Motivated by her tremendous love of music, Marilynn J. Smiley has dedicated more than 60 years to advancing the field. She started as a public school music teacher in Indiana in 1954, and joined the staff of the Music Department at the State University of New York at Oswego in 1961. Over the years, she served the institution as a distinguished teaching professor and as a department chairperson, and was responsible for music history and literature courses for all eras and at all levels. Dr. Smiley’s area of expertise ranged from Ancient Greek to current music history and literature, which made her an invaluable resource for students. One of her favorite parts of the job was presenting subjects to students and watching them respond with their own concepts and ideas. She was also proud of having her department accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music and of creating a diverse curriculum. In 2014, however, she accepted the distinguished title of professor emeritus.
Besides teaching, Dr. Smiley was involved at the school through committees like the Library Council, the Graduate Council, the Women’s Caucus, the Task Force on the Future, and the Women’s Studies Advisory Board, and as the advisor of both Mu Beta Psi and Vega, the Junior and Senior Women’s Honor Society. She also conducted a great deal of scholarly research through grants obtained from the SUNY Research Foundation and the National Endowment for Humanities. Her main focus was Renaissance music and various types of American music, as well as women’s studies. Dr. Smiley loved the satisfaction of discovering new ideas, concepts, and correlations, all of which brought a greater understanding to her field. She shared her findings with her peers by writing articles for professional journals and by presenting papers at several musicology conferences of the American Musicological Society and the Society for American Music.
Dr. Smiley prepared for her endeavors by earning a PhD from the University of Illinois in 1970, a Master of Music from Northwestern University in 1958, and a Bachelor of Science from Ball State University in 1954. Her doctoral dissertation was titled, “The Renaissance Organ Magnificat,” and her master’s thesis was titled, “The Recorder Versus the Transverse Flute from 1700-1750.” She furthered her education with a certification from Ecoles d’Art Americaines in France, where she studied under the legendary musician Nadia Boulanger.
Looking to the future, Dr. Smiley hopes to complete two of her unfinished research projects. The first regards music in Oswego in the 19th century and the second regards the music of the Holocaust refugees at Fort Ontario in Oswego between 1944 and 1946. The latter has international significance because it relates to then-President Roosevelt’s only acknowledgement of the Holocaust.
When Dr. Smiley isn’t working, she enjoys traveling and being active in her community. She is a member of the Oswego County Historical Society, the H. Lee White Maritime Museum, the Alpha Iota Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, and the Safe Haven Society, and is the chair of the Oswego Opera Theater board of directors. Additionally, she is the co-president of the Oswego Branch of the American Association of University Women.