Faculty/Staff Directory

Wadada Leo Smith

Coordinator, African American Improvisational Music

Composition; Performance: Trumpet

Website: http://music.calarts.edu/~wls


Phone: 661.255.1050 x2049

Fax: 661.255.0938

Room: B204

Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith has been active in the creative contemporary music world for over 30 years. A trumpet player, multi-instrumentalist, composer and improviser, his original theory of jazz and world music has been significant in his musical development as an artist and educator. Born in Leland, Miss., Smith's early musical life began in high school concert and marching bands. At the age of 13, he became immersed in the Delta Blues and improvisational music traditions. He received his formal musical education with his father, the U.S. military band program (1963), Sherwood School of Music (1967-69) and Wesleyan University (1975-76). As an improvisor-composer, Smith has studied a variety of music cultures (African, Japanese, Indonesian, European and American) and to fully express this music, he has developed an original theory and notation system for jazz and world music which he calls Ankhrasmation. He has taught at the University of New Haven (1975-76), the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, N.Y., (1975-78) and Bard College (1987-93). In 1993 he was appointed as the initial holder of the Dizzy Gillespie Chair at CalArts. He is a member of B.M.I., AMRA and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Smith's awards include Meet the Composer/Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Commissioning Program (1990 and 1996); Asian Cultural Council Grantee to Japan (June-August 1993); New York Foundation on the Arts Fellowship in Music (1990); numerous Meet the Composer Grants since 1977; and the National Endowment for the Arts Music Grants (1972, 1974 and 1981). Smith's music philosophy Notes (8 Pieces), Source of a New World Music: Creative Music was published by Kiom Press in 1973, and translated and published in Japan by Zen-On Music Company Ltd. in 1976. In 1981, Notes was translated into Italian and published by Nistri-Litschi Editori. In 1996 he was invited to a conference of artists, scientists and philosophers in Denmark-Third Culture Copenhagen-and presented a paper on his Ankhrasmation music theory and notational system for creative musicians. He recorded an interview for Danish television which was broadcast in September, 1996. He has composed music for solo, ensemble, classical and creative orchestra, and stage works. His solo piano music has been performed by Ursula Oppens, Marilyn Crispell, David Rosenboom and Vicky Ray. Smith's Nda-Kulture ensemble has performed most of his music since 1970. His compositions have also been performed by other leading contemporary music ensembles, including the AACM Orchestra, Kronos Quartet, Da Capo Chamber Player, New Century Players, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, University of Chicago Contemporary Chamber Players, S.E.M. Ensemble and the California E.A.R. Unit. Smith's music for multi-ensembles has been performed since 1969, and his largest work "Odwira" for 12 multi-ensemble units was performed at CalArts in March, 1995. His Noh piece "Heart Reflections" was performed in Merkin Concert Hall, N.Y., in November 1996. His most recent releases are Kulture Jazz, Tao - Njia, and Golden Hearts Remembrance. Some of the artists Smith has performed with are Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, Leroy Jenkins, Roscoe Mitchell, Lester Bowie, Richard Teitelbaum, Joseph Jarman, George Lewis, Cecil Taylor, Andrew Cyrill, Oliver Lake, Anthony Davis, Carla Bley, David Murray, Don Cherry, Jeanne Lee, Milton Campbell, Henry Brant, Richard Davis, Tadao Sawai, Ed Blackwell, Sabu Toyozumi, Peter Kowald, Kazuko Shiraishi, Han Bennink, Misja Mengelberg, Marion Brown, Kazutoki Umezu, Kosei Yamamoto, Charlie Haden, Kang Tae Hwan, Kim Dae Hwan and Tom Buckner, among many others.

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