In middle school, he kept with the drums and was first introduced to real band discipline.
"That was Mr. Tilton." He laughed. "Mr. Tilton was a sweet guy, an older gentleman."
He had a bit of a temper, too.
Smith said Tilton had a miniature baseball bat from the Detroit Tigers, the kind ballparks sometimes give out as promotional gifts. If the drummers couldn't keep time or if they were having trouble following a piece of music, Mr. Tilton would put away the baton -- and bring out the bat.
"He'd bang on the music stand with it," Smith said.
It got everyone's attention.
"He was great," Smith said. "A real disciplinarian, which was good for a kid like me, when I was 12 or 13."
In high school, studying under Mr. Hillman, Smith got most of his education.
"I took concert band, jazz band, symphonic band. I had music theory and marching band."
Aside from giving him the foundation from which he helped build his decades-long career, the public school music program provided him with a place to fit in. To Smith, that seemed almost as important as the education he got.
"It was definitely a very social thing for me," Smith acknowledged. "It taught me how to interact with people."
He laughed. "My first girlfriend was a French horn player."Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.