Homecoming for Marshunda Smith

Cellist performs here for first time in 20 years

Marshunda Smith (Photo by Kim Indresano)
Marshunda Smith (Photo by Kim Indresano)

If you go

› What: Marshunda Smith presents “Coquettish Dances with Pianist Javier Marquez”› Where: St. Thaddaeus Episcopal Church, 4300 Locksley Lane› When: 3 p.m. Sunday, June 3› Admission: Free› For more information: 423-892-2377

Marshunda Smith fell in love with classical music as a student in Chattanooga. Her experiences here helped formulate and inform her passion for performing and helped set her on a career path that would lead her to Boston, where she teaches, performs and conducts.

For whatever reason, Smith has not played here in two decades. But that will be rectified on Sunday, June 3, when she will be joined by Javier Márquez for a concert featuring cello and piano at St. Thaddaeus Episcopal Church in the Highway 58 area.

A graduate of Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences, she is coming here for her 20-year class reunion and saw an opportunity to play in front of a home crowd. So she reached out to former teacher Linda Pennebaker to ask if she could perform at her church.

"I reached out to my teacher from Knoxville also. I'm not sure if he can make it, but some old friends are going to come," Smith said. "This will be a homecoming."

The program features some lesser-known pieces that she says fall under the subhead "A collection of short flirtatious works from 1847 to 2018."

"I started to play all of them, and they all pretty much sounded the same. They are very flirtatious in a way," she says. "Javier and I were like, 'Wow, this is really sensual, really sexual.'"

She said the program features six pieces: two for solo cello, the other four for cello and piano. She said the two created the program, started playing "house shows" in early April and have done about a half-dozen. She said the shows are much more intimate, and that audience members have commented on how different performances are because of that closeness.

"They say, 'Wow, I've never really been this close to a cello and heard it that way.'"

Smith says she spends a few minutes between each song asking the audience what they heard, how the piece made them feel or what it made them think of.

"It's very relaxed, sometimes with wine and cheese and crackers. I think I took my shoes off for the last one."

In addition to playing and teaching, Smith is the co-founder of the No-Name Orchestra of Boston, which gives musicians a chance to play a concerto or solo work with a full orchestra.

She is currently the co-principal cellist of the North Shore Philharmonic Orchestra. Last year, she became the second female in 20 years and the first African-American to conduct the orchestra in its 70-year history.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.