Walter Smith III

Class of 
2002
Chair
617-747-8481
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Originally from Houston, Texas, Walter Smith III now resides in Boston and is chair of the Woodwind Department at Berklee College of Music, helping to prepare the next generation of jazz students.

Smith is widely recognized as an adept performer, accomplished composer, and inspired educator. In the jazz tradition, he has developed under the wings of many of the genre’s greats. He is and has been a member of several legendary groups, and has performed all over the world, participating in virtually every international festival as well as playing at famed venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Village Vanguard, and the Kennedy Center. In addition, he has shared the stage and/or appeared on recordings with many jazz notables including Mulgrew Miller, Billy Childs, Joe Lovano, Herbie Hancock, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and a host of others. To date, he has appeared on over 100 recordings that have been released worldwide.

From a young age, Smith took music seriously, saying, “My first gig was playing at a McDonalds in Houston with another saxophone player. I took a solo on 'Blue Bossa.' It was terrible. People clapped, and I figured if I could get away with that and get applause, how could I fail?”

  • Career Highlights
    • Recording and/or touring with the Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band, Terence Blanchard Quintet, Eric Harland's Voyager: Live by Night, Jason Moran’s In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall, and the Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet, among many others
  • Education
    • B.F.A., Berklee College of Music, music education
    • M.M., Manhattan School of Music, jazz studies
    • Graduate Diploma, Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, jazz performance

In Their Own Words

"I believe that the students' best teacher is themselves. I don't want a student to sound like me: I want them to sound like themselves. My hope is that they will walk away excited about trying new things and realizing that music is about more than technique and notes."

"I've been lucky to tour and record with a wide variety of exceptional composers, musicians, and bandleaders. Through my own experiences, I am aware of the challenges that students will face in their careers, and I can help them to prepare for what's to come."

"In Berklee's Woodwind Department, students are able to study with musicians that literally cover the ever-expanding scope of musical styles. Everything is performed and taught by some of the best in the world."

"Berklee, more so than any other school, is on the cutting edge of what is happening now in music. The students and faculty that we attract are all open-minded, and every musical voice is heard. No matter what aspect of music you want to study, this is the community that you want to be surrounded by."

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