Critics have described American cellist Brinton Averil Smith as a "virtuoso cellist with few equals," hailing him as "a proponent of old-school string playing such as that of Piatigorsky and Heifetz." Smith’s debut recording of Miklós Rózsa’s Cello Concerto with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra received widespread international critical acclaim, with Gramophone praising Smith as a "hugely eloquent, impassioned soloist."
The son of a mathematician and a pianist, Smith was admitted to Arizona State University at age 10, and he completed a B.A. in mathematics at age 17. He then became a student of Eleonore Schoenfeld at the University of Southern California, where he was also a teaching assistant in the mathematics department. He completed work for an M.A. in mathematics at age 19. He subsequently studied with the renowned cellist Zara Nelsova at the Juilliard School, where he was a prize winner for several consecutive Juilliard concerto competitions and the Leonard Rose International Cello Competition. From Juilliard, Smith received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree. writing on the playing of Emanuel Feuermann.
Smith has appeared regularly as a soloist with the Houston Symphony since joining the orchestra as principal cellist in 2005. Prior to this, he was the first musician chosen by Lorin Maazel to join the New York Philharmonic. He has also served as the principal cellist of the San Diego and Fort Worth Symphonies. Smith's North American engagements have included performances at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, as well as recital and concerto engagements throughout the country. His broadcast performances have included those on CBS's Sunday Morning and on NPR's Performance Today and Symphonycast, and his live concert performances on YouTube have been viewed nearly a million times. Devoted to expanding the cello repertoire, Smith performs a wide variety of violin, piano, and vocal transcriptions, and he gave the North American premieres of rediscovered cello works by Jean Sibelius and Alexander Zemlinsky.
An active chamber musician, Smith has collaborated with artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Lynn Harrell, Emanuel Ax, Jeffrey Kahane, Jonathan Biss, Kirill Gerstein, Gil Shaham, James Ehnes, Cho-Liang Lin, Sarah Chang, and Dawn Upshaw, as well as with members of the Beaux Arts Trio and the Guarneri, Emerson, Juilliard, Cleveland, and Berg quartets. He has performed with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Marlboro Music Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, the Sarasota Music Festival, the Seattle Chamber Music Society, the Mainly Mozart Festival, the Brevard Music Festival and the Texas Music Festival and is an artistic director of the Restoration Chamber Music series in Galveston.
Smith is currently an Associate Professor at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University and a faculty member of the Aspen and Sarasota Music Festivals. Smith resides in Houston with his wife, pianist Evelyn Chen.