Former director Leighton Smith dies at age 77

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As we noted in 2011, Lawrence Leighton Smith, the beloved Colorado Springs Symphony director and music director emeritus of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, was diagnosed with Binswanger’s Disease. Today, the CSP announced Leighton Smith finally succumbed, passing away at age 77 from complications related to the disease. 

Here's the Philharmonic's release.

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Remembering the life and legacy of Lawrence Leighton Smith

It is with extreme sadness that the Colorado Springs Philharmonic reports the death of Lawrence Leighton Smith, our beloved music director emeritus. Smith died at home on Friday, October 25, 2013 in the company of his family at the age of 77 from complications of Binswanger’s disease.

Born April 8, 1936, Smith was one of the most respected American conductors of the 20th and 21st centuries, noted for his brilliant conducting career, which started in 1973 as a first prize winner of the Dmitri Mitropoulos Competition. Smith went on to appear with nearly every major orchestra in the United States, as well as frequent international conducting tours.

As music director of the Louisville Orchestra from 1982 to 1993, Smith earned international recognition for both live performances and recordings. He also served as music director of the Austin, Oregon, and San Antonio Symphonies. He became the first American conductor of record to conduct the Moscow Philharmonic, creating the widely acclaimed “Moscow Sessions” recordings.

Known for his commitment to working with student musicians, Smith led many performances at the Manhattan and the Yale University schools of music, the latter of which he was the conductor-in-residence and head of the orchestra and conducting program, leading the Yale Philharmonia for ten years.

A native of Portland, Oregon, Smith was also an accomplished pianist and started his music career as a piano soloist. He began his conducting career at Tanglewood as a musical assistant to Erich Leinsdorf, also spending time at the Peabody School of Music. He is a recipient of three honorary doctorates and, with the Louisville Orchestra, fourteen awards for adventurous programming from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers.

As music director of the Colorado Springs Symphony, Smith succeeded Charles Ansbacher, Christopher Wilkins, and Yaacov Bergman, and was instrumental in the rebirth of the orchestra as the Colorado Springs Philharmonic in 2003. He was succeeded by current music director Josep Caballé-Domenech.

For the past thirteen years, Smith has called Colorado Springs home with his wife Leslie.

In keeping with Smith’s wishes, there will not be a public funeral or memorial service. A celebration of Smith’s life will be held in Colorado Springs the weekend of November 16-17, 2013, and details as to location and time will be forthcoming.

The Colorado Springs Philharmonic has established a Facebook Page where friends, students, and admirers of Smith can post their stories about him and his life at facebook.com/conductorlawrenceleightonsmith. Additional information will be posted to the Page as it becomes available.

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