Brinton Averil Smith

Critics have described American cellist Brinton Averil Smith as a “virtuoso cellist with few equals,” and "a proponent of old-school string playing such as that of Piatigorsky and Heifetz.” Gramophone praised Smith as a “hugely eloquent, impassioned soloist,” in his debut recording of Miklós Rózsa’s Cello Concerto with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, while the American Record Guide praised his recording of chamber music of  Fauré with Gil Shaham as “Stunningly beautiful,” continuing “I cannot imagine a better stylistic match for Shaham.” Of Mr. Smith's most recent recording for Naxos, featuring a revival of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco's Cello Concerto, BBC Music Magazine wrote “his is a cast iron technique of verve and refinement put entirely at the service of the music... The artistry on display here is breathtaking.” Mr. Smith's North American engagements have included performances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and recital and concerto engagements throughout the country, while his broadcast performances include CBS's Sunday Morning and regular appearances on NPR’s Performance Today and SymphonyCast. His live concert performances on YouTube have been viewed nearly a million times, including over two hundred and fifty thousand views of a live encore of Paganini's 24th Caprice from a recital at the Shepherd School of Music. 

Mr. Smith joined the Houston Symphony as principal cellist in 2005. Prior to this, he was the first musician chosen by Lorin Maazel to join the New York Philharmonic and the principal cellist of the San Diego and Fort Worth Symphony Orchestras. Devoted to expanding the cello repertoire, Mr. Smith performs a wide variety of violin, piano and vocal transcriptions and gave the North American premiers of rediscovered cello works of Jean Sibelius and Alexander Zemlinsky and the world premiere of Castelnuovo-Tedesco's 1951 Sonata for violin and cello. Mr. Smith also recently gave the first professional performance, recorded live for release on Naxos, of Castelnuovo-Tedesco's cello concerto since its 1935 premiere with Arturo Toscanini and Gregor Piatigorsky.

An active teacher, Mr Smith has been a faculty member of the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University since 2006, a faculty member of the Aspen and Sarasota music festivals, and a regular guest clinician at the New World Symphony. He regularly gives masterclasses throughout the United States, and his former students have won positions in orchestras, including the Atlanta, Alabama, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, North Carolina, and Toronto symphonies.

As a chamber musician, Smith has collaborated with violinist Gil Shaham on numerous occasions including Carnegie Hall's Gil Shaham and Friends series. He has also collaborated with cellists Yo-Yo Ma and Lynn Harrell, pianists Emanuel Ax, Jonathan Biss and Kirill Gerstein, violinists James Ehnes, Cho-Liang Lin and Sarah Chang, soprano Dawn Upshaw, and members of the Beaux Arts Trio and the Guarneri, Emerson, Juilliard, Cleveland, and Berg quartets. He has performed with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Marlboro Music Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, the Sarasota Music Festival, the Seattle Chamber Music Society, the Mainly Mozart Festival, the Brevard Music Festival and the Texas Music Festival.

Admitted to Arizona State University part-time at age 10, Smith took courses in mathematics and German and, by age 17, completed a B.A. in mathematics. While a student of Eleonore Schoenfeld at the University of Southern California, he completed work for an M.A. in mathematics at age 19. He subsequently relocated to New York to study with cellist Zara Nelsova at The Juilliard School, where he received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree, writing on the playing of Emanuel Feuermann. For further information please see

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Brinton Averil Smith , Associate Professor of Cello
M.M. (1992), D.M.A. (1998) The Juilliard School
1114 Alice Pratt Brown Hall