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Leo Smit Photograph Collection,

State University of New York at Buffalo. Music Library

112 Baird Hall
Buffalo, New York 14260-4750
United States
Phone: 716 645-2924
Fax: 716 645-3906

Smit, Leo, 1921-1999

5 boxes

(458 items)

No textual materials are included in the collection.

Chiefly black and white photographs documenting Leo Smit's life and career in music.

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Collection Details

Processed by John Bewley.

The collection was in part a gift from Leo Smit in 1998. The remainder of the collection was given to the Music Library by Nils Vigeland, executor of Smit's estate.

Leo Smit was born to Russian immigrants on January 12, 1921, in Philadelphia. He received his earliest musical training from his father, Kolman Smit, beginning at age five. Kolman Smit was a professional violinist who performed in the Philadelphia Orchestra (1926-1931) under Leopold Stokowski, the Cincinnati Symphony under Fritz Reiner, and the NBC Symphony under Arturo Toscanini.

After private piano studies with Martha Lantner, Joseph Wissof, and Bert Shefter, Smit traveled to Moscow with his mother in 1929 to study piano for three months with Dmitri Kabalevsky on scholarship at the Moscow Conservatory. Upon his return to Philadelphia, Smit received a scholarship in 1930 to study piano at Curtis Institute of Music with noted piano pedagogue Isabelle Vengerova. He continued his studies on scholarship in New York, studying piano with José Iturbi (1933-35) and composition with Nicolas Nabokov (1935). It was under Nabokov's tutelage that Smit produced his first original composition in 1935, Zvay, a song setting of a Yiddish poem by Mani Loeb for soprano and piano.

Smit began his professional career as a pianist while still in his teens. His first professional engagement was as rehearsal pianist for George Balanchine's American Ballet Company in 1936-37. A year after beginning in this position, Smit met Igor Stravinsky during rehearsals of the composer's ballet, Jeu de Cartes. Smit gave his debut recital as a solo pianist at Carnegie Hall in February 1939. His successful debut was followed by a concert tour of the United States in 1940.

Leo Smit's career as composer, pianist, conductor, and educator spanned seven decades of musical life in the United States. He established close working relationships, and/or friendships, with many of the most prominent musicians of the 20th century, including Igor Stravinsky, Béla Bartók, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Harold Shapero, William Schuman, Alex Haieff, Leopold Stokowski, and Lukas Foss. As a performer, Smit was an enthusiastic and persuasive advocate and interpreter of the music of his time, especially the solo piano music of Aaron Copland. His compositional output totals more than one hundred works, including two operas, three symphonies, more than ninety songs, two ballets, and numerous chamber and piano works.

Smit was also a talented photographer. In addition to the many photographs he took of noted musicians, Smit also used his skill as a photographer to capture images from his travels. Many of his travel pictures reflect his reverence for nature. As part of his innovative approach to programming, Smit would often include displays of his photography in his theme-based concerts.

During his career Leo Smit earned several awards and honors, including Fulbright (piano) and Guggenheim (composition) Fellowships in 1950, a fellowship at the American Academy in Rome for 1950-51, the Boston Symphony Merit Award in 1953 for his Symphony No. 1 (premiered October 16, 1953 by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Charles Munch), the New York Critics Circle Award in 1957 (also for his Symphony No. 1), his selection as an artist for a State Department concert tour of Latin America in 1967-68, and the Buffalo Evening News Man of the Year award in 1969. As an educator, Smit held positions at Sarah Lawrence College (1947-49), UCLA (1957-63), and the State University of New York at Buffalo (1962-84).

Leo Smit died December 12, 1999 in Scripps Hospital, Encinitas, California.

The Leo Smit Photograph Collection consists of a mixture of photographs documenting Smit's life. These include images of Smit as a child and young man, photographs with friends and colleagues, including Aaron Copland, Pete Johnson, Leonard Bernstein, and Sir Fred Hoyle, photographs documenting Smit's tour of Latin America 1967-1968, portraits of Smit, and images of scenes from Smit's chamber opera, Magic Water. The collection also includes several photographs by Leo Smit. These include images of Leonard Bernstein, William Schuman, members of the University at Buffalo Music Department (including Morton Feldman), and members of the Buffalo Sabres hockey team, as well as photographs of Smit's collection of Kachina dolls. Portraits by other photographers include those of Aaron Copland, Pete Johnson, and Smit's father, Kolman Smit. There is also a single postcard portrait of composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky and a single reproduction of a photograph of Franz Liszt. Some items in the collection have been dated according to date stamps on the image verso. These are most likely more reflective of when a print was made rather than when it was shot.

The collection is arranged in nine series:
I. Photographs of Leo Smit, with and without other people. Arranged in approximate chronological order.
II. Photographs of people and places without Leo Smit. Arranged alphabetically by name of subject.
III. Photographs by Leo Smit of a 1976 hockey game between the Buffalo Sabres and the New York Rangers.
IV. Photographs by Leo Smit of Istanbul, Turkey.
V. Photographs of Leo Smit's collection of Kachina dolls.
VI. Postcard portrait of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
VII. Photographs by Leo Smit of faculty members of the University at Buffalo Music Department taken at a retreat April 9, 1975 at the First Presbyterian Church, Buffalo, N.Y.
VIII. Negatives for photographs in the collection.
IX. Oversized color portrait of Leo Smit (2 copies).
X. Additional photographs

No further accruals are expected to this collection.


Collection Access & Use

Materials can be examined by qualified researchers in the Music Library during hours of operation during which Music Librarians are present. In order to insure access, researchers are advised to contact the Music Library in advance of visits.

Copyright for the materials in the collection does not reside with the Music Library. Therefore, patrons wishing to publish any item, or part of an item from this collection for any purpose, are responsible for securing requisite permissions.

[Specified item], Leo Smit Photograph Collection, circa 1926-1999, Music Library, The State University of New York at Buffalo.

Collection Subjects & Formats

Series I.: Photographs of Leo Smit, with and without other people

Arrangement: Arranged in approximate chronological order.

Size: Items 1-78

Box: 1

Item: smit001

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1926

Box: 1

Item: smit002

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1930

Box: 1

Item: smit003

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1936

Box: 1

Item: smit004

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1938

Box: 1

Item: smit005

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1938

Box: 1

Item: smit006

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1938

Box: 1

Item: smit007

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1936

Box: 1

Item: smit008

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1936

Box: 1

Item: smit009

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1950

Box: 1

Item: smit010

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 195-?

Box: 1

Item: smit011

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1958

Box: 1

Item: smit012

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: ca. 1965

Box: 1

Item: smit013

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1966?

Box: 1

Item: smit014

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: March 8, 1967

Box: 1

Item: smit015

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: March 8, 1967

Box: 1

Item: smit016

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: March 8, 1967

Box: 1

Item: smit017

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: March 8, 1967

Box: 1

Item: smit018

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: March 8, 1967

Box: 1

Item: smit019

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: March 8, 1967

Box: 1

Item: smit020

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: March 8, 1967

Box: 1

Item: smit021

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: March 8, 1967

Box: 1

Item: smit022

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: March 8, 1967

Box: 1

Item: smit023

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: March 8, 1967

Box: 1

Item: smit024

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 1967

Box: 1

Item: smit025

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 1967

Box: 1

Item: smit026

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 1967

Box: 1

Item: smit027

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 1967

Box: 1

Item: smit028

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 1967

Box: 1

Item: smit029

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 1967

Box: 1

Item: smit030

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 1967

Box: 1

Item: smit031

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 1967

Box: 1

Item: smit032

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 1967

Box: 1

Item: smit033

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 1967

Box: 1

Item: smit034

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 1967

Box: 1

Item: smit035

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1967

Box: 1

Item: smit036

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1967-68

Box: 1

Item: smit037

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 21, 1968

Box: 1

Item: smit038

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 21, 1968

Box: 1

Item: smit039

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 25, 1968

Box: 1

Item: smit040

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: March 25, 1968

Box: 1

Item: smit041

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: March 25, 1968

Box: 1

Item: smit042

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: March 25, 1968

Box: 1

Item: smit043

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: ca. 1968

Box: 1

Item: smit044

Extent: 1 proof sheet


Date: ca. 1968

Box: 1

Item: smit045

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1960's

Box: 1

Item: smit046

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1960's

Box: 1

Item: smit047

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1960's

Box: 1

Item: smit048

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1960s

Box: 1

Item: smit049

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1960's

Box: 1

Item: smit050

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: Nov. 1968

Box: 1

Item: smit051

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: Nov. 1968

Box: 1

Item: smit052

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: Nov. 1968

Box: 1

Item: smit053

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: ca. 1970?

Box: 1

Item: smit054

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1973

Box: 1

Item: smit055

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: ca. 1970

Box: 1

Item: smit057

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: ca. 1970

Box: 1

Item: smit058

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: ca. 1970

Box: 1

Item: smit059

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: October 29-30, 1979

Box: 1

Item: smit060

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: October 29-30, 1979

Box: 1

Item: smit061

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: October 29-30, 1979

Box: 1

Item: smit062

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: October 29-30, 1979

Box: 1

Item: smit063

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: October 29-30,1979

Box: 2

Item: smit064

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1979

Box: 2

Item: smit065

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1979

Box: 2

Item: smit066

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1979

Box: 2

Item: smit067

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1979

Box: 2

Item: smit068

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1979

Box: 2

Item: smit069

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1979

Box: 2

Item: smit070

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1979

Box: 2

Item: smit071

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1979

Box: 2

Item: smit072

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1979

Box: 2

Item: smit073

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: November 14, 1980

Box: 2

Item: smit074

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: November 14, 1980

Box: 2

Item: smit075

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: November 16, 1980

Box: 2

Item: smit076

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1967

Box: 2

Item: smit077

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1980

Box: 2

Item: smit078

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1998

Series II.: Photographs of people and places without Leo Smit

Arrangement: Arranged alphabetically by name of subject.

Size: Items 79-91

Box: 2

Item: smit079

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1973

Box: 2

Item: smit080

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: Jan. 10, 1977

Box: 2

Item: smit081

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1968?

Box: 2

Item: smit082

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: Jan. 10, 1977

Box: 2

Item: smit083

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1966?

Box: 2

Item: smit084

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1966?

Box: 2

Item: smit085

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1966

Box: 2

Item: smit086

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: Jan. 10, 1977

Box: 2

Item: smit087

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: Jan. 10, 1977

Box: 2

Item: smit088

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: Jan. 10, 1977

Box: 2

Item: smit089

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1960s?

Box: 2

Item: smit090

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: ca. 1936-1938

Box: 2

Item: smit091

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: Jan. 10, 1977

Series III.: Photographs by Leo Smit of 1976 hockey game between the Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers

Arrangement: Randomly arranged.

Size: Items 92-99

Box: 2

Item: smit092

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1976

Box: 2

Item: smit093

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1976

Box: 2

Item: smit094

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1976

Box: 2

Item: smit095

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1976

Box: 2

Item: smit096

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1976

Box: 2

Item: smit097

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1976

Box: 2

Item: smit098

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1976

Box: 2

Item: smit099

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1976

Series IV.: Photographs by Leo Smit of Istanbul, Turkey

Arrangement: Randomly arranged.

Size: Items 100-102

Box: 2

Item: smit100

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1979

Box: 2

Item: smit101

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1979

Box: 2

Item: smit102

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1979

Series V.: Photographs of Leo Smit's collection of Kachina dolls

Arrangement: Randomly arranged.

Size: Items 103-115

Box: 2

Item: smit103

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1980-1989

Box: 2

Item: smit104

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1980-1989

Box: 2

Item: smit105

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1980-1989

Box: 2

Item: smit106

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1980-1989

Box: 2

Item: smit107

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1980-1989

Box: 2

Item: smit108

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1980-1989

Box: 2

Item: smit109

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1980-1989

Box: 2

Item: smit110

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1980-1989

Box: 2

Item: smit111

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1980-1989

Box: 2

Item: smit112

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1980-1989

Box: 2

Item: smit113

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1980-1989

Box: 2

Item: smit114

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1980-1989

Box: 2

Item: smit115

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1980-1989

Series VI.: Portrait postcard of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Size: Item 116

Box: 2

Item: smit116

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: circa 1890

Series VII.: Photographs by Leo Smit of faculty members of the University at Buffalo music department taken at a retreat held at the First Presbyterian Church, Buffalo, N.Y.

Arrangement: Randomly arranged.

Size: Items 117-146

Box: 2

Item: smit117

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 19, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit118

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit119

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit120

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit121

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit122

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit123

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit124

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit125

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit126

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit127

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit128

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit129

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit130

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit131

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit132

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit133

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit134

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit135

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit136

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit137

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit138

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit139

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit140

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit141

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit142

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit143

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit144

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit145

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Box: 2

Item: smit146

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: April 9, 1975

Series VIII.: Negatives for photographs in the collection

Arrangement: Randomly arranged.

Size: Items 147-149

Box: 2

Item: smit147

Extent: 8 negatives


Date: 1976

Box: 2

Item: smit148

Extent: 16 negatives


Date: 1926-1999

Box: 2

Item: smit149

Extent: 13 negatives


Date: circa 1980-1989

Series IX.: Oversize color portrait of Leo Smit (3 copies),

Size: Items 150-152

Box: 3

Item: smit150

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1977

Box: 3

Item: smit151

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1977

Box: 3

Item: smit152

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: 1977

Series X.: Additional photographs,

Arrangement: Arranged in two subseries:

Size: Boxes 4-5 (306 items)

Subseries A.: People,

Arrangement: Arranged in approximate topical order.

Size: Item 153-205

Box: 4

Item: smit153

Extent: 1 photograph


Date: March 1959

Subseries B.: Places,

Arrangement: Arranged in approximate topical order.

Size: Remainder of Box 4 and all Box 5 (154 items)

Locations in the remainder of Box 4 include Italy and Turkey. Locations in Box 5 include sites in the Pacific Northwest, Canyon de Chelly in Arizona, Yosemite National Park, Mount McKinley, images from a television screen of a lunar landing, Rio de Janiero, and the Pyramid of the Magician in Uxmal, Mexico.