Amelia Smerz


Photos by Matt Dine


Winner, 2019 Brevard Jan and Beattie Wood Concerto Competition; Winner, 2017, ’18, ’19, & ’20 DePauw University School of Music Concerto Competition; Featured Performer, 2018, ’19, & ’20 DePauw Music of the 21st Century; DePauw University Asbury Fellowship, 2017–20


Composer’s Conference Performance Fellow, 2022; Prague Summer Nights, Principal Cellist, 2022; McGill Contemporary Music Ensemble, 2022; Brevard Music Center Orchestras, Principal Cellist, 2018–19; DePauw University Symphony Orchestra, Principal Cellist, 2016–20

What is your earliest memory of classical music?

My mom was an amateur violinist. The spring before I turned five, she took me to one of her concerts, telling me to listen closely and to pick out the instrument I liked the most so we could begin lessons during the new school year. I can’t remember the pieces, but evidently the tuba was prominently featured because I fell in love with its sound. However, when I told my mom that tuba was the instrument for me, she gently guided me towards cello which seemed more manageable for me at that age, and the rest is history!

When did you realize you wanted to pursue music as a career?

At some point in high school I just realized how rare and precious human connection—on the level that music facilitates—can be. Amongst ourselves,  between us and the audience, between teachers and students, even between two people sharing their favorite music with each other, something special happens in these musical transactions. Though it’d be a bit starry eyed to expect it from every concert, I couldn’t see myself walking away from a career where, even occasionally, something kind of magical happens.

How did you hear about TŌN? What inspired you to apply?

A colleague in grad school mentioned TŌN in response to my trouble with deciding between further education and auditioning for professional orchestras. What she described provided a solution to my desire to continue learning and growing while still trying to move forward toward a professional career. I applied and I’m so happy it worked out!

What do you think orchestra concerts should look like in the 21st Century?

I think a diversity of experience when it comes to an orchestral concert is the best true way forward, so that there’s an experience out there for every potential concert goer. That being said, I personally would seek out the most radically fun concerts I could find. I think there’s a place for genuine, simple enjoyment and exciting newness in even our highest forms of art.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

I would have to say that my loved ones—my family and friends—provide the biggest inspiration for me. Though there are many musicians I admire and appreciate greatly, I feel that it’s those who are closest to me that tend to keep me moving forward and feeling inspired.

Which composer or genre of music do you feel you connect with the most?

I’d have to say I love minimalism the most of any genre. Often meditative and gorgeous, minimalist compositions also just tend to impact me the most emotionally, which is ultimately what I’m looking for in a piece of music. I think, no matter the composer, they tend to invoke a strong sense of nostalgia which, in my opinion, is the most powerful emotion we can feel.

What is your favorite piece of music, and why do you love it?

Perhaps a bit of a cop-out, but my favorite piece of music is usually the music I’ve listened to or played most recently. At the time of writing, we are playing Mahler’s 5th Symphony, so right now, that’s my favorite piece of music. A part of playing music for me is finding the path to loving it. Mahler 5 provides a fairly straightforward path, but I usually am able to love most of the music I play!

Favorite non-classical musician or band


If you could play another instrument, what would it be?


If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?

I think I’d be a journalist, or maybe an English teacher, depending on how well I actually write.

Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to have dinner with and why?

Hector Berlioz, because he seems like a riot; T.S. Eliot because his poems tear my heart apart; Jacqueline du Pré because she plays exactly how I feel. 

Piece of advice for a young classical musician

Have fun, and try to always love it.