Walter Smith III

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From an early age, Walter Smith III began taking music very seriously. “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?”

Although it may appear Smith is a new voice on the scene, he is widely recognized as an adept performer, accomplished composer, and inspired educator. Smith’s recent release, In Common III, has been described as “boundary pushing,” and features some of the most important and talked about musicians in the world—Matt Stevens, Kris Davis, Dave Holland, and Terri Lyne Carrington. In April of 2023, Smith released his debut album for Blue Note records, return to casual, to critical acclaim.

Smith has developed under the wings of many of the music’s greats. He is and has been a member of several legendary groups (recording and/or touring) including the Roy Haynes and the Fountain of Youth Band, Terence Blanchard Quintet, Eric Harland for Voyager, Bill Stewart Trio, Jason Moran for In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall, Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet, a Christian McBride Situation, Marquis Hill for New Gospel Revisited, Gerald Clayton Quintet, Christian Scott Quintet, and the Sean Jones Quintet, to name a few.

Smith has performed all over the world participating in virtually every international festival as well as 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 important artists including Mulgrew Miller, Billy Childs, Joe Lovano, Herbie Hancock, Maria Schneider, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ralph Peterson, and a host of others. To date, he has appeared on over 100 recordings released worldwide.

Originally from Houston, Texas, Smith now resides in Boston, Massachusetts, and is chair of woodwinds at Berklee College of Music, helping to prepare the next generation of young artists.

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, Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet, Gerald Clayton Quintet, Christian Scott Quintet, and the Sean Jones quintet, to name a few
  • School Name
    Manhattan School of Music
    State or Province
    New York
    Master of Music (M.M.)
    Field of Study
    Jazz Studies
    Date Degree Received
  • School Name
    Berklee College of Music
    State or Province
    Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.)
    Field of Study
    Music Education
    Date Degree Received
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."