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Passion for music drives Langroise Trio cellist

When The College of Idaho’s Langroise Trio members audition a student to pursue a music performance major, they are very selective. Getting paid to play an instrument is tough. Earning enough to live off is tougher. Students who have the talent and can’t fathom a career outside of music are ideal. Then the hard work begins.

Langroise Trio cellist Sam Smith never gave much thought to what he wanted to be when he grew up; the path always seemed littered with music notes. Sure, his father was a minister and Smith toyed with the idea of following in his footsteps. Sure, he knew a lot of farmers in his home state of Indiana. But being a farmer always sounded too hard.

"People get a kick out of that because being a professional musician, auditioning and getting a job is highly competitive and a very tough row to hoe,” Smith said, the pun perhaps unintended.

Smith even had a report date to the Indianapolis Police Academy. But each of these professions were tumble weeds blowing by. None grappled for Smith’s attention like a career in music. And it was his love for music that landed Smith on The College of Idaho campus as the first Langroise Trio member in 1991.

But Smith wasn’t born with cello in one hand and bow in the other. It took a humpty-dumpty experience of falling apart in an audition to wake him up to the effort required to be a professional musician.

While at Ball State University, Smith was one of 100 to audition with the Cincinnati Orchestra. The pressure got to him. One part nerves and one part unpreparedness caused Smith to come apart in some of the excerpts, and afterward, one of the violinists in the orchestra came up to him.

“When you started playing, we took notice and were really interested in you,” she said. “But you obviously don’t have any idea of the level of preparation necessary, so take a look at that.’”

Immediately, Smith’s practice regimen changed, and his professor, Joseph Saunders, took notice.

“You’ve switched from an underachiever to an overachiever,” he told Smith.

Smith was able to put it back together again and win his next audition with the Florida Symphony. From there he spent a year with a rhythm and blues club in Florida before landing in the Fort Wayne Philharmonic as principal cellist. In the summers, he serenaded Chicagoans on the lawns of Grant Park as assistant principal cellist.

But none of that would have been possible if Smith did not heed his wake-up call and started preparing like a professional.

And that’s one of the things the Langroise Trio trains students to do; to thoroughly learn a piece and have it ready for performance. Having a piece pretty much ready is not going to cut it, Smith said.

“That material needs to be so totally learned that you can play it in your sleep,” Smith said.

Smith likens an orchestra audition to the 100 meter dash in the Olympics. If there is a stumble out of the blocks, your whole race can be ruined. To combat that, preparation needs to be done at an Olympic level. Luckily for students at The College of Idaho, they can learn from three Olympic-level performers who double as coaches and mentors.

And those coaches have watched scores of their students capture gold, winning seats with the Boise Philharmonic and other orchestras.

“That’s the big reward of it,” Smith said. “That’s the whole ‘why’ of the Langroise Trio.”

Founded in 1891, The College of Idaho is the state’s oldest private liberal arts college. The C of I has a legacy of academic excellence, a winning athletics tradition and a history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars and 14 Marshall, Truman and Goldwater Scholars. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. For more information, visit