Walter Smith III Joins Berklee as Chair of the Woodwind Department

The renowned saxophonist and bandleader returns to his alma mater to lead the next generation of artists.

April 4, 2019

Berklee has named saxophonist Walter Smith III B.M. ‘02 as chair of the Woodwind Department. Smith, a Berklee alumnus who recently released his fifth album as a leader, is widely recognized as an accomplished performer and composer, and an inspired educator. Smith takes up the position on May 1.

“Bill Pierce has left a strong legacy of excellence and achievement which we will continue to build on, looking towards the future with an emphasis on creating more opportunities for the students in the constantly evolving musical landscape,” said Smith. "I can’t wait to get to work with the world-class woodwind faculty as we continue to provide the perfect environment for the world’s most talented young musicians.”  

“Returning to Berklee is very special to me since it’s the place where my whole career in music began,” he added. “Much of the faculty that I was mentored by and worked with during my time in school are still at Berklee in some capacity, making it feel like home.”

“I am tremendously excited about Walter rejoining our community. His success as a performer, educator, and jazz artist will help lead our school into the future,” said Ron Savage, dean of the Professional Performance Division. “I am happy for our students, faculty, and staff alike. Walter Smith is a worthy heir to the Berklee legacy left by Bill Pierce, Andy McGhee, and many others.”

In the jazz tradition, Smith developed his craft under the tutelage of many of the greats. He is or has been a member of several legendary groups, recording and touring with artists including the Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band, Terence Blanchard Quintet, Eric Harland's Voyager, Jason Moran (In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall, 1959), Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet, A Christian McBride Situation, Christian Scott Group, and the Sean Jones Quintet.

Smith has performed all over the world, appearing in virtually every international jazz festival, and at famed venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Village Vanguard, and the Kennedy Center. In addition, he has shared the stage with or appeared on recordings with many jazz notables, including Mulgrew Miller, Eric Reed, Billy Childs, Joe Lovano, Herbie Hancock, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Terri Lyne Carrington, Bill Stewart, Ralph Peterson, and a host of others. Smith has appeared on more than 100 recordings released worldwide.

Smith’s latest album, Twio, features his longtime trio of Harish Raghavan and Eric Harland, with guest appearances by Christian McBride and Joshua Redman.

Originally from Houston, Texas, Smith comes to Berklee from Indiana University, where he served as associate professor of jazz studies.

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