Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Mr. Smith studied trombone with Bill McGlaughlin, Harold Steiman and Robert Hamrick III of the Pittsburgh Symphony. He began arranging and orchestrating music at the age of 12. In 1982 at the University of Pittsburgh he was awarded a Chancellor’s Undergraduate Teaching Fellowship and taught jazz arranging for a semester. He transferred to the University of Bridgeport studying jazz composition and arranging with Bill Finegan. In addition Mr. Smith continued his trombone studies with “Moe” Snyder and jazz legend Eddie Bert. In 1985 he was the Pressor Foundation Scholar, the highest award given to music majors at U.B. In 1986 he was commissioned by the University and premiered his composition “Impressions For Orchestra”. Mr. Smith holds a Bachelors of Music from the University of Bridgeport and an MBA from the University of New Haven.
As a jazz arranger, composer, and band leader, Drake Smith’s work has featured such noted jazz artists as The Count Basie Orchestra, Eddie Bert, Conrad Herwig, Randy Brecker, Lew Soloff, Benny Bailey, Donald Byrd, Geri Allen, Joe Harris, Charlie Persip, and Terry Clarke. He has written hundreds of arrangements for ensembles of all sizes, ranging from pop to classical styles. His critically acclaimed arrangements for blues artist Jesse “Wild Bill” Austin can be found on the two top ten charted blues recordings “Steel Trap” and “Baby‘s Back” and have been heard by millions as bumper music for the “Rush Limbaugh Show. In 2007 Mr. Smith produced and arranged “City Mainstream” an Alcalgar CD release for jazz composer Al Thompson Jr. The recording received critical acclaim and is still being played on Jazz Radio stations in the US and Europe. In August 2008 at the New Haven Jazz Festival, he premiered his composition “The Jazz Symphony”.
Mr. Smith was the Musical Director of the “New Haven Jazz Orchestra” and the ten piece “Jazz Stars Orchestra”. He has played throughout the tri-state area in myriad musical styles, ensembles and venues with many great artists including Joe Williams, Steve Davis, Bill Watrous, Arturo O’Farril, Chad and Jeremy, Jan and Dean and the Surf City All-Stars and The Nelson Riddle Orchestra.
As an educator Mr. Smith has given educational clinics in the areas of jazz history, jazz improvisation, jazz trombone, arranging and orchestration. He has also appeared as a guest on local jazz radio programs discussing various eras and styles of jazz and extensively exploring associated historically significant recordings. Mr. Smith teaches music privately throughout Connecticut. His trombone students consistently achieve Regional and All-State levels and many have gone on as music majors in prominent colleges and universities.
In 2007 Mr. Smith began playing in the pit as part of the Branford High School Performing Arts Program and has played their productions of “Thoroughly Modern Millie”, “Fiddler On The Roof”, “Pirates Of Penzance”, “On The Town”, “Phantom of the Opera”, “Aida”, “In The Heights”, “Crazy For You” and “Les Miserables”. In 2011 working in collaboration with the Branford High School Choir Program and it’s Director Cathyann Roding, Mr. Smith arranged twelve classic Rock ‘n’ Roll hits for full choir, orchestra, vocal soloists and rock band as part of a concert event “Rock N’ Roll Over Beethoven” presented in Woolsey Hall at Yale University. The next year he completed a high school sight singing workbook for the choir program. In 2013 he contributed two arrangements to the program’s holiday recording “White Christmas Reboot” and re-orchestrated the Jonathan Elias opus “Prayer Cycle” for its first complete live performance at Woolsey Hall in April of 2014. The fruitful collaboration continued with ten more classic rock tunes for the concert event “Bach To Rock” at Woolsey Hall April 26th 2015 which raised over $16,000 for charity.
Mr. Smith continues to teach, write and perform and is currently working on a new project with New England Pink Floyd. Stay tuned….