“[All the weddings I play at are] all special because I’m playing the music that the bride loves. There’s no cookie-cutter wedding,” Linda says when asked about her favorite memories as a performing pianist. Linda Smith- a lifelong Beaverton resident- is the owner of “Notes of Celebration LLC” where people can hire her to play at weddings, memorials and other special occasions. In an age where DJs and fun choreographed flash mobs reign supreme, she is bringing a different approach to making events memorable.
“Notes of Celebration is all about connection.” Playing for people who value live music, playing their favorite song as they walk down the aisle is something special, Linda says. “When I got married, I chose music that I really loved. And so the whole ceremony was really special for me… that experience kind of propelled me to know that the music I played needed to be meaningful to my audience.”
Linda creates this connection by bringing a personal touch to the songs people love. “[W]hen I play for an event, I want to play music that the majority of people grew up with- when I play in a retirement home, I play the music of the 40’s, 50’s, Broadway and light classics so that it really relates to them.” While studio-recorded songs are nice to listen to, having a live musician opens the door for an audience to have an interactive experience with a song. Nowadays when a song is produced, it is not done in one take but several so later audio engineers can piece and layer together the best recordings. This is very different from when a musician plays a song live- the audience is able to see the instrument and witness the musician in action. A musician will add their own energy and flair to a piece, creating a unique version of the song that cannot be recreated after the performance is over.
People seem to appreciate Linda’s live music especially as well. “I’ve gotten a marriage proposal at a retirement home” she says. “This one guy- he asked me if I was married. I said yes and he said- well don’t you think it’s time for a change?”
This unusual compliment isn’t surprising, given Linda’s 20+ year experience as a professional pianist. As a teenager, she started playing piano and the organ publicly every Sunday for church service. At 20 she was accompanying high school musicals, community theatre, ensemble competitions, and other events. A Master’s degree in music education, 7 years as an elementary school music teacher and 20+ years doing private piano lessons later, she decided to leave behind teaching and commit herself fully as a wedding and event pianist. In 2002 she started “Notes of Celebration” and hasn’t looked back since. Linda performs throughout Portland Metro, all the way from Vancouver, Washington down to Salem.
Like so many others, Linda found that she had to shift when the pandemic hit in 2019. In-person gatherings were heavily restricted and the events industry saw a major decline. She had to find different ways to keep working. She took a creative approach and started playing requested songs for customers over Facebook. Along with this, she continued playing in retirement homes. “During the lockdown, you know, no one could go into the retirement homes, so they were really needing the arts… [Music] brings healing and joy” says Linda.
Now, business has slowly been picking up but remains unpredictable. “I’m still playing at quite a few retirement homes. And I [played] for several dinners and events in December. But there are still a lot of companies that are not doing their traditional dinners because of COVID.”
Despite these struggles, she continues to pursue her passion and bring light into the lives of others through her work with Notes of Celebration. “[My grandfather] told me- Linda, when you play the piano, always touch the heartstrings… Music that touches the heartstrings, that’s my tagline.”
You can find more information about Notes of Celebration online at www.notesofcelebration.com and on Facebook and Instagram accounts under the username @notesofcelebration. For more information about Linda Smith visit www.facebook.com/lindarsmith.
About the Author: Leina‘ala Voss
Leina‘ala currently oversees communications for Tualatin Valley Creates as the Marketing & Development Manager. Her creativity, passion for the arts and background in digital media drives her work as an arts administrator and communicator. Previously, her writings focused on healthcare news and sociological research at Northwest Permanente and Hawaii Permanente Medical Group. She graduated from Grinnell College in 2019 with a BA in Sociology. For more information about Leina‘ala visit www.linkedin.com/in/leinaalavoss.