"Miss Smits is an uncommonly musical guitarist: she has nimble fingers, a prismatic sense of timbre, and a serene dignity that informs all she plays."
Tim Page, New York Times
Belgian classical guitarist Raphaella Smits
was the first woman to be awarded the coveted First Prize in Spain's Certamen Internacional de Guitarra Francisco Tarrega Competition. Since then she has toured the world many times over, performing frequently in the music capitols of Western and Eastern Europe and in North and South America.
A persuasive advocate of both the modern eight string and 19th century classical guitars, she studied music at the Royal Conservatories of Antwerp and Brussels, and was a student of Jose Tomas at the Catedra Andres Segovia in Spain.
Ms. Smits' much sought after recordings on the Accent label are distinguished for their "lyricism, sentiment and passion" (American Record Guide). Her most recent C.D. is "The Eight-Stringed Bach" Accent Records (ACC 24206). Raphaella Smits is Professor of Guitar and Chamber Music at the renowned Lovain Lemmens Institute in Belgium.
Raphaella Smits grew up in an artistic family. Her father René Smits is a sculptor and an amateur violinist. Her mother Carolien Van Giel was a teacher in the Waldorf kindergarden and an amateur pianist. Her brother Johan Smits was a professional violinist.
During her childhood, Raphaella Smits enjoyed singing in a choir and participated in several productions of the Royal Flemish Opera of Antwerp. At the Waldorf School she learned to play the whole recorder family (the vertical flutes soprano, alto, tenor and bass). Seeing that she enjoyed singing so much, her parents bought her a guitar to accompany herself. After a few months of simple chord strumming, however, twelve-year-old Raphaella became frustrated and asked her music teacher Ward de Beer (whose instrument was the violin) for help.
"Of course," he responded. "Next month Andrès Segovia is giving a recital in Brussels. I shall go to observe him and I'll tell you what I have learned." Seeing the great Spanish master of the guitar, did nothing to dampen the violinist's guitaristic self-confidence. "Now I know how to do it," he told Raphaella upon his return. "Put your left hand here, hold your right hand like this, put your left foot on this stack of books and just play!" And play she did.
After a short while the consensus at the Smits family was that it was time to move on. "Which teacher should we contact?" they asked. "It makes no difference," said the violinist. "Even if she learns from a baker, she will inevitably become a guitarist!" True prophecy in our own time.
At the age of 13 Raphaella Smits went to study guitar with Victor Van Puyenbroeck at the music academy in Mechelen. Besides guitar, she also took courses in solfège, music history, and chamber music. She continued with the same teacher at the Kunsthumaniora (a secondary school focused on the arts) and after that at the Royal Conservatory of Antwerp. Victor Van Puyenbroeck encouraged Raphaella to take part in the summer classes of José Tomàs in Spain. She was 16. Raphaella spent five consecutive summers with Tomàs in Alicante and in Santiago de Compostella. Not only did she benefit from Tomàs' wonderful instruction, but meeting so many good players from all over the world, she has commented, "was very stimulating and a lot of fun!"
The importance of José Tomàs was enormous. He was a fantastic musician and in a way the go-between to connect his students with old masters like De Falla, Manén, Mompou, Rodrigo, Segovia, Torroba, Turina.... And it was 'Pepe' who made Raphaella Smits a firm believer in the musical qualities of the eight string guitar.
During those years, the 1970s, Raphaella continued to sing in different choirs, she learned to play the traverse flute and the lute, and followed a guitar master-class with Oscar Ghiglia in Paris. She got interested in Early Music and attended enthusiastically lectures, classes and concerts by pioneering early music artists Jos van Immerseel, René Jacobs, the Kuijken brothers, Konrad Junghanel, Eugene Dombois, and many others.
In 1979 Raphaella Smits enrolled in the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels where her teachers were Albert Sundermann and Jef Goor. She received her concert diploma in 1981. (Learn More: An Interview with Raphaella Smits by Brad DeRoche, PhD)
Raphaella Smits is represented by Dan McDaniel, LLC
40 West Avenue
Riverside, IL 60546
DanMcDaniel@live.comArtist's Website: www.rsmits.com