Performer juggles multiple musical activities

Liza Rodler

Senior Austin Smith has found his voice.

Between singing a cappella, performing in Micetro, and playing with a band, Smith juggles a variety of performing arts.

Smith said his musical career began before he could speak, when he would hum along to his mother’s lullabies at the age of two.

His first role in a musical was the Mad Hatter in a Neil Cummins production of Alice in Wonderland, and since then Smith has played a variety of dramatic roles including Benedick in EPiC’s production of Much Ado About Nothing and an improviser in Micetro.

Smith said he can’t identify a single role model or inspiration that helped shape his personal style as a musician, singer, or actor.

“I just liked singing, so I did the school musical,” Smith said. “In terms of musical theater, I didn’t feel any strong attachment to anyone. I never wanted to be Fred Astaire or anything, I just enjoyed acting and performing and singing. There are a lot of different figures that I look up to.”

According to Smith, his favorite aspect of performing is the elation he experiences while on stage.

“If you want to get technical, it’s from the dopamine,” he said. “It’s from a positive reward from being on stage and getting positive feedback from the audience. It’s from making connections with the audience and the musicians you’re performing with.”

While Smith identifies his main instrument as his voice, he said he also dapples in guitar and bass. He uses these instruments in a variety of mediums, including a band, an a cappella group, and EPiC productions.

As the lead singer of the Jack Straw Blues Band, Smith plays alongside six other Redwood students who share his love of blues music, as well as other musical genres.

Outside his band, Smith sings alongside 15 other high school students from around Marin in the a cappella group Til Dawn.

Til Dawn is run through the San Rafael-based nonprofit organization, Youth in Arts, and performs at a variety of community events. These range from elementary and middle schools, to art festivals to private parties. Smith said he has performed roughly 120 times with Til Dawn.

“It gives you hours and hours of performing experience,” Smith said. “I’ve improved in every way. When you devote that much time, it’s just impossible not to get better at singing. It works your training, it works tempo, it works your ability to sing lead.”

In an impromptu music project, Smith was recently asked by the Til Dawn music director to provide voice-over singing for a Berkeley studio’s version of a dancing video game for kids.

Smith, who said his voice has been compared to that of musician Michael Buble, provided voice for the song “Feeling Good.”

After singing for an hour, he walked out of the recording studio with a check for $250.

In other music projects, Smith plays music weekly at Benissimo Restaurant in Larkspur, and is also scheduled to begin monthly performances at Max’s Restaurant in Corte Madera.

More recently, Smith was the band director for the live music played for the EPiC musical Urinetown.

As to Smith’s future in music, he said he is unsure of his specific plans.

“One way or another I’m going to continue with music,” he said. “As to what shape that will take, that’s a different question.”

Smith said he is applying to a number of music colleges and considers a career in music to be his overarching goal.