'There it is': Pianist/composer Doug Smith has died at age 52
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By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
Doug Smith, the accomplished pianist and composer from Lubbock who continued making music even after a car accident left him a quadriplegic, died Sunday.
Smith was featured in the 2003 documentary There It Is, produced by Panhandle PBS (then simply known by our call letters, KACV).
It will be available for viewing online Tuesday and will rebroadcast on air at 8 p.m. Wednesday. (I'll update this post with a link and further details.) UPDATE: The special will air at 8 p.m. today, and it's available here for you to watch any time.
A West Texas native, Smith, 52, began playing on his aunt's Wurlitzer organ at age 2, quickly learning how to play songs by ear.
His first concert, he told Chris Oglesby in a 2000 interview, was at age 6 at Purple Sage Elementary School in Kermit.
By the end of the day, every elementary schoolteacher in Purple Sage had brought their class in for me to play for twenty or thirty minutes. So at the end of the day, I had played the whole day… And I was like, "Man, this is cool!"
After graduating from Kermit, Smith studied at Texas Tech University, but — despite releasing nine CDs and working as a professional composer and performer — he never had any formal musical training, which he discussed in There It Is.
"I think music is just there. It's out there, like the stars and the sun and the moon. So I think I just have an uncanny ability to hear it and focus in on what I heard and transfer the idea to the piano."
In 2007, Smith fell asleep while driving to his Petersburg home and flipped his pickup. Discovered hours later on the rural road, he was taken to a Lubbock hospital and was told he had broken his neck and was a quadriplegic.
He vowed to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and others to continue making music anyway.
"Those doctors do not know me. They don't know my heart. They don't know my desire. ... I am a composer and a musician. I have a family, and I will not stay in this chair forever."
Indeed, he did continue making music.
Smith spoke frankly about his accident and his fears in a 2010 video produced for Virtual Rehab, which provided a device to help him use the pedals on his piano.
"I take every day ... in gratitude. I wouldn't say my life is normal by any means now, but it's awesome. ... It's kind of hard to imagine this being a blessing, but as it's turned out, I think that's the way it is."
"Doug Smith: A West Texas Treasure"
His final project — a collaboration with photographer Wyman Meinzer and producer Charlie Stout, himself a Lubbock musician — was a video released in 2014.
"Between Heaven and Texas"
Smith spoke frequently about his love of music, before and after his accident. In the 2000 interview with Oglesby, he traced that love back to that first performance at age 6.
"Hey! This music thing connects me with people in a way that there is no other medium to make that connection with. To this day, everybody I’m connected with ... is because of this music; through this music. That’s the neatest thing."