Hale Smith

Hale Smith (June 29, 1925 – November 24, 2009) has had a distinguished career not only as a highly-regarded composer but also as an arranger, editor, and educator. Born in Cleveland, he began study of the piano at age seven, and his initial performance experience included both classical and jazz music. After military service (1943-45), he entered the Cleveland Institute of Music as a composition major, receiving a bachelor’s degree in 1950 and a master’s degree in 1952. His principal teachers were Ward Lewis in theory and Marcel Dick, his only teacher of composition.

He moved to New York in 1958 and from that time he has worked with many prominent jazz artists, including Chico Hamilton, Dizzy Gillespie, Eric Dolphy, Randy Weston, Melba Liston, Ahmad Jamal, and Oliver Nelson.

He also served as an editor and consultant with several music publishers (E.B. Marks, C.F. Peters, Frank Music Corp. and Sam Fox Music Publishers).

In 1952, Hale Smith was a winner of the first Student Composer’s Award sponsored by Broadcast Music Inc., and in 1960 was commissioned by BMI to compose Contours for Orchestra. His other works include Ritual and Incantation, Innerflexions, By Yearning and By Beautiful, Music for Harp and Orchestra, Orchestral Set, Mediations in Passage, several chamber music and solo pieces and several works for chorus and solo voice and piano (see list below).

Hale Smith has received several honors: the Cleveland Arts Prize, and awards from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, The National Black Music Caucus, and an honorary doctorate from the Cleveland Institute of Music.

He taught at C.W. Post College (Long Island) and is Professor Emeritus from the University of Connecticut. In addition, he served on the boards of several organizations: The American Composers Alliance, Composer’s Recordings, Inc., The American Music Center, several state arts councils; as a copyright infringement consultant; and as orchestrator and artistic consultant for the Black Music Repertory Ensemble of the Center for Black Music Research Columbia College Chicago. Hale was appointed to the New York State Council on the Arts (1993-1997) by Governor Mario Cuomo.

Read the New York Times obituary

A tribute by composer T. J. Anderson

Bio courtesy Marilyn Harris