Neenah Music Teacher Pushes the Limits of High School Performing Arts


Photo by: Unknown

Mr. Phil Smyth performing professionally in 2019.

George Eastman-Kiesow, Student of Journalism

High school club rosters are an ever-evolving labyrinth, with new students coming in and old ones leaving each year. This has a significant effect on all activities, including the development of music programs.

Despite the difficulties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and issues with finding new members, Neenah Orchestra Director Phil Smyth continues to push the music program’s limits, scheduling one group, Touch of Class, to participate in a Croatian Music Festival in the Summer of 2022.

Always laughing with and working at students’ sides, Smyth implants his method of channeling passion into performance on students, bettering them in ways that extend beyond musical performance.

Even before the pandemic, Smyth works to give students a unique experience they remember for the rest of their lives before they graduate high school. World shattering performances aren’t something everyone gets to experience, much less perform in; however, for some students that isn’t the case.

In the 2018-’19 school year music students surpass all past expectations, giving an astounding performance of Mozart’s Requiem, a piece combining band, orchestra and choir. The performance leaves a lasting impression on many students and perfectly exemplifies the experience Smyth likes to leave students with during their time learning with him.

“When we actually did it, it went really well. I think the kids that performed in that concert; I think for them that’s something they’ll remember forever.”

Many of the incredible experiences provided by Smyth are possible in part because of his experience and connections gained through his time as a professional musician predating his time teaching. His time touring with Barrage led them to Pickard Auditorium where they performed with students, something which would be unheard of in nearly any other situation.

Surpassing his title of a music teacher, Phil Smyth instructs students on how to proudly stand in front of anyone and show their skill with confidence.