The accomplished career of Marilynn J. Smiley PhD, a beloved professor of music at SUNY Oswego for more than five decades, first took shape when she learned to play the piano at seven years old. Equipped with natural skills and a deep love and passion for music, she began playing the flute at 12 and continued all throughout high school. Further inspired by many teachers, she graduated and pursued higher education at Ball State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in 1954, after which she began her role as a public school music teacher in Indiana for seven years. In the midst of her first job as an educator, she obtained a Master of Music from Northwestern University in 1958 and later a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Illinois in 1970. Following her time in the public school system, she advanced to become a faculty member in the music department at the State University of New York at Oswego in 1961. A perfect match for her abilities as an educator—whose areas of expertise include ancient and medieval music, renaissance music, American music, women in music, and Beethoven, among many others—she would excel at the institution for the remainder of her career, serving as chairman of the music department from 1976 to 1981 and a Distinguished Teaching Professor from 1974 until her retirement in 2014. Dr. Smiley has since been honored as a Professor Emerita by the university.
In addition to her myriad primary responsibilities, Dr. Smiley has also taken great pride in lending her knowledge and skills to numerous organizations, from education and research-based groups to those that champion the arts. She has been a member of the board of directors for Oswego Opera Theater since 1978 and has been its president since 2009, as well as co-president-turned-president of the Oswego Branch of the American Association of University Women between 2007 and 2021. She has also found success as a member of the Oswego County Historical Society, H. Lee Maritime Museum, Safe Haven, and Friends of Fort Ontario, and has been an honorary fellow for the State University of New York Research Foundation in 1971, 1972, and 1974. Among several others, she has been affiliated with such organizations as the Society for American Music, American Musicological Society, National Organization for Women, American Recorder Society, Renaissance Society of America, College Music Society, Music Library Association, and Medieval Academy of America. A co-editor of the book “Remarkable Women in New York State History,” which was published in 2013, Dr. Smiley is an active contributor to articles about Renaissance and American music, and other related subjects, for professional journals.
Upon reflection of her productive career, Dr. Smiley considers her greatest achievement to be the rewarding impact she has been able to have on several generations of students. She fondly recalls watching the progress of her students over the course of their four-year academic careers; “they would go in with a limited background and come out as professionals,” she said. Another highlight was when, under her leadership as chairperson, the music department at the school was accredited through the National Association of Schools of Music. Looking toward the future, she remains incredibly active within Oswego Opera Theater. She recently conducted expansive research and found, through the National Archives in Washington, DC, the musical score and texts of 1,000 refugees from the Holocaust who immigrated to the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter in Oswego between 1944 and 1946. The theater was presented with a $25,000 grant from the New York State Council on the Arts to create a production of this historical story to be presented in November 2022.
Board of Directors, Oswego Opera Theater (1978-Present); Diversity Chairperson, Oswego Branch, AAUW (1995-Present); President, Oswego Branch, Friends of Fort Ontario, American Association of University Women (AAUW) (2021); Historian, New York State Division, AAUW (2004-2013); Membership Committee, Society for American Music (2003-2004); Unofficial Historian, New York State Division, AAUW (2000-2004); Membership Chairperson, Society for American Music (1998-2003); Status of Women Committee, American Musical Society (1997-2000); Diversity Director, New York State Division, AAUW (1993-1996); Chapter Representative, Council, American Musicological Society (1993-1996); Board of Directors, New York State-St. Lawrence Chapter, American Musicological Society (1993-1996); New York Division Area Interest Representative, Cultural Interests, AAUW (1990-1992); Branch Council Coordinator, New York State Division, AAUW (1988-1990); Branch Council Representative, District III, New York State Division, AAUW (1986-1988); President, Oswego Branch, AAUW (1984-1986); Chairman, New York Chapter, American Musicological Society (1975-1977); Music Chairperson, New York Chapter, Delta Kappa Gamma (1968); Music Chairperson, Indiana Chapter, Delta Kappa Gamma (1961); National Organization for Women; Oswego County Historical Society Safe Haven; Early Music America; American Recorder Society; The Renaissance Society of America; The College Music Society; Music Library Association; The Medieval Academy of America; Oswego Recorder Consort; Affiliate, Ontario Singers; Heritage Foundation of Oswego; Phi Kappa Phi; Kappa Delta Pi; Sigma Tau Delta; Sigma Alpha Iota; Pi Kappa Lambda; Delta Phi Alpha; Phi Delta Kappa; Oswego County Historical Society; H. Lee White Maritime Museum; Safe Haven
Co-Editor, “Remarkable Women in New York State History,” History Press (2013)
Contributor, Articles on Renaissance and American Music, and others in Professional Journals
Member, Board of Directors, Oswego Opera Theater (1978-Present); Co-President of the Oswego Branch, American Association of University Women (2007-2021); Member, Oswego County Historical Society; Member, H. Lee Maritime Museum; Member, Safe Haven; Member, Friends of Fort Ontario