Director of Miami University Opera Theater will share about Christmas music’s history at the Fitton Center

HAMILTON — Ben Smolder, associate professor of voice at Miami University will be the featured speaker at the Fitton Center for Creative Arts for the holiday “Celebrating Self” luncheon series event Wednesday.

“Over the last couple of years, we really wanted to focus our December ‘Celebrating Self’ on Christmas and have a Christmas party, and a Christmas lunch in our beautiful ballroom,” said Ian MacKenzie-Thurley, executive director at the Fitton Center.

“Celebrating Self” featured the Buckeye Santas last year, and in 2021, “Christmas Lights with the Hormann’s” were the focus.

“We really wanted to keep that Christmas theme going and talk a little bit about Christmas, and the history and traditions of Christmas, and all those fun things that we’ve come to know and love, and like all our ‘Celebrating Self’ luncheons, it’s a chance to find out more. So, this year, we wanted to focus on that absolute favorite — Christmas music,” MacKenzie-Thurley said.

We wanted to delve into the history of the music, and particularly the songs of Christmas, going back to the early days with Christmas hymns and Christmas carols as well as other Christmas music, he said.

“This is a great opportunity for all of our patrons to come in, hear and talk about the history of Christmas music,” said MacKenzie-Thurley.

Smolder is an associate professor of voice, Director of Miami University Opera Theater, and Director Emeritus of the Schmidt Youth Vocal Competition. Smolder, a bass, has sung principal operatic roles internationally with opera companies in Prague, Vienna, Cairo and in Italy.

He has also performed with Cincinnati Opera, Central City Opera, Opera Pacific, Des Moines Opera, Opera Columbus, Nevada Opera, and the Dayton Opera.

“Ben is an award-winning lecturer, producer, and academic from Miami University. He’s a tenured professor there,” MacKenzie-Thurley said. “He’s also had great success as an opera producer.”

As a conductor and director, Smolder has received multiple awards from the National Opera Association for outstanding collegiate productions. During the summer months, he serves as a faculty member of the Festival of International Opera in San Paulo, Brazil and in Urbania, Italy.

“You’ve seen the fantastic programs we have for kids, the music we’ve done over the years with Nancy James, and the Cincinnati Contemporary Jazz Orchestra (CCJO,) and of course, with our Motown Christmas, so we’re huge fans of Christmas music at the Fitton Center. So, to have music as the focal point of ‘Celebrating Self’ always brings such fun and joy, particularly at Christmas time. It’s a thing that brings us together,” said MacKenzie-Thurley.

Accompanied by lunch, the luncheon series features speakers and topics that are interesting, diverse, and dynamic. On average, 70 to 100 guest’s turnout for the luncheon series.

How to go

What: “Celebrating Self” The Joy of Christmas with Ben Smolder

When: 11:30 a.m. Wednesday

Where: Fitton Center for Creative Arts, 101 S. Monument Ave., Hamilton

Cost: $21 for members; $27 for non-members. Two Women in a Kitchen who will provide a holiday fare for the event.

More info: or (513) 863-8873 ext. 110

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