Drawn to the emotional and narrative expressiveness of theater, composer Jeffrey Dennis Smith blends rhythmic vitality and diverse styles in creating engaging works for opera, musical theater, wind band, contemporary dance and chamber music ensembles.

Interested in how language can be used in broadening the context and scope of musical theater, Jeffrey recently presented a composition workshop in Spanish at FESTEME, a musical theater festival in Córdoba, Spain.

Described as “intimate and at the same time very expansive, full of wonder and beauty,” his new work for wind band In the Morning Light We Say Goodbye was premiered by the St. Olaf College band in the spring of 2022.

His opera WHY IS EARTHA KITT TRYING TO KILL ME?: A LOVE STORY with librettist David Johnston is a tour de force love story and mad scene all in one. Premiered by UrbanArias in 2018, the Washington Classical Review described the score as “a deft blend of jazz, Broadway and Minimalism with hints of torch song.” The DC Theatre Scene stated, “UrbanArias has given us an operatic gem, and the talents assembled for the production have encased this most entertaining work in pure gold.”

The musical LIGHTNING MAN (with lyricist and bookwriter Shoshana Greenberg) speaks of the resilience of human life when faced with continual setbacks. Based on the story of Roy Sullivan, who in real life survived seven lightning strikes, this work was presented at Ars Nova in New York City as part of their ANT Fest.  It had a workshop production at Tisch School of the Arts as well as a workshop reading at Turtle Bay Music School in New York City.

One of his earliest and most-performed works, Tiger Dance for marimba soloist and percussion ensemble, was presented at the 2011 Percussive Arts Society International Convention and was released on albums by marimba soloists Scott Herring and Julia Gaines. Jeffrey’s marimba duet All Systems Go was commissioned and recorded by The Iowa/Hungary Percussion Project. He also contributed music for BOWES ACADEMY, a short film by director Greg Emetaz and MinorApocalypse Films.

Jeffrey was a Resident Artist with American Lyric Theater and a Resident Composer with Exploring the Metropolis Con Edison Composer’s Residency. He also participated in the New Dramatists Composer-Librettist Studio and studied at the European American Musical Alliance in Paris.

He was a Visiting Guest Artist in percussion at the University of Northern Iowa in the fall of 2001, and he holds degrees from NYU/Tisch School of the Arts, Northwestern University and the University of Northern Iowa.


May 2023 – World premiere

Premiere of OPENINGS REMARKS for wind band. Details to be announced soon.

March 2022 – World premiere

St. Olaf Band premieres IN THE MORNING LIGHT WE SAY GOODBYE for symphonic band.

April 2019 – World premiere

University of Northern Iowa Percussion Ensemble premiere of JUST LIKE THE SEVENTIES

July 2018 – World premiere

UrbanArias presents the world premiere production of WHY IS EARTHA KITT TRYING TO KILL ME?: A LOVE STORY featuring tenor Keith Jameson.