–by Jennifer Ruple
PUBLICATION DATE: 03.07.17
Vocalist Lauren Sevigh Smith is introducing a whole new generation to jazz. Her sophisticated sound and talent have given Smith the opportunity to perform with notable jazz musicians such as Clifford Murphy, Johnny O’Neal, and Jon Hendricks; earn her a host of honors and awards; as well as release her first CD Threshold – all before she turned 16 years old.
A sophomore at Southview High School, Smith released her CD with a two-hour performance at Shorty’s Back Forty on Feb. 13, which also happened to be her 16th birthday. “It was fantastic. There were almost 100 of our family and friends and people we really didn’t know,” said Smith. “It was really a thank you to all of the people who have helped me and supported me throughout the years. It was a great time performing with all of the guys who helped me with the album.”
Threshold represents the beginning of Smith’s lifelong pursuit of music. The album gained its namesake from an oil painting by her mother, Kerri Smith, which is featured on the album’s cover. Threshold features eight jazz standards including: Cheek to Cheek by Irving Berlin, They Can’t Take That Away from Me by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, and Agua De Beber by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius De Moraes.
Smith began her musical journey at a young age. “Ever since I was little, my parents would play music around the house, and I would sing. Before long, I realized I had a passion for music,” explained Smith. At age 10, she began studying with vocalist Jean Holden, also known as “Toledo’s First Lady of Song.”
“Jean Holden was my first vocal coach. With her I had my first vocal performance outside of school.” At age 11, Smith, along with Holden, performed with a live band for the first time. At that performance, Smith was introduced to Kay Elliot of the Art Tatum Jazz Society who arranged for Lauren to sing on several occasions for the Jazz Society. “Looking back, I didn’t know anything,” laughed Smith. “I don’t know how I managed.”
Smith currently studies with vocal coach Barbara Kondalski, who she started with three years ago while she was preparing for an Ohio Music Education Association competition. For the past two years, Smith has been selected to participate in the OMEA District 1 Honors Choir. She also earned the highest rating, two years in a row, on a class A solo by performing an Italian aria during the OMEA District 1 Solo and Ensemble Contest. In addition, Smith is a 2017 Young Art Merit Winner in Jazz Voice.
Smith mentioned, “Since taking lessons with her, Barbara has really helped me vocally and introduced me to musical theater and classical repertoire.” It was Kondalski who recommended Smith audition for Toledo’s premier chamber choir, Masterworks Chorale. Smith was selected for a high school internship with the group for the 2017 season.
In addition to voice lessons, Smith studies piano and performs with Toledo-area legend Gene Parker. Parker was instrumental in the development and creation of Threshold. “During one of my lessons with Gene, he thought it would be good to put out a demo album. I think it was a month later that we recorded it. We just knocked it out in a day,” reminisced Smith. The album features Gene Parker on piano and flute, Ray Parker (New York) on bass, and Sam Miller (Toledo) on drums.
Smith looks forward to studying vocal performance in college, but that’s still a couple of years away. “Right now, I just want to keep gigging, learning about music and get better with piano to further my experience with jazz.”
Smith’s CD, Threshold, is available for purchase at