Walt Szymanski began his musical journey from a small home on the east side of Detroit that was constantly resonating with the sound of music. Listening to his mother play and sing the Broadway standards on the family piano and hearing the records of Nat Cole, Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie and Al Hirt as well as the constant refrains of the ever present Motown sound presented him a tremendous musical foundation upon which to build.
The age of seven found Walt as a soprano soloist in the 120 voice, all male choir of St. Raymond in the Archdiocese of Detroit. He made his first professional appearance at that time, singing as well as soloing in front of an audience of 3000 at Ford Auditorium. As the choir began to performed more in orchestral situations, Walt was able to hear the beautiful sonority of the trumpet as it soared above the masses. His love quickly changed from vocalizing to playing the trumpet and upon entering high school he quickly captured first chair in wind ensemble and orchestra as well as playing lead trumpet in the jazz big band and school pit orchestra. In his senior year of high school, Walt was presented the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia award for the Best Jazz Trumpet in the State of Michigan.
After a brief flirtation with medical studies, and a year of classical trumpet studies at the University of Michigan, Walt transferred to Oakland University in Rochester, Mi., where an emerging Jazz Studies Program under the direction of Marvin Doc Holladay seemed to be the direction he wanted to pursue. The jazz program, which drew it's faculty from the great jazz musicians staffing Motown records, included trumpet artists Marcus Belgrave and Herbie Williams, saxophonists Sam Sanders and Donald Washington, bassists Ed Pickens and Ali Jackson, pianists Harold McKinney and Johnny Allen and drummers Jimmy Allen and Pistol Allen. At Oakland, Walt got first hand experience performing with Jazz greats Clark Terry, Thad Jones, Frank Foster, Dangerous Dan Turner, Phil Woods, Joe Farrell and John Clark.