CalArts Oral History Interviews:Smith, Wadada Leo

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Wadada Leo Smith

Faculty, School of Music; 1996 - 2014


ISHMAEL WADADA LEO SMITH: trumpeter and multi-instrumentalist, composer and improviser has been active in creative contemporary music for over forty years. His systemic music language Ankhrasmation is significant in his development as an artist and educator.

Born in Leland, Mississippi, Smith's early musical life began in the high school concert and marching bands. At the age of thirteen, he became involved with the Delta Blues and Improvisation music traditions. He received his formal musical education with his stepfather Alex Wallace, the U.S. Military band program (1963), Sherwood School of Music (1967-69), and Wesleyan University (1975-76). Mr. Smith has studied a variety of music cultures: African, Japanese, Indonesian, European and American.

He has taught at the University of New Haven (1975-'76), the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, NY (1975-'78), and Bard College (1987-'93). He was a faculty member at The Herb Alpert School of Music at California Institute of the Arts 1996 - 2014.   He is the director of the African-American Improvisational Music program, and is a member of ASCAP, Chamber Music America, and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

Interview Excerpts

Interview information:

Interviewer: Douglas Kearney

Interview Dates & Length:

February 19, 2014: 2 hrs. 19 min.
February 20, 2014: 1 hr. 45 min.
February 21, 2014: 1 hr. 28 min.
April 3, 2104: 1 hr. 44 min.

Formats available:

Audio MP3


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