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Smith, Major N. Clark

July 31, 1877 -- October 8, 1935
bandmaster

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N. Clark Smith
As bandmaster at Lincoln High School, Major N. Clark Smith trained many of Kansas City's finest musicians including Lamar Wright, Harlan Leonard, Walter Page and Jasper "Jap" Allen.

Smith was born in Leavenworth, Kansas. He attended the Army Service School and was a soldier and professional musician by the age of sixteen.

Smith taught at five different institutions, including the Tuskegee Institute, Western University in Kansas City, Kansas, Lincoln High School, Wendell Phillips High School in Chicago and Sumner High School in St. Louis. Smith was known as a strict, disciplinarian. In an interview with Ross Russell, Harlan Leonard recalled that Major Smith:

was short, gruff, military in bearing, wore glasses and was never without his full uniform and decorations. His language was rather rough and occasionally shocking to the few young ladies who were taking music classes, though never offensive.

Major Smith simply ran a tight ship. He was a music tradition at Lincoln High School. He discouraged dilettantes and time wasters and encouraged talent.... He drilled the Lincoln marching bands until they were the best in the area, some said the best of their kind in the Middle West.

Smith won a Wanamaker prize in 1930 for his composition "Negro Folk Suite" which was performed by the St. Louis Symphony, January 11, 1933.

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Sources:
Buckner, Reginald T.
"Rediscovering Major N. Clark Smith." Music Educators Journal, 71 no. 6 (February 1985) 36-42.
Russell, Ross.
Jazz Style in Kansas City and the Southwest. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971.
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