Dalouge Smith ...

Dalouge Smith takes violin instruction from third grader Luna Enriquez in a photo from 2011, during the early years of the San Diego Symphony and Conservatory’s Community Opus Project in Chula Vista. Enriquez will graduate from Hilltop High School this spring. Smith is currently the CEO of the Lewis Prize Foundation.

After pondering Dalouge Smith’s first name for several days, the final option seemed to be it rhymed with ‘Deluge,’ except it doesn’t. As Smith explained, “The pronunciation is with a hard ‘G,’ as in ‘da loog.’ It’s a name I gave myself between high school and college. It isn’t symbolic of anything and there is no secret meaning. It’s a homemade name.”

A native of Lansing, Michigan, the home state and regional area of both of his parents, Smith graduated from San Bernardino High School, where he was a Rotary Life Scholar. Smith graduated from UCLA with a degree in World Arts and Cultures. “It was an inter-disciplinary major,” said Smith. “We were studying six different subjects simultaneously including music, theater, dance, folk lore, art history and anthropology. The title isn’t very intuitive, is it?”

Included in Smith’s college background was a year studying abroad in India. “It was my first travel outside of the United States and it provided me with a sense of the world. We studied the full arc of Indian history, as well as religious and political philosophy, from Buddha to Mahatma Gandhi.”

After graduation, Smith bounced around a bit. “Like many, I was doing service work including food service, I was a house painter and I did odd jobs while I was developing my opportunities in the arts. Lamb’s Players Theatre was my first substantial opportunity. I was the production stage manager and I worked on 20 productions over three years. They were doing shows in both Downtown San Diego and Coronado. We would get one show open and then I would go on another. One weekend I stage-managed four different shows. I worked on the Christmas Show for two years at the Hotel Del and one year I did the Festival of Christmas Show they still do. My last show with Lamb’s was ‘My Fair Lady,’ which was a good one to go out on.”

After his run at Lamb’s, Smith joined Mainly Mozart as associate director. “Mainly Mozart was founded by Nancy Laturno Bojanic and David Atherton in 1989. I started there at the beginning of 2000 and was there for just over 10 years. I was responsible for all the operations, marketing, ticketing and the production aspects. I was part of the drafting of the annual budget in collaboration with Nancy and I oversaw the education program as well. The program we were running was an assembly program, theatrically based on the life of Mozart. We went to a lot of elementary schools. And we held the Mainly Mozart Festival and a Concert Series we produced every year. It made for a busy year, plus we did multiple bi-national concerts in Tijuana with the Orchestra of the Californias. We toured California, in addition to Northern and Southern Baja California. We had professional musicians from throughout the country and around the world. When you get a chance to go to their concerts, you will hear extraordinary musicians. And they produce the Festival in Downtown San Diego.”

In 2005, Smith joined the San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory, which was founded in 1945. Smith said of the organization. “It’s the sixth oldest, continuously operated, youth symphony in the country. I joined the organization as CEO, and I was there for 13 ½ years. When I first arrived, the Youth Symphony Program was, and continues to be, based in Balboa Park. They have a large ensemble orchestra and a wind band for young people from age eight to their early 20’s. There are multiple levels of orchestras and bands. Any student of any skill level has a place to participate. We had a small after school percussion program at a school in South San Diego. We expanded our weekend programs, which added several hundred more students. We started the Chula Vista Community Opus Project, which returned music education to the Chula Vista Elementary School District. Over five years we went from zero arts instruction to every student getting arts education during the day. Our primary goal was to make music education accessible for all children and young people. Another thing we added was the Early Childhood Music program for toddlers to Pre-Kindergarten. We created an entire music pathway, from infancy all the way through high school through the San Diego Youth Symphony.”

The San Diego Youth Symphony then added an additional element to their programming based on a concept called El Sistema from Venezuela. “In addition to the music aspects of El Sistema, what inspired us was to be closely connected to the community and the whole well-being of the children, not just the music. That was the approach we took with our work in Chula Vista. We were able to build strong partnerships, showing interest in the child’s full success. That was helping the schools connect to families, to draw kids to schools, show young people about the range of opportunities that would open up; and creating a network of volunteers among the families. The schools were seeing the benefits of a music program on campus, and not just performance. Music is the glue for families and the school sites.”

Smith provided a couple of examples where music assisted young students with their classroom education. “It was fascinating to hear kids talk about it. One story included a girl struggling with a math problem and she thought about it like a music. All of the sudden she could solve the problem. We had a sixth-grade boy in an intervention program, who was reading at a second-grade level. The school district put him in the music program, and he was reading at grade level by the time he was in seventh grade. He attributed learning to read music notes to him becoming a better reader. It might have been confidence he gained, and I don’t know the real underlying trigger, but as he grew in musicianship and academics, he felt the connection between the two.”

Smith and his wife Sue Ann Mead still contribute to the San Diego Youth Symphony. The family includes son Wright Smith (CHS ‘2013), who was Class Valedictorian and an Eagle Scout. Wright is now a graduate student at MIT.

Smith left the San Diego Youth Symphony for his dream job, which is serving as the CEO of the Lewis Prize, which benefits music organizations around the country through a system of grants. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Smith said of his current post. “I am asked to help find the best work around the country, that benefits young people and their community. I’m excited by the challenge and the impact that could potentially be achieved in partnership with our Founder Daniel R. Lewis. He is the sole contributor to the mission.”

Smith provided an overview of the first Lewis Prize Accelerator Awards which were announced in January 2020. “I started in August 2018 and we spent a year and a half doing the research and conducting our first awards process. We started the grant process in Summer 2019. We awarded $1.75 million, with three of the awards being for $500,000 each. David’s Harp Foundation in San Diego was one of our $500,000 grant winners. It’s a multi-stage process, with written applications reviewed by external advisors. And we make site visits to our finalists. Dan Lewis, myself and a staff member travel to each Finalist over a two-week period. We made a big circle around the country last year. The Finalist Review Panel makes a recommendation to the Lewis Prize Board, which affirms the decisions. Lewis and his wife Valerie Dillon are board members.”

These challenging times urged Smith to recommend to the Lewis Prize Board that a special $1 million COVID-19 Community Response Fund be established. “What happened is we immediately started to do some research after the epidemic became so consequential. The staff and I surveyed our awardees and other organizations. We identified what was happening in the wider arts field. Then we developed a proposal for Daniel Lewis. We explained the basis of the idea and the outcomes we would be supporting. Music organizations are responsive to many needs young people are confronting. The organizations are integral to the social cohesion of young people and we felt their responsiveness to their communities warranted our support.”

And the Lewis Prize staff, headed by Smith and including seven part-time employees around the country, have set an ambitious timetable for the financial support to be made available. “We are accepting submission for the grants starting April 20; the deadline for submissions is May 8; and the grant recipients will be announced June 16. We want to get the resources into the hands of the people who can use it, as quickly as possible. We couldn’t figure out how to go faster, but that is a priority.” Shortly after the COVID-19 Community Response Funds are awarded, the 2021 Accelerator Awards process will commence.

As we concluded, Smith said, “One of the things that is important to note in Coronado, is that music and the arts are in young people’s lives. Particularly for children whose parents are in the Navy, arts are an easy connector as young people arrive in a community. The more a community like Coronado prioritizes arts education, they are giving their students something they can take to their next hometown where they can find an affinity with other kids. Kids need stability and they can take that with them for the whole of their lives.

“A last little thought. Non-profit arts organizations which work with young people, are often providing more services than just arts instruction. That’s an important element to show through the Lewis Prize for Music. Arts organizations are doing so much to strengthen circumstances for children and the entire community.”

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