Roz Smith has lived a full life. At 95, the Sunset Bay resident has been able to accomplish a lot as a teacher and music director, and in late June, Smith received another accolade.
Smith was honored in the Performing Arts Hall of Fame at St. Mary’s High School. She served as the school’s music director in 1963, and with her in charge, the school pioneered performances, namely the performance of West Side Story. The Catholic school is located in Lancaster.
“We were the first in the whole country to do West Side Story outside of New York,” said Smith.
While doing this performance of West Side Story, Smith was able to strike up a friendship with the musical’s composer, Leonard Bernstein. It all started with a telegram sent to make sure they had the rights to perform the musical, and when Bernstein found out Smith was directing it, they started something of a friendship.
“We got to know each other” said Smith. “We spoke together and when I moved to New York, I saw him several times. He was a very good gentleman.”
On her sign she received for her induction into the Hall of Fame, the telegram that Bernstein sent to her is prominently there.
Smith did more than this West Side Story performance. She spent the late 1950s and early 1960s at St. Mary’s, and also taught in the Commack School District on Long Island, and was one of the Orchestra’s first female conductors. from Camera. But in 1986, Smith decided to return to where she grew up in western New York.
“I’ve lived in Sunset Bay since 1986,” said Smith. “Sunset Bay had a reputation for being one of the best beaches on Lake Erie years ago, but that’s not why I came back. It’s just home. Long Island and New York were beautiful, but your roots set you back.
Upon her induction, Smith was able to reconnect with cast and crew members of that 1963 production of West Side Story, which left Smith feeling humbled and overwhelmed by the reception she received from his former students.
“It was the first time I had seen them since they were students,” said Smith. “These students are in their 60s and 70s and look like they’ve grown up.”
Now that they’ve reconnected, Smith now gets together with a few of his former students on a regular basis, including luncheons and birthday parties. The recognition she received from the Hall of Fame induction did more than just honor her, it reconnected her with people from that time period. Smith joked that she had no more places to hide.
“I can’t hide anymore” she says.