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From Buffo to Old Man

Photo:  Tyler Smith '13

Tyler Smith ‘13/’15 has sung for both former Presidents Bush.  He’s sung in London, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Beijing, and Shanghai.  He even attended a Yell Practice on the Great Wall of China.  But no matter where he performs—be it halfway around the world or at a memorial in Cowboys Stadium—the Castle Hills, TX, native takes pride in the fact that he and his fellow Singing Cadets serve as ambassadors, sharing the spirit and traditions of Texas A&M University everywhere they go.


Of course, Tyler first experienced that spirit and those traditions at home.


“I kind of grew up in an Aggie family,” he admits with a smile.  “My grandfather graduated in ’61 with a degree in civil engineering.  My uncle graduated in ’85, also with a degree in civil engineering.  My father went here, too.  So I knew about the culture.”


He entered A&M as a math major, because “I’ve always enjoyed the elegance of mathematics.”  In his junior year, he decided to add a minor in computer science, only to discover that all the things he liked about math—logic, number theory, patterns, rigorous structures—were also found in this new field of study.  Ergo, after earning the credits needed for his bachelor’s in 2013, Tyler started work on a master’s in computer science.  He’s not sure where he will go from there, but he’s hoping his graduate research projects will lead him in the right direction.


From Buffo to Old Man 

Most would-be Singing Cadets audition during the summer at New Student Conferences, but a fall class conflict with the group’s regular rehearsal time pushed Tyler’s tryout to Spring 2010.  He made the cut as a baritone, only to learn the group was traveling to Dallas in a couple weeks.  He was expected to go along … and learn 2.5 hours’ worth of music before they left!  Music is, after all, priority one.


“Your first year in the group, you’re called a Buffo (boo-foh),” he explains.  (Buffo being Italian for a clown at the opera.)  “And our first emphasis is on getting the music ready, because oftentimes, we’ll have a performance 4 days after new members are inducted, especially in the fall.”


You might think learning all that music in so little time would be challenge enough, but the Buffos have more to do. 


“Because we represent A&M when we go on tour,” says Tyler, “we have to make sure they know Aggie traditions and can talk about the history of the group and the university.  They have to be able to explain the Core Values of Texas A&M and what those represent.  They spend the next two semesters learning what it means to be a Singing Cadet and an ambassador for A&M, then they become Old Men, with the job of mentoring the  next bunch of new guys.”


Tyler has gone from Buffo to Old Man to President of the Singing Cadets.  As president, he’s in charge of the officer corps, which includes the vice president, tour manager, public relations manager and business manager.  He makes sure every member has everything he needs to be successful, both in the group and in school.  He even introduces the group at the beginning of each concert, often warming up the audience with a joke or two.  Despite the important role he plays, he’s adamant about the fact that this is no one-man show.


“We have all worked very hard at developing a family,” he says.


Meaningful memories 

As the “Voice of Aggieland,” the Singing Cadets often find themselves performing in emotionally laden venues and situations.  Take this past semester, for example, when the group was asked to perform at Navy SEAL Chris Kyle’s memorial, held in Cowboy Stadium.  The opportunity to represent their group, their university, and their country, while honoring a great gentleman and veteran was, says Tyler, incredibly meaningful.


Then there are the smaller venues, with smaller crowds, no less meaningful.


“A couple of times in San Antonio,” Tyler recalls, “we stopped at a veteran retirement community—so, not a big crowd.  One of the last songs we sing is “God Bless the USA,” and we’re accustomed to people standing up during that song.  But to see these ladies and gentlemen, many of whom could only stand with incredible difficulty, stand during that song ….”  He shakes his head.  “There haven’t been a whole lot of times when I’ve been singing and had to hold back tears, but that was one of them.  Imagine being able to give back to people like that and represent Texas A&M, just by doing something we enjoy.”




Additional information on the Singing Cadets can be found at  Although The Voice of Aggieland is an all-male group, Music Activities offers vocal opportunities for any interested student through the Women’s Chorus ( and /or the mixed choir, Century Singers ( 


Submitted by:
Kathy DiSanto, Communications Specialist
Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs


Photo by:
Rico Balakit





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