalley when she was just five years old and continued seeing Smalley until she graduated high school.

“I can’t recall what exactly sparked my passion for music, but I do know that I never once dreaded a piano lesson with Mary. She was always so encouraging and so positive,” Tieman said.

Students under Smalley often claim that she drew them into the subject of her teaching with her high energy and love of music. Smalley would often fill a lesson with stories that could captivate their interests and make them want to learn.

The Portsmouth Area Arts Council will be hosting “A Town and Its Artists: Awards for Artistic and Creative Achievement” June 8, at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts. Patrons may purchase a $50 VIP ticket, which will include priority seating, listing in the evening’s program, and a ticket to the reception following the event with the evening’s honorees. The $25 patron ticket will include program listing, and a $10 admission ticket will also be available. Tickets are currently on sale at the McKinley Box Office 740-351-3600 and can also be purchased online at ticketmaster.com. For more information pertaining to the ACE Awards, please contact Becky Lovins at the Portsmouth Area Arts Council.