James Smith

Assistant Chair

"I'm now analyzing certain songs by the Beatles, which will be relevant to what we do in our theory and counterpoint classes, and some of our composition classes. Besides, it's just good music; it's a real labor of love for me."

"Some of our composition majors actually come to Berklee targeting what is considered to be modern classical music. Some of them come planning to do something else, then see what we're doing and say, 'Wow, I want to do that.' Which is kind of cool."

"The courses in our department give students the nuts and bolts that will give them a real leg up. When they walk out of Berklee, they can also do arranging, orchestration, transcription—a world of things to keep them in the business while they're still waiting for that one song that becomes the big one. The more tools they've got, the more ways they have of staying in the profession."

"I know it's sometimes a stretch for a music business student to understand why conducting is part of the core curriculum. But that student may end up being an agent to someone like Gunther Schüller. I've talked to Schüller's agent—he knows an awful lot about what Gunther does. It's nice to understand the work of the people you're promoting—knowing what the job is, and knowing the language of music."

Career Highlights

  • B.M., University of Memphis
  • M.M., Catholic University of America
  • D.M.A., Boston University
  • Composer of various chamber, orchestral, and commercial musical works
  • Assistant conductor, Arlington Philharmonic
  • Active freelance percussionist with the Boston Ballet, Harvard Chamber Orchestra, Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, and others
  • Member of Dinosaur Annex contemporary music ensemble