Henry Smith ’14 is our new Assistant to the Head of the Upper School. As a student, Henry was a superior violin player, always involved with anything music related at the school, with a boisterous, infectious laugh that could compete with John Dolan (Psychology, 1994-present). We are so excited to have him back at Harley!
Q: You started at Harley as a student in Grade 11, where had you been, and what brought you here?
Henry: I had never really heard of Harley, though one of my friends, Daphne Kanack-Pickens ’14, went here. Although I was looking for a new high school, Harley just wasn’t on my radar. I hadn’t considered it until the late Lou Battaglia, my science teacher sophomore year, told me about this private school that would “push me a little harder.” I looked into Aquinas, McQuaid, and West Irondequoit High School, but in the end, chose Harley. Being the new guy can be overwhelming, but it turned out to be a bit of a “soft landing” because I had friends from the Rochester Youth Philharmonic Orchestra who were my classmates at Harley. On top of that, half-way through Grade 11, Lou subbed for science teacher, Mary Anne Evans (Science, 2011-2017). Lou was happy to see my sister, Brighid ’16, and myself were doing well, just as he predicted.
Q: As a student at Harley, I remember you with a violin in your hand. When did you start playing?
Henry: I’ve been playing the violin since age 8. I took music lessons at the Kanack School of Music over on South Clinton Avenue for years. I now teach private lessons at Kanack for both violin and viola. This job is the perfect compliment to my work at Harley because it is after school and I love teaching one-on-one lessons.
Q: After Harley, you went on to Ithaca College. Tell me about that.
Henry: I actually took a gap year before deciding on Ithaca. I just wasn’t sure what to do. I struggled with anxiety about whether to go to music school or not. Over the gap year I practiced and played with the University of Rochester Symphony Orchestra.
In my mind, I pictured this fork in the road and said to myself, “At some point you have to pick an option and once you pick that option, other options will come.” I eventually learned to accept that I didn’t need to prove anything to be a legitimate musician. I decided to go Ithaca College and major in music. I had some cool opportunities like conducting the hand bell choir for four years and participating in the Gamer Symphony Club (a club that plays music from video games). I even got the chance to perform solo for 5,000 people at the College’s 125th anniversary celebration. That was my senior year. I graduated in 2019.
Q: What did you do after graduation?
Henry: While a student at Ithaca, I did work with computers on the side, enough that I got a temp position at Cornell University as a desktop support technician. After a year, I decided I did want to go to graduate school and then the pandemic hit. I chose to get an MBA like many other people who tried to use the “world freeze” wisely. Not sure it’s my smartest decision ever, but I certainly learned a lot. After I finished my masters, I moved back to Rochester to teach music lessons at the Kanack School of Musical Artistry. My studio there is now over 20 students in just a year, so I’m pretty pleased.
Q: Any advice to give to current Harley students?
Henry: If you have a difficult choice, you can wait. If you still can’t decide, just pick one and things will work themselves out while you pursue it. Oh, and get a fish tank. Fish tanks are cool.