DANSVILLE — It was a most magical night at the art center with musicians from all over the region ready to perform.
If you happened to wander into Dansville ArtWorks on Feb. 22 you may have felt like you walked back in time. It had a Woodstock-feel as guitars, banjos, and the soul of music filled the small room.
Michael Scott Smith was the headliner, and he brought several of his friends to participate in open mic. There were about 14 open mic artists at this event. In the past there has only been a few. Those who joined in on the night filled with music were The Ranney Trio, James Hinrich, Bernard Fancher , John Spicer and Michelle Libertone, Beth Sleboda, Buckwheat, Claude Wray, Abby Morsch and Family, Gary Bardeau, Oren, and Sean Michael Smith.
Smith has been pouring his heart and soul into music for about five decades.
“I started doing this when I was a young teen, but it really took me until the early 80s to find my voice. I really got interested in historical topics at that point,” he said. “I have always been fascinated with the idea of hobos jumping the train tracks, and riding on down the train yards in Rochester. I always thought they only did that sort of things in movies, but as a kid I would see them jump on trains.”
Smith would turn his historical interests towards his own family stories later on in life.
“I found out a lot of interesting stories from family I never had the pleasure of meeting. You hear about what your family members did in the Civil War, or what several generations of your family did to come over to America. I found out stories about my great great grandparents,” he said. “Once I started to hear these stories I thought about a good way to preserve them in music. It is a nice way to keep those stories alive. I have over 50 songs I have written over the years. They are like 50 of my children, and I never know which ones to sing and leave at home.”
Smith typically sings up to 10 songs at a time when he goes to events like this.
“I remember hearing my grandmother tell me stories about what it was like living by the Erie Canal,” he said. “She wanted to tell someone these stories before she lost them. This all became the start of a song. Some of my music is family themed, and others are just stories I felt inspired to tell.”
Smith spent a lot of time in bands when he got started on this music quest. However, the last band he performed with was Band of Brothers. He has a total of three CDs that sell all over the world, and many find his folk songs to be very universal.
“It has been a dream come true for me to perform,” he said. “I remember being 16-years old and getting a Pete Seeger songbook. I wanted to be a songwriter because of him, and it was amazing to be able to perform with him 12 years later. He was the greatest man I ever met. That is a moment I will remember forever.”
Smith’s son, Sean Michael Smith, Hidden Cabin Studios producer, has performed in theater, opera, voiceovers, and music for most of his life. Sean has had several awards and accomplishments in the entertainment industry. Among them being 2019 WNY Voice Actor, 2015 Outstanding Achievement in Acting, Roberts Wesleyan Music and Achievement Award, and Semper Fidelis Music Award.
“I got interested in opera at the Eastman School of Music. I did that for six years, and took a break to get into voice acting and folk music,” he said. “Opera was a big part of my life. When you get into old opera you get to go to a lot of all-state classic competitions. It was the first time in my life that music got me out of my own state.”
Smith said he is still very passionate about his Opera singing days, and had many awards from that time in his life.
Smith got involved with a famous British band called AZEDIA. He provides some vocal tracks on some of their songs.
“I had an opportunity to collaborate with this group from England. I work online with these musicians. I would send out my demos to all the people I looked up to, and just hoped someone would give me a chance,” he said. “Later on I reached out to this brother and sister group in England. They liked the acoustic sound of my demo.”
Smith spends most of his talents on his acting career these days, but he still enjoys his music.
He has done a voiceover for The Walking Dead Tour in Georgia. He did the Silk Rose Festival voiceover for Thailand. He even directed and wrote a film called “Love Happened” and it made it to the Chinese Film Festival.
“It is cool to know I am leaving pebbles of my art all over the world,” he said. “You have to find out where you fit in the entertainment industry and just go for it.”