Tess Albin-Smith has made countless contributions to the Symphony of the Redwoods. She is one of the Symphony board’s longest active members and is a passionate advocate for keeping classical music alive.
She began studying music in the fourth grade. “My band teacher walked into a room with instruments stacked under his arms for us to choose from,” Albin-Smith said. “My friend played violin so that’s what I chose too. I didn’t think anything of it.” In middle school, she transitioned to viola. “I was the only student who volunteered to switch instruments,” she said. “My family couldn’t afford private lessons at the time, so my music teacher gave me a viola book for me to practice on my own. I learned it all overnight.” Within her first year of studying viola, Albin-Smith joined the All-City Orchestra in San Francisco, an ensemble she remained a member of through junior college. During her time at San Francisco Junior College, she was recruited as a timpanist by her former instructor Joe Alessi, Sr., her junior high jazz band instructor and father of trombonist Joe Alessi, Jr.
Albin-Smith and her family relocated to Fort Bragg in 1990. She did not join the Symphony right away, but her first Mendocino Music Festival changed everything. “I was itching in my seat,” she said. “I have to play, I’m not a watcher. I walked into the next rehearsal with a viola and timpani mallets and asked, ‘What do you need?’” She has been playing percussion for the Symphony ever since.
Albin-Smith is currently the Symphony of the Redwood’s board treasurer. “Before that I was the Symphony liaison,” she said, “and before that, I was just a frustrated timpani player. I wanted to share my point of view and be heard.”
One of the board’s main responsibilities is to decide how the Symphony will evolve in order to keep filling seats. Albin-Smith believes no board can reach their goals without a willingness to fundraise. “The key is building connections,” she explained. “We need financial supporters who want to help the Symphony grow.”
A large accomplishment as a board member for Albin-Smith was the establishment of fundraising events, including the Symphony’s annual pops concert. “I kept asking if it was going to happen,” she said. “The board president at the time said all we needed was someone to organize it. Since the concert was my idea, I felt I was the right person to take on the role.” The yearly performance has become one of the Symphony’s most successful events.
In addition to the Symphony board, Albin-Smith is also the treasurer for the Soroptimists of Noyo Sunrise. “It’s all about giving money and raising awareness,” she said. “We are working to make the world a better place for women and girls.”