Ursula Smith began her studies with Emma Ferrand and then learnt with Ralph Kirshbaum at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. She was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study with Aldo Parisot at Yale University, where she graduated with a Master of Music degree .She also partciptated in masterclasses with Janos Starker, William Pleeth and Pierre Fournier.
As a soloist she has worked with conductors such as Mark Wigglesworth, Jorma Panula,Nicholas Kraemer and Andrew Litton.,and appeared with orchestras such as the Philharmonia and the Goldberg Ensemble. In 1995 she gave the British première of Nigel Osborne’s cello concerto with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and also toured South America playing John Tavener’s Eternal Memory.
As a chamber musician she was a finalist in the 1993 Osaka International Chamber Music Competition in Japan. She has recorded the complete Beethoven Folk songs for piano trio and voice for Deutsche Grammophon, and given recitals and recorded for BBC Radio 3 with the pianists Malcolm Martineau and Aleksandar Madzar. Her chamber music concerts include work with Peter Donohoe, Stephen Isserlis, Stephen Hough and Gordan Nikolic, and she has played at the Wigmore Hall, Merkin Hall and Alice Tully in New York. She has appeared in the 2001 International Cello Festival in Manchester, Bergen Contemporary Music Festival and La Jolla Chamber Music Festival in California, and has attended the International Musicians Seminar Open Chamber Music in Prussia Cove in Cornwall many times.
From 2006 to 2012 Ursula was the cellist of the Zehetmair String Quartet. She performed with the quartet in all the major European venues- concerts include performances at the Berlin and Köln Philharmonie, the Concertgebouw, and at the Zürich Tonhalle. There were also major tours of Japan and America, including Carnegie Hall. Festivals include Cheltenham, Aldeburgh, Schleswig Holstein and the 2010, 11 and 12 Salzburg Festivals.The quartet plays mostly from memory, and is committed to the performance of lesser known works, especially from the twentieth century. It is also committed to research, studying original manuscripts and analysis of the works they perform. Other highlights of her work with the quartet included a 2007 Schumann quartet cycle at the Wigmore Hall, and taking part in Elliot Carter’s 100th birthday celebrations in 2009 in New York. Recordings with the quartet include a 2007 ECM recording of Bartok’s 5th quartet and Hindemith’s quartet opus22. This recording was given the Diapason d’Or for 2007 in the category of chamber music in France and was shortlisted for a Grammophone award in the UK. In 2013 ECM has released a double cd of the quartet as a memorial tribute to the quartet’s original cellist Francoise Groben. Ursula is playing on the discs of Beethoven opus 135, Bruckner quartet and Heinz Holliger’s second string quartet, which was written for the group.
Ursula Smith now lives in Copenhagen.She is a cello professor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and Conservatorium Maastricht in Holland. She has also given guest classes at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland,the Universität der Künste, Berlin and Hochschule für Musik in Hannover . Masterclasses given with the quartet include , -classes for the Bern Hochschule für Musik and masterclasses for Japanese students at the Suntory Hall in Tokyo in 2007.
With the help of grants from the Performing Rights Society and the Ralph Vaughan Williams Trust, Ursula set up a “Britten reimagined “project for the centenary of the composer’s birth in 2013. She commissioned two contemporary composers: Sally Beamish and Jacob Anderskov to write new works for solo cello to be performed alongside the three Britten cello suites. The priemieres took place in festivals in Denmark and England in summer 2013.In 2014 Ursula has been invited to be a part of the jury for International Mozart competition for string quartets in Salzburg, where she also gave masterclasses.
Ursula was Prinicpal Cello of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra from 1993-2002, she has also guest leadthe cello sections of City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Northern Sinfonia and the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra.