Amistad Adds to Hale Smith Papers

Notebook containing a list of phonograph records, presumably collected by Hale Smith.

Notebook containing a list of phonograph records, presumably collected by Hale Smith.

Music-related holdings at the Amistad Research Center are as varied as music itself, ranging from jazz to classical and from spirituals to hip hop. Amistad is pleased to add to the papers of a musician whose own oeuvre has been described as “eclectic”. Since 2004, Amistad has housed the papers of jazz and classical composer, arranger, performer, and teacher Hale Smith. A new addition to the collection was recently received, which greatly expands the collection and documents further Smith’s career and collaborations.

Born on June 29, 1925, in Cleveland, Ohio, Smith began studying piano at the age of seven and played mellophone in high school. At the age of 16, he attracted the attention of Duke Ellington, who had been shown one of Smith’s compositions and offered advice to the young composer. Smith arranged music for shows touring Army camps in the U.S. South during World War II. Afterwards, he returned home and enrolled in the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied under Marcel Dick and Ward Lewis. In 1952, he won BMI’s first student composer award for his “Four Songs”. Smith moved to New York in 1958 and found work as an editor and consultant for music publishing houses while performing in New York City. In 1948, he married Juanita Hancock, with whom he raised four children: Robin, Michael, Eric, and Marcel.

Program for the first public performance and recording of Hale Smith's "Contours".

Program for the first public performance and recording of Hale Smith’s “Contours”.

The recent addition to the Smith papers includes correspondence (1958-2010) regarding projects, presentations and performances, greetings from fellow musicians, and correspondence amongst family members; photographs; programs, announcements, and invitations of performances by Smith, performances of his works, and tributes to him; and news clippings, press releases, publications, and writings by Smith (1953-2006). Also included are minutes for the New York State Council of the Arts, weekly planners and address books, copyright files, audio reels, music scores, books of poetry, and contracts. Correspondents include musician/poet/publisher Russell Atkins, musicians Dizzy Gillespie and Eric Dolphy, and poets Langston Hughes and Ted Joans.

he Center is currently organizing the Hale Smith papers and this important addition will be included in the final online finding aid, which will be available in the near future as part of a grant from the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation. A special thanks, as well, to Juanita Smith for her continued support of the Amistad Research Center and this most recent donation.

Undated photograph of Dizzy Gillespie, Hale Smith, and Benny Carter (l-r).

Undated photograph of Dizzy Gillespie, Hale Smith, and Benny Carter (l-r).

Detail of a flyer for the City College CUNY Department of Music with Hale Smith's annotation "My first 'lecture'!"

Detail of a flyer for the City College CUNY Department of Music with Hale Smith’s annotation “My first ‘lecture’!”

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