Charles Joseph Smith--Musician And Composer


Charles Joseph Smith, born in October 22, 1970, is the son of Joseph Smith (deceased) and Emma Smith and brother of Stanley Smith (deceased). He started playing the piano whenhe was eight and composing music when he was ten. This came not only when he heard Stanley play the piano earlier, but also when Charles acquired his own musical talent soon afterwards.

His piano teachers included James Williams, Sophia Zukerman, Emilio del Rosario, Pawel Checinski, Sharon Rogers, Kenneth Drake, Gustavo Romero and William Heiles. His composition teachers were Charlotte Lehnhoff and Sever Tipei.

At one time, he was a pianist for he Commonwealth Community Church, accompanying for the Gospelaires youth choirand the sanctuary choir.

After completing elementary and high school courses at Beacon Therapeutic School, he went to Roosevelt University. There, he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance at the Chicago Musical College of Roosevelt University (which is now the Chicago Center For the Performing Arts). He also earned an Master of Music in Piano Performance and a Doctor of Musical Arts in Piano Performance and Literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

As a high school student, Charles was a frequently awarded musician. For instance, in 1984, he won first place in the CAMTA (Chicago Area Music Teachers Association) piano contest. He received the Zoltán Kodály Academy and Institute Honorary Award in 1987 at the Three Arts Club in Chicago--one of the youngest musicians to ever receive the award.

In 1988, he won first place in the Society of American Musicians (SAM) competition at Roosevelt University, in Chicago. In the same year, he won first place in the Classical Music and Composition categories in the ACT-SO competition in Chicago (The acronym means African-American Cultural, Technological, and Scientific Olympics, which was founded by Vernon Jarrett.) He then represented ACT-SO in the national Competition in Washington D.C. and won second place in Classical Music.

In 1989, he took first place in the local competition in the same categories and represented ACT-SO in the National Competition in Detroit, Michigan. In 1990, he won the ACT-SO First Place Award in Musical Composition at the local level, and represented ACT-SO in the national competition in Los Angeles.

During the summers of 1985-1989, he attended music camps at Illinois State University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Chapman College in Orange County,California. He also attended a Summer Piano Workshop at Oberlin College in Ohio in 1993.

He also competed in the Nathaniel Dett Club music competitions (sponsored by The NationalAssociation of Negro Musicians, or NANM) in 1990, where he won the local competition andwon second place in the piano category at the national competition in Columbus, Ohio. In addition, he won the local competition again in 1991 and represented NANM in the national competition in Newark, New Jersey.

He started his undergraduate studies at Roosevelt University on a 4-year partial scholarship. While at the school, Charles performed his sophomore, junior, and senior recitals in 1992, 1993, and 1994. He earned a Franklin Honor Society Award in 1994 and was placed in the Who's Who Of American Students In College and Universities from 1994-95. During that time, he was featured on a side issue of the campus' Torch newspaper with student journalist Regina Waldroup.

In addition, he also was featured as a guest soloist with the South Side Family Chamber Orchestra on at least seven occasions, under conductors like Delano O'Banion and Terrance Gray. They did performances of piano concertos from Beethoven, Mozart, and Edvard Grieg. At one time,Charles and the orchestra performed outside the Daley Plaza in Chicago in July 1987.

Charles developed a strong interest in opera , especially when he went to Roosevelt University. He became assistant musical director for Roosevelt University's Opera Theatre in the 1993 production of The Magic Flute and the 1994 production of Carmen. His recognition on the University of Illinois campus spread almost rapidly. He played piano for plenty of talent shows all around campus, as well as did some accompanying work. At one time, he performed his own set of piano compositions in his own recital at 1997. Later, he was on a full front-page story in the Daily Illini on May 2000, written by Milton Carrero and photographed by Jesse Evans. He completed his doctoral work by doing an extended paper and performing in two lecture-recitals; his thesis was the Franz Liszt operatic arrangements for the piano. In February 2003, he also appeared on a side page of the same newspaper after performing in a Black History Opening Ceremony at the Illini Union at the campus, in 2003, which was televised repeatedly on the campus local channel for two weeks. He was also featured in the same year during the Culture Shock International Festival on the same campus.

In addition to his campus accomplishments, he had some success as a pianist abroad. In France, he attended the French Piano Institute in Paris in July 2000 and won an Honorable Mention in their final recital and competition. In that same country, he performed in debut piano recitals in St. Martin de Londres (2005) and at the Albarede Theater (2010), which were also the first-ever paid solo concerts he did overseas. Moreover, also in France, he performed in 2 private salon concerts in Frontingan (2008 and 2009).

He went to Italy in 2001 to compete in the IBLA Grand Prize International Competition in Sicily, where he won an Honorable Mention for Musicianship. In the same year, he also performed in a master class under famous Hungarian pianist Csaba Király at the International Piano Master Class in Budapest. In 2005, Charles went to Berlin to help an up-and-coming Cuban female singer, Yammika Cespedes.

In 2007, Charles was appointed as a church musician for the Hartzell Memorial UMC, and later on, was appointed to be an accompanist for Andrew Schultze in the same year at Columbia College, and then to the Fine Arts Building.

In 2008, he was appointed to meet up with famous pianist, Aldo Ciccolini, at a library in Montepellier, France, for a special master class, and later on, he debuted as a performer in Italy once again, this time at the Amalfi Music Festival, where he debuted his pianistic transcription on Schubert's art song, "Erl-King", at the Lloyd's Baia Hotel.

In 2014, he performed as a competition accompanist for Phi Sigma Phi Music Scholarship Competition at the Vandercook School of Music for voice competitor, David O’Banion, and performed as pianist at Chicago Music Association’s “Fantasy Negre” Concert at the South Side Cultural Center. He also performed at least 2 DIY shows in that year on the piano, including Stephany Colunga's trunk show at the Heaven Gallery, and at the Nitecap Cafe in the Pilsen area of Chicago, and still another one at Situations DIY venue.

In 2015, he performed with Hartzell's UMC Sanctuary Choir at their summer concert at the church, and at the Pilgrim Baptist Church during the Thomas Dorsey Musical Tribute as a guest accompanist. Also that summer, he performed as accompanist at Andrew Schultze's Summer Opera Workshop at the Fine Arts Building.

In 2016, Charles made his recital debut at the Kroc Center in the south outskirts of Chicago, sponsored by the Commonwealth Community Church. He also performed for the first time in Highland Park, IL with short piano concerts at the Abbott House (the first time he ever performed at a halfway home) and also debuted as a guest pianist in a musical collaboration of performers at a fundraising event for autism, at Wentz Recital Hall, where he performed 2 original piano compositions. He also accompanied with bass-baritone Keanon Kyles at the Bethseda Missionary Baptist Church, and appeared with the Chicago Community Orchestra in Handel's "Messiah" at Hartzell Memorial UMC.

Aaron Cohen did a write up of Charles for the Downbeat magazine on May 18, 2018, and he was featured as the first DIY Music headliner at the Hideout Chicago for my new album called "War of the Martian Ghosts, on February 17, 2018, which was recorded in studio by Glenn Curran. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I also received 2 Resilience grants from the Elastic Arts Foundation to help me continue to create my performances. Charles Smith also appeared in the ACT-SO competition as a contestant in 1988 and 1989, competing in the national finals in both Washington D.C. and Los Angeles, CA, and became a music judge in the same competition at Kennedy-King College in Chicago in 2019. He is also trying to publish an autobiography of his life. During the pandemic, Charles had performed in several major Zoom concerts and a big "Ode To Joy" presentation presented by Lucky Pierre Website to pay homage to Beethoven's 250th anniversary, all in 2020.

As the pandemic lingered into 2021, Charles performed in his first major alumnus recital in-person at Roosevelt University’s Ganz Hall, his first alma mater, but virtually. His program included the Franz Liszt’s “Pest” Hungarian Rhapsody no. 9 in Eb Major.

In May 2022, Charles was invited to be a guest in the “Music Therapy” podcast with DIY musician Jessica Risker. In August 2022, he was invited to do a creative jazz event with Angel Bat Dawid’s new ensemble at Sleeping Village in his debut.

In addition to his piano accomplishments, he also has an interest in creative writing, especially poetry. He also adores ballroom, Latin, and swing dancing, and his favorite dance is the salsa. He also continues to compose music.