Steve Smith’s career proves how varied a life in drumming can be. Famous as the drummer for the legendary band Journey, he has combined the rock arena life with leading a group dedicated to preserving the great jazz traditions, teaching drum clinics all over the world, recording many albums, and delving into South India’s rhythmic vocal art form called konnakol.
Smith, who was born in Whitman, Massachusetts, in 1954, began playing drums at age 9, inspired by the rhythmic drumming in parade bands. He enrolled at Berklee in 1972 and left mid-semester in 1976 to begin his touring and recording career with Jean-Luc Ponty at the age of 22.
From big band music to bebop to jazz fusion, Smith very quickly set his own path. He joined Journey in 1978, soon touring the world. A critic has described his drum part for the classic “Don’t Stop Believin'” as “an intricate open-handed pattern in which he plays the hi-hat with his left hand while his right moves around the kit.” Journey would go on to sell over 80 million albums.
Smith left Journey twice to pursue his other projects. He started his own fusion band, Steve Smith and Vital Information (originally featuring Berklee alumni Mike Stern '75, Tim Landers '80, and Dean Brown '77), and as a studio musician, he played on hits with everyone from Bryan Adams to Mariah Carey to Andrea Bocelli to Dweezil Zappa to Ray Price. He has given master classes at Berklee through the years and released numerous instructional DVDs and books. He has also played with Steps Ahead, Ahmad Jamal, Hiromi '03, Randy Brecker, and many others.
Smith's honors include being named best all-around drummer numerous times by Modern Drummer magazine as well as Modern Drummer's top 25 drummers of all time and Rolling Stone’s 100 top drummers. In 2017, Smith was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his work with Journey.
Known for his explosive solos and rhythmic and precise timing, Smith continues to tour with Vital Information and gives clinics all over the world. As always, his eclectic view of drumming informs his performances, teaching, and recording, and he seeks out new music and concepts wherever he can find them.