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World-renowned operatic tenor Robert Dean Smith (BS ‘80) grew up in the tiny town of Chetopa, Kansas, and once dreamed of making music his career. Two degrees in music from PSU helped put him on the path. 

In October, he returned home for two concerts with PSU students and faculty, one on campus in the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts and one at the esteemed Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City — an experience of a lifetime, students said.   

The Kauffman concert was sponsored by three other PSU alumni: Miles Schnaer (‘71), Paula Schnaer (‘72), and their daughter, Mandi Schnaer Dow (‘99), who own Crown Automotive in Lawrence, Kansas. 

“To have performed at the  

Kauffman with a musician like Robert Dean Smith is truly a dream,” said Amelia Markley, of Joplin, Missouri, a graduate student majoring in orchestral conducting and a member of the Southeast Kansas Symphony at Pittsburg State University.  

Like Markley, Smith spent a great deal of time in McCray Hall. He graduated with two bachelor’s degrees in music and went on to complete his master’s at New York’s famed Juilliard School.  

“I knew that there was another world out there — the music world,” Smith said. “But I didn’t have any access to it. I was able to find that world, or at least was able to get started in it, at Pittsburg State.”  

Smith has earned awards and accolades performing in opera houses around the world, including from Barcelona to Zürich. He has performed in concert with the Vienna Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, and many, many more notable and prestigious groups.