Born: May 10, 1957 Primary Instrument: Trombone
Tom Smith is a five time Senior Fulbright Professor of Music at the Romanian National University of Music, Lecturer of Social and Political Affairs in the School of American Studies at the University of Bucharest, Tibiscus University in Timisoara, and an active member of the Fulbright Professional Specialist Program, having taught and performed extensively at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Jazz Center, in Durban, South Africa. For seven years he was Director of Instrumental Music at Pfeiffer University, near Charlotte, North Carolina. Once called part trombonist, part music missionary by Downbeat Magazine , Smith was introduced to fine arts at an early age by his father, a noted trombonist and painter. After attending the University of North Texas, he received his bachelors degree from the University of Southern Mississippi and a masters from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He was the longest continuous member of the North Carolina Artist-in-Residence Program (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 group was the Unifour Big Band, the first Downbeat National Champions, and seventh place finishers in that magazine's 1988 Readers Poll. In that same poll, Smith placed fifth in the trombone category, tying Carl Fontana. As an improvising soloist, he has performed and toured with Louie Bellson, Clark Terry, McCoy Tyner, Joe Henderson, Chris Potter, the New York Voices, Nicholas Payton, Herb Ellis, Donald Byrd and the Manhattan Transfer. 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. From 1997, he developed a well deserved reputation as North Carolina's most ambitious collegiate wind symphony conductor, having presided over memorable performances that showcased some of the most difficult orchestral transcriptions in existence. Still never venturing far from jazz, Smith's university big bands have received championships and/or superior ratings from numerous celebrated festivals. Smith is also a noted music historian and researcher. He is routinely published, and presents research 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. Since 2002, Smith's work in Romania has drawn wide attention in the field of jazz education. Called by a former Fulbright Executive Director the premminent Fulbright Scholar in Romanian history, Smith is the only foreigner to have been awarded The Romanian National Radio Prize (Romania's highest musical honor). Most recently, he founded and coordinated the Tibiscus University Jazz Seminar, the first summer music camp staged in Romania, and helped found (along with Romanian Johnny Bota) the first western styled jazz music college in that country.
In 2008, Smith was presented the Jazz Ambassador Award, the preemininent advocacy award in jazz education.
Outside of music, Smith has developed a cult following for his book The Tahchee Chronicles, a favorite with readers of science fiction and Native American subjects. 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.