Brinton Averil Smith


Janice and Thomas Barrow Chair

Cellist Brinton Averil Smith continues to win rave reviews for virtuosic performances with musical ideals rooted in the golden age of string playing. His debut recording of Miklós Rózsa’s Cello Concerto with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra won widespread international critical acclaim, with Gramophone praising Smith as a “hugely eloquent, impassioned soloist,” and his recording of the chamber music of Fauré with Gil Shaham was chosen by numerous critics as one of the year’s best albums. A passionate advocate of compelling unfamiliar repertoire, Smith recently gave the North American premieres of rediscovered works of Jean Sibelius and Alexander Zemlinsky. Smith’s performances, hailed as “stunningly beautiful” by the American Record Guide, have been broadcast on CBS’s Sunday Morning and on the radio throughout the United States, including American Public Media’s Performance Today and SymphonyCast.

Smith has appeared regularly as a soloist with the Houston Symphony since joining the orchestra as Principal Cellist in 2005. Prior to this appointment, he was the first musician chosen by Lorin Maazel to join the New York Philharmonic and was Principal Cellist of the San Diego and Fort Worth Symphonies. As a chamber musician, Smith has collaborated with artists including Yo-Yo Ma, Gil Shaham, Cho-Liang Lin, James Ehnes, Lynn Harrell, Sarah Chang, Dawn Upshaw, and members of the Beaux Arts Trio and the Guarneri, Emerson, Juilliard, Cleveland, and Berg quartets. Smith is also a faculty member of the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University and Aspen Music Festival.

The son of a mathematician and a pianist, Smith was admitted to Arizona State University at age 10, where he took courses in mathematics, music, and German. At age 17, Smith completed a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics. He then became a student of Eleonore Schoenfeld at the University of Southern California, where he was also a teaching assistant in the mathematics department, and completed work for a Master of Arts in Mathematics at age 19. He subsequently studied with the renowned cellist Zara Nelsova at The Juilliard School, where he received a Doctor of Musical Arts, disserting on the playing of Emanuel Feuermann. Smith resides in Houston with his wife, pianist Evelyn Chen, their daughter, Calista, and two slightly evil, but kind-hearted dogs. For further information, please visit

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