Women’s History Music Moment: Mary Terey-Smith

Mary Terey-Smith

The conductor Mary Terey-Smith made music history here in the Pacific Northwest, as a result of a political revolution half a world away. This Hungarian-born music talent, student of Kodaly at the legendary Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, hadn’t been out in the working world very long when the 1956 Hungarian Revolution turned her into a refugee.

The career she was making–conducting small orchestras, serving as vocal coach at the Hungarian State Opera—would pick up again in Bellingham, where she settled, teaching and conducting at Western Washington University for over 30 years. She founded Western’s Collegium Musicum, and presented them to great acclaim, on multiple concert tours throughout Canada and Europe.

As a scholar, she focused on Baroque and Early Classical operas, especially the work of Jean-Philippe Rameau, whose music comes alive in her recordings with the Hungarian period instrument ensemble, Capella Savaria.  Students remembered Mary-Terey Smith’s “energized easy smile and great passion for music.” Said one, “She had a magic about her.” 

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