Tom Smith is currently the Senior Fulbright Professor of Music at the Romanian National University of Music in Bucharest, and the Director of Instrumental Music at Pfeiffer University, near Charlotte, North Carolina USA. For many years he has been one of the Southeastern United States’ most visible music personalities. Downbeat Magazine once called Smith “part trombonist, part music missionary.” He developed a love for music at an early age when his father, a noted jazz and classical trombonist, instilled in him a passion for all genres of serious music. After attending the University of North Texas, he received his bachelors degree from the University of Southern Mississippi and a masters degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. For four years, he led many award-winning high school and middle school bands. Smith was the longest continuous member of the prestigous North Carolina Artist-in-Residence Program, when he served at three different North Carolina community colleges from 1984-1992. It was during this time that he founded some of the most critically acclaimed community and regional jazz ensembles in America, while performing for over two-million people. Smith’s best known ensemble was the Unifour Jazz Ensemble, an eighteen-piece big band of much renown. They were the first Musicfest USA National Champions and placed eighth in the 1988 Downbeat Readers Poll. In that same poll, Smith placed fifth in the trombone category, tieing the legendary Carl Fontana. As an improvising soloist, he has performed and toured with Louie Bellson, Clark Terry, McCoy Tyner, Joe Henderson, the New York Voices, Nicholas Payton, Herb Ellis, Donald Byrd and the Glenn Miller Orchestra. In 1995, he served as a musical director for Norwegian Cruise Lines, after serving for two years as the feasability study coordinator for a multimillion dollar music facility. Tom Smith’s eclectic musical interests have always been deeply rooted in classical music. Since 1997, he has developed a well deserved reputation as the Carolina’s most ambitious collegiate wind symphony conductor, having presided over memorable performances that have showcased some of the most difficult orchestral transcriptions in existence. Still never venturing far from jazz, Smith’s university big bands from Pfeiffer University receive Superior ratings from numerous prestigous festivals, including the Reno Jazz Festival, a competition considered to be one of the most difficult in the world. Smith is also a noted music historian and researcher. He is routinely published, and presents papers at international conferences that cover the widest range of subject material, from solving the murder of clarinetist Frank Teschemacher, to (along with research partner Gary Westbrook) identifying the “musical fingerprint” for the identification of unidentified personnel on early recordings. Writer Cordell McQueen once commented that Tom Smith was the kind of artistic and administrative visionary who would never be appreciated in his own lifetime. Here is a person who can initiate the founding of over forty large ensembles, create organizational techniques that are used all over the world, and keep up his chops, while at the same time delve into topics as far fetched as Cherokee spirituality, while still successfully juggling a vibrant family life. The fact that he has spent most of his career forwarding a mostly rural agenda will probably keep him out of most texts, but he should be there all the same.
iSeptember 22, 2002 was the day when my family (wife Sarah and son Matt) and I arrived in Bucharest, Romania to begin a series of remarkable adventures. In my role as Senior Fulbright Professor of Music at the Romanian National University of Music and the University of Bucharest, I lead the university jazz ensemble, teach music history and improvisation, lecture weekly on the parallels of sociology and American music, lead the newly founded Romanian National Jazz Ensemble, and conduct the even newer Bucharest Pops Orchestra. It was nice to pick up the baton again after a hiatus of several months. As many of you know, I have of late been heavily involved in classical conducting, having since 1998 conducted Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, Strauss’s Don Juan, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, the Faure Requiem, the Holst Planets, Von Weber’s Second Clarinet Concerto, and Randall Thompson’s Testament of Freedom. Yet, I must say that a comprehensive year of jazz has been a very fulfilling experience. Fortunately, my supposed skills as an administrator seem to make a difference here. It is now easy to visual a coherent Bucharest arts infrastructure, due in no small part to the efforts of Fulbright predecessor Rick Condit and others. Bucharest is blessed with a wealth of talented musicians. Moreover, the people are friendly and the food is great. Still, I look forward to returning to my duties at Pfeiffer University in Fall, 2003. After all, Romania is a great place to visit, but America will always be home.
This new Tom Smith site has been constructed to address a need for organizing my rapidly evolving mental clutter. For once, I have made a realistic attempt to archive some of the better known articles and reviews. This way, people will never have to sift through the really obscure stuff, although I am certain there will inevitably be those who recoil in horror when they see some of the things I now consider note worthy. There is also a new forum page, an always growing clips page, something devoted to non music writings, and of course a section for the Romanian adventures…in other words, something for everybody.
A very wise person once told me life is what happens while you are making plans. A truer expression was never uttered. Yet, with change comes the more exciting probability of new frontiers. I guess sometimes you just have to open the door and walk inside.