Renaissance man Eric Smeaton

By William McGinn

Eric Smeaton. Photo: William McGinn.

As a young teacher nearly 25 years ago, Eric Smeaton had mistakenly worn two different socks to work. He made up a joke about it on the spot. After he greeted his new class, he showed them his fashion choice and said, “Always remember: You want to be really cool? Make sure you’re wearing light on right,” simply because the lightest sock happened to be on his right foot.

Afterwards, some seventh graders began greeting him by saying, “Mr. Smeaton! I wore light on right!” He has kept up the joke ever since. This summer, Eric was invited to the baby shower of a student he taught 20 years ago. To his astonishment and delight, she showed him she’d put light on right on the baby.

It’s coming up on 25 years since Eric began his education odyssey, teaching every required subject some years and others just music, drama and dance. He has taught students from Grades 5 to 8 at Leslie Frost, King Albert, Central Senior and Rolling Hills public schools, and he spent a year as an instructional leader at the board office.

“I’ve had kids come back to me 15 years later to say, ‘I’m very grateful because you raised my bar,’ and the best parts of being a teacher are when you’re part of somebody’s growth,” he told the Advocate.

Eric is not just a teacher but also a musician who has been the drummer for many bands — more than he can remember. He started in bands and grew up around jazz music even before he got his degree in classical percussion at McGill University. While at McGill he got to travel and perform at American universities such as Harvard and Brown.

Shortly after graduating, Eric became a drummer and bandleader on cruise ships. His contracts have taken him to the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, South America, Central America, the United States, across Canada and into Europe and Northern Africa. Between contracts he worked in a pub in Montreal. He plays not only the drums, but piano as well.

Eric Smeaton. Photo: William McGinn.

Eric also has compositions under his belt. There’s one he wrote back in the mid-90s for percussion ensemble and trombone called “The Miracle of Pity,” and he recently learned a trombone player who has performed with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra wants to play it publicly. Another, called “The Clown,” based on the book by Heinrich Böll, he wrote for musician Paul Vaillancourt, who’s now a professor at Columbus State University and has a student who wants to play it this year.

Eric’s musical background has allowed him to open for and play alongside legendary Canadian musicians like Maynard Ferguson, Peter Appleyard, Mark Mazur and Peter Sullivan, while also keeping it going locally. He played nights at Lindsay’s Pane Vino restaurant once a month for five years.

Aside from music and teaching, Eric loves to play baseball with his son, Harrison, who has been playing the sport for years. Then there’s fishing, curling and archery, and most recently he has tried turkey hunting.

Alongside Harrison, his wife Sue, their dog, cat, and bird, Eric lives in Lindsay where people still say, “Mr. Smeaton, light on right!” when they bump into him.

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