Daniel Ian Smith

Associate Professor

"To me music has profound qualities; it is incredibly inspirational. I say to my classes, 'I want to believe that music grabbed you by the shirt, threw you up against the wall, and said, "You're going to pay attention to me."' But in a harmony or sight singing class, they may think, 'This is not what grabbed me by the shirt.' To show that what they're learning has a tremendous role in the aesthetic experience is vital."

"Given all the constructs we have to deliver, it would be easy to walk into class and throw a list up on the board. But I'd rather start with a piece of music and ask, 'What colors do you see? When you hear this section, what does it feel like?' I want to start with that tangible connection and then say, 'Okay, now let's look at the chords, or the relationship between the melody and the harmony.'"

"One of my favorite examples is a great piece of music, John Coltrane's 'Moment's Notice.' The melody is incredibly simple—it's mostly a major scale, all diatonic. But when you marry it with his harmony, it becomes this whole other world. He aligns it with this hypervigilant chord progression moving through implied keys, the tempo is fast, and it becomes a tour de force. Therein lies the beauty and the magic of great composers and great improvisers: they know how to take the obvious and bring it to another level."

"My students ask, 'Do you really think composers think of all these things?' No, they don't have to, because they already know them. They're dealing with their composition immediately on the aesthetic level, instead of going through the thought level. But students are still sharpening the edges of their knives."

"Music touches all the same sensibilities that we struggle with every day; the things we surround ourselves with; the things we try to become a part of, avoid, or transcend. Life—like a unified piece of music—is about balance: the relationships between dissonance and consonance. And music—like life—is a journey. If you allow it to lead you, you'll go to beautiful places."

Career Highlights

 

  • B.M., Ithaca College
  • M.M., New England Conservatory of Music
  • D.M.A. studies, Boston University
  • Former faculty member, Boston University, New England Conservatory of Music
  • Saxophonist
  • Performances with the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra, Michael Abene, Pablo Ablanedo, the Big and Phat Jazz Orchestra, the Boston Philharmonic, Nick Brignola, Composers in Red Sneakers, Marty Ehrlich, Jimmy Giuffre, Joel Harrison, Fred Ho, the Jazz Composers Alliance, Sheila Jordan, John Lewis, Johnny Mathis, the New World Jazz Composers Octet, the NuClassix Composers Forum, the O’Jays, Rebecca Parris, Lewis Porter, Claudio Roditi, George Russell, Arturo Sandoval, Jyoji Sawada, Maria Schneider, the Temptations, Clark Tracey, Jack Walrath, and Kazumi Watanabe
  • Recordings for Sony, DIW (Japan), Big and Phat Jazz Productions, Cherry Street Records, Nine Winds, and Brownstone Records
  • Founder/artistic director, Jazz in the Sanctuary concert series, Big and Phat Jazz Records
  • Recipient, 1996 Uchida Fellowship sponsored by the Japan Foundation