#MNPSVoices: Jeff Smith, Director of Visual and Performing Arts
Not many people can say they discovered their life’s passion at the age of five, but that is the case for Jeff Smith, the new director of visual and performing arts at Metro Nashville Public Schools. Smith began playing the piano when he was five years old and that love grew for the arts during his high school years in choir, band and the drama club.
“Participation in the arts changed my life and changes the lives of the students we serve every day,” Smith said. “Many studies show that greater participation in quality, rigorous arts instruction leads to positive academic, social and emotional growth for students.”
Smith, who taught music for more than 10 years and, most recently, served as the director of visual and performing arts for Duval County Public Schools, relocated to Nashville with his wife and three children in September. Although he is a new addition to the MNPS family, he is excited to get to work.
“[I] look forward to working together with all stakeholders to further public education and the local arts community,” Smith said.
Visiting classrooms and seeing students’ work in action is one of Smith’s favorite parts of his job, but he also enjoys collaborating with community organizations and leaders to provide support for students and teachers.
“Shortly after accepting the position of director of arts in [Duval County Public Schools], I learned that many of our music students lacked the instruments necessary to participate and achieve success in the music programs,” Smith said. “By working with many nonprofit and business partners, we collected over 200 used instruments and donations from community members. [We] immediately put those instruments in the hands of students who needed them.”
Smith adds, “This experience and many others have taught me the value of perseverance, hard work, collaboration and the need to provide the resources necessary for every child to reach his or her full potential.”
While some may not consider visual and performing arts as important to a student’s success as academic classes, Smith disagrees. “The arts are an essential part of a well-rounded education and provide students with the opportunity to express their creativity, build 21st-century skills and achieve excellence.”