Mississippi teen returns home after creating beautiful music in Italy

Published 7:20 am Sunday, August 11, 2019

Last week, a young Natchez violinist returned from a musical experience in Italy after being handpicked to perform in the 2019 Interharmony International Music Festival, a New York-based student orchestral program.

Darren Smith, a 17-year-old Natchez High School senior, first picked up the violin in fifth-grade and didn’t begin taking lessons until the following year, said Smith’s mother Delphine Brent.

“Even before he played with the violin, he was always fascinated by music on television,” Brent said. “He would watch performers on “America’s Got Talent.” He has two older brothers who’ve dabbled a little in music, and they didn’t stick with it like my youngest baby did. His father (George Smith) and I have always supported him and told him ‘If that’s what you want to do, then do it.’”

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Smith’s fascination was nurtured by classes at Natchez schools and with a tutor at home, Brent said, and he matured into a national and international performer over the past two years, taking the stage in Jackson in the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, Carnegie Hall in New York and at the Sydney Opera House in Australia.

“I really enjoy music in general, and I love to try out other instruments whenever I can,” Smith said. “Not only do I enjoy learning about music, but I love teaching it to others as well. It’s a passion of mine.”

Smith participated in video audition for the festival last fall and received his acceptance letter the following January for a two-week stay starting July 15 through 28 in Acqui Terme, located in the Province of Alessandria in Piedmont, Italy.

“I felt very excited and very honored to be given the opportunity to perform with others who auditioned from all over,” Smith said. “The audition went smoothly and it was an amazing trip.”

Smith’s stay included days of individual instruction, group practices and rehearsals with fellow artists — pianists, flutists, cellists, other violinists and singers.

Under the guidance of program director Misha Quint, performers went to churches and popular landmarks for shows that were well attended by local Italians and visitors from all over the world and were also given the opportunity to tour two famous Italian cities, including Turin and Milan.

“I am very proud of him,” Brent said. “It was truly an awesome experience. It was just unforgettable and the performance was just phenomenal. I enjoyed everything from the music to the food. Not only did my son get to study and perform there, but he also met a lot of friends there — international friends.”

Smith said the best part of it all was meeting new people.

“I’ve met and made a diverse group of friends — people from Taiwan, the Caribbean and Canada,” Smith said. “It is nice to met people from outside of your country and learn about their way of life. I’ve always enjoyed meeting new people and making new friends.”

After graduation, Smith said he plans to study Biology at the University of Georgia, and minor in music before enlisting in the U.S. Air Force. Smith said hopes to one-day work in the medical field.