In Alumni, School of Music

Kile Smith in a concert hallThis awards season, works by composer Kile Smith ’80, alum of Cairn’s School of Music, received critical attention for his part in two Grammy nominations. Most prominently, a performance of his recent choir production, The Arc in the Sky, was nominated for Best Choral Performance. 

With an early interest in both faith and music, Kile Smith attended Cairn University in 1975. In five years, he completed a double-major with degrees in Bible and music composition, serving as a teaching assistant to Dr. Samuel Hsu during his last two years of study. Since graduating, Smith has embedded himself in the Philadelphia artistic community as a composer of various types of classical and liturgical music; host of classical and jazz radio programs; and a frequent writer for the Broad Street Review, the online magazine covering arts and culture in Philadelphia. His works have earned him international acclaim from numerous commissions and musical publications. 

Smith’s Grammy-nominated work, The Arc in the Sky, acts as his choral adaptation of the poetry of Robert Lax. A friend of the well-known monk Thomas Merton, Robert Lax converted to Catholicism in his late twenties and went on to write minimalist poems that portrayed how his faith informed the way he saw life. As Smith describes on his website, “This is what struck me. As soon as I read Lax, I knew I wanted to set his words to music.” Lax’s words in Smith’s musical arrangement became The Arc in the Sky: a 65-minute, three-part unaccompanied piece performed by The Crossing and conducted by Donald Nally.

In addition to this Grammy nomination, Smith’s album Canticle was among eight albums that earned Blanton Alspaugh a Grammy for Classical Producer of the Year. This work is also based on the spiritual writings of a well-known Catholic, St. John of the Cross. Smith described Alspaugh’s recording as “lovingly” put-together.

Congratulations to Kile Smith for these prestigious musical achievements!

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