St Ives farewells Martin Smith OAM

Director of Music Mrs Jacqueline Fane salutes the long career of a great educator, innovator
and passionate advocate for the joy that music can bring to life.


“33 years is a very long time! That’s 12,045 days or 289,080 hours!” Martin Smith shared this interesting information with Year 3-6 boys at Final Assembly last year when reflecting on his 33 years as part of the Sydney Grammar School St Ives family. In addition, Martin also mentioned having worked with over 14,500 boys, including some of the fathers of boys attending the assembly! These extraordinary figures are a testament to Martin’s long and very rewarding teaching career at Grammar. However, it is his 20-year tenure as Director of Music 2002-2021 that deserves the highest praise and acknowledgement.

Martin was first appointed in 1988 by the Headmaster at College Street, Mr Alastair Mackerras, to join the Music Departments of St Ives and Edgecliff as an instrumental teacher and conductor of string ensembles. It wasn’t until 2002, when Martin became Director of Music, that his limitless energy, vision, and drive were unleashed, and he began to create the outstanding department that now exists.

Many of Martin’s ‘crazy’ ideas have led to some of the most significant musical moments in the School’s history. In 2002 and 2006, Festival of the Arts – Music resulted in wacky instruments being made from PVC pipes, a taiko drum play-off by all the primary boys on Cowper Field, life-size trebuchets being built, and pool noodles being used for jousting. The fever of excitement during these festival weeks was phenomenal!

Martin has fostered and encouraged a dynamic link with Australian composers to create special performance moments for the boys. The Combined String Festivals in 2009 and 2013 brought boys from College Street, Edgecliff Prep and St Ives together to play specially commissioned works by James Humberstone and Stephen Chin. World premiere productions followed: in 2014 the School’s first children’s opera ‘The Brew’ by Phillip Jameson (OS 2011) was performed, and in 2018 the musical ‘The Bloodhound Boys’, written by Andrew Cranna with music by George Cartledge, was a great success.

Never afraid of thinking big, Martin and Julie Anderson (Director of Music 1995-2001) were responsible in 1995 for suggesting St Ives and Edgecliff Prep school orchestras combine and tour Christchurch, New Zealand. The success of this inaugural trip has now led to the Combined Preparatory Schools Orchestra Tours being held biennially. They have since taken us to Auckland, Dunedin, Perth, and Singapore.

Martin has always championed taking music into the community. He was instrumental in establishing lunchtime concerts with Group Homes Australia and St Ives farewells Martin Smith OAM Director of Music Mrs Jacqueline Fane salutes the long career of a great educator, innovator and passionate advocate for the joy that music can bring to life. accompanying boys to the Sir Eric Woodward School. He helped support College Street Band Tours into regional New South Wales where he enjoyed nothing more than to watch old boys of St Ives continue to develop their love of music. Similarly, Martin fully encouraged the Combined Prep School Choir and Band Tours and initiated combined concerts with PLC Sydney. He also received his OAM for establishing the Nova Youth Orchestra for boys and girls wanting to play in a community run string group.

At the heart of all this has been Martin’s love of teaching. His sense of fun always left the boys wanting to come back for more and he was an inspiration to staff and boys alike. He is generous, kind, selfless and dedicated beyond words. It has been a privilege to work alongside such a true gentleman and his immense legacy will endure for many years to come. Martin left Final Assembly with another wonderful message for the boys:

“Remember, Music is written in black and white, but it is our job as musicians of all ages to add colour, many colours to what we play for ourselves and our audiences.”

Martin, you have left the lives of staff and boys across all three Sydney Grammar School campuses rich and full of colour through all that you have contributed over your 33 years. ‘Smithy’ Encore!

6. Smithy Painting.jpg

To honour Mr Smith's enduring contribution to St Ives Preparatory, a musical piece,"Smithy" (Encore), was composed by Mr R Charlton. The full score and a video of the performance can be viewed below.

Click here to view the full score for "Smithy" (Encore)