Growth comes from strong roots, says tenor Hugh Smith. Accordingly, the internationally acclaimed vocalist has planted himself in native soil for the week, rehearsing for a Sunday afternoon concert at Bowling Green State University, his alma mater.
"It's very important to come back to where you started and give something back. I'm not saying this to be PC, it's simply true," said Smith, who was born in Dayton and grew up in South Lebanon, Ohio.
"The mistake we make when we go through life - and I have seen it all over, in businessmen as well as musicians - is when we disconnect ourselves from our roots. It's great to grow broader roots, but they can't grow if you cut them off from their source."
The tenor, 34, started out at BGSU as an undergraduate in music education. He completed his master's degree in performance in 1994, capping that experience by winning the Metropolitan Opera National Auditions, which opened doors across the country.
"Both of my parents were teachers and they encouraged me in music, but the only thing we knew was going the education route. BGSU seemed like the best choice for that. I had never planned for a singing career."
Smith entered the Metropolitan Opera auditions only because he was pushed to do so by BGSU voice professor Virginia Starr.
From BGSU, Smith went to study at Philadelphia's Academy of Vocal Arts. He won the Luciano Pavarotti International Competition in 1995 and made his international debut soon after.
Smith has been back to the area a number of times since 1994 and three times has sung leading roles with Toledo Opera: as Rodolfo in La Boheme, Don Jose in Carmen, and Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor.
Sunday's performance features Smith in a range of operatic favorites, many of which involve teaming with BGSU faculty, staff, and students. Backing up the singers will be the Bowling Green Philharmonia, a student orchestra conducted by Emily Freeman Brown.
Tenor Hugh Smith and friends perform at 3 p.m. Sunday in BGSU's Kobacker Hall of the Moore Musical Arts Center. Tickets range from $18 to $34. Information: 419-372-8171 or 800-589-2224.