A singing act to follow

High school senior who founded a students’ choir opens for Al Stewart.

April 05, 2010|By Tom Ragan

It would seem that Samantha Smith, at 17, has the musical world by the strings.

She opened for Al Stewart at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano over the weekend before an audience of 500.

But that’s just one notch along the neck of her acoustic guitar.

The Newport Beach resident and senior at Orange Coast Middle College High School also created the Young Singers of Orange County, an official nonprofit choir that tours and sings at public events.


A few months ago, the 35-member choir managed to raise $2,000 for the children in Haiti.

When Smith heads off to Vassar College in upstate New York this fall, another student is going to have to take her place, she said, something she’s already in the midst of trying to arrange and prepare for.

“There’s a need for a cheaper choir in Orange County and an opportunity for kids to understand that they can actually make a difference through community service, even at a such a young age,” Smith said.

And the cost to join the choir? Twenty-five dollars a year.

So far, the choir, which formed last year, has performed at more than a dozen events and many more await, Smith said.

“I just love music. It’s in my blood,” said Smith, who remembers playing “99 Red Balloons” when she was 11 at the Alba Coffee Shop on the Balboa Peninsula.

It’s no surprise then that she and her band, which includes 14-year-old lead guitarist Max Newsome, will also be performing there from 8 to 10 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s my favorite little coffee shop,” she said. “I’ve been going there for years. My cousin plans to sit in with us and bring his sitar.”

That’s the Indian instrument George Harrison made famous, so it should be entertaining.

Not exactly a child prodigy like, say, Jewel, Smith certainly could be construed as somewhat of a close carbon copy, what with the constant encouragement of her father, who plays the piano.

She was singing the national anthem at her father’s events at age 8, she said.

And then over the weekend came the highlight of her early career — performing moments before Al Stewart hit the stage and sang his “Year of the Cat,” along with other hit songs.

“It was an honor to open for someone who’ve I really appreciated throughout my life, and I’m only 17,” she said. “I grew up listening to him. To play before he did, well, it was amazing.”

According to her father, Peter Smith, Al Stewart, who lives in Los Angeles, said just before his performance that Smith was one of the best acts to open for him.

As for other members of the Samantha Smith Band, they include Newsome, Bart Broadnax on the bass, Franc Ortega on percussion and Dave Nachmanoff on guitar and mandolin.

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