Skip to Content

Leo Smit Photograph Collection

About the Collection

The Leo Smit Photograph Collection consists of a mixture of photographs documenting Smit's life (1921-1999). 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.

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.

Please see the finding aid for a complete description of the collection.