Trumpeter, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and improviser Wadada Leo Smith is one of the most boldly original and influential artists of his time. Transcending the bounds of genre or idiom, he distinctly defines his music, tirelessly inventive in both sound and approach, as "Creative Music."

For the last five decades, Smith has been a member of the legendary AACM collective, pivotal in its wide-open perspectives on music and art in general. He has carried those all-embracing concepts into his own work, expanding upon them in myriad ways.

Throughout his career, Smith has been recognized for his groundbreaking work. A finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Price in Music, he received the 2016 Doris Duke Award and earned an honorary doctorate from CalArts, where he was also celebrated as Faculty Emeritus. In addition, he received the Hammer Museum's 2016 Mohn Award for Career Achievement "honoring brilliance and resilience." In 2018 he received the Religion and The Arts Award from the American Academy of Religion.

In October 2015 The REnaissance Society at the University of Chicago presented the first comprehensive exhibition of Smith's Ankhrasmation scores, which use non-standard visual directions, making them works of art in themselves as well as igniting creative sparks in musicians who perform them.

Born in December, 1941, in Leland, Mississippi, Smith's early musical life began at age thirteen when he became involved with the Delta blues and jazz traditions performing with his stepfather, bluesman Alex Wallace. He received his formal musical education from the U.S. Military band program (1963), the Sherwood School of Music (1967-69), and Wesleyan University (1975-76).

Smith has released more than 50 albums as a leader on labels including ECM, Moers, Black Saint, Tzadik, Pi Recordings, TUM, Leo and Cuneiform. His diverse discography reveals a recorded history centered around important issues that have impacted his world, exploring the social, natural, and political enviroment of his times with passion and fierce intelligence. Rosa Parks: Pure Love , an Oratorio of Seven Songs will be released on February 15, 2019 via TUM Records. His 2016 recording, America's National Parks earned a place on numerous best of the year lists including the New York Times, NPR Music and many others. Smith's landmark 2012 civil rights opus Ten Freedom Summers was called, "A staggering achievement [that] merits comparison to Coltrane's A Love Supreme in sobriety and reach."



Affiliated Faculty

Nina Sun Eidsheim, Musicology; Robin Kelley, African American Studies & History; Li Min, Asian Languages & Cultures, Anthropology, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology; Helen Rees, Ethnomusicology; Peter Sellars, World Arts & Cultures/Dance; Ray Knapp, Musicology; Steven Loza, Ethnomusicology; Daniel Seeff, Herbie Hancock Institute; Brett Steele, School of the Arts & Architecture





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