Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Composer and Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith Named 2021 USA Fellow by United States Artists

Smith is one of sixty artists across ten creative disciplines to receive this unrestricted $50,000 cash award.

Composer and Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith Named 2021 USA Fellow by United States Artists

Iconic composer and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith has been named a 2021 USA Fellow by United States Artists. The award honors Smith's creative accomplishments and supports his ongoing artistic and professional development.

"We're thrilled to include Wadada Leo Smith in our 2021 fellowship class," says United States Artists' Program Director Lynnette Miranda. "The panelists were drawn not only to Wadada's singular voice as one of the most important living American composers, but also his legacy as one of the architects of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), an organization crucial to nurturing visionary talent and cultivating exciting new music. Wadada's innovative approach to composition and musicianship make him a clear fit within this group of bold artists shaping our country today."

Smith is one of sixty artists across ten creative disciplines to receive this unrestricted $50,000 cash award. USA Fellowships are awarded to artists at all stages of their careers and from all areas of the country through a rigorous nomination and panel selection process. Fellowships are given in the following disciplines: Architecture & Design, Craft, Dance, Film, Media, Music, Theater & Performance, Traditional Arts, Visual Art, and Writing.

Since 2006, the USA Fellowship has provided direct support to artists across the country. With this unrestricted award, Fellows decide for themselves how to best use the money-whether it is creating new work, paying rent, reducing debt, getting healthcare, or supporting their families. To make its work possible, United States Artists actively fundraises each year and is supported by a broad range of philanthropic foundations, companies, and individuals committed to cultivating contemporary culture across the country.

About United States Artists
United States Artists is a national arts funding organization based in Chicago, IL. We raise money and redistribute it in the form of unrestricted awards to the country's most compelling artists and cultural practitioners. Since our founding in 2006, we have awarded more than 700 individuals with over $33 million of direct support. Additional information is available at unitedstatesartists.org.

About Wadada Leo Smith
Trumpeter, multi-instrumentalist and composer 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 body of work. A finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music, he received the 2016 Doris Duke Artist 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, and in 2019 he received the UCLA Medal, the University's highest honor.

Smith regularly earns multiple spots on the DownBeat International Critics Poll. In 2017 he topped three categories: Best Jazz Artist, Trumpeter of the Year and Jazz Album of the Year, and was featured as the subject of a cover story in August 2017. The Jazz Journalists Association also honored Smith as their 2017 Musician of the Year as well as 2017 Duo of the Year for his work with Vijay Iyer. The JJA named him their 2016 Trumpeter of the Year, 2015 Composer of the Year, and 2013 Musician of the Year, and he has earned top billing in two categories in the JazzTimes Critics Poll as Artist of the Year and Composer of the Year.

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 the musicians who perform them. In 2016, these scores were also featured in exhibitions at the Hammer Museum, and the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and Kadist in San Francisco.

Born December 18, 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 environment of his times with passion and fierce intelligence. His most recent recording is 2019's Rosa Parks: Pure Love, an Oratorio of Seven Songs. 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." Writing about Smith's 2017 album Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk in the New York Review of Books, Adam Shatz notes: "For all the minimalism of his sound, Smith has turned out to be a maximalist in his ambitions, evolving into one of our most powerful storytellers, an heir to American chroniclers like Charles Ives and Ornette Coleman."

www.wadadaleosmith.com

Photo credit: Jimmy Katz


Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes, and More from Your Favorite Broadway Stars

Related Articles View More Classical Music Stories

More Hot Stories For You