Texas Tech University

Christopher J. Smith

Professor of Musicology / Director of the Vernacular Music Center

Email: christopher.smith@ttu.edu

Phone: (806) 834-2775

Office: School of Music, Room 218

Dr. Christopher J. Smith

Dr. Christopher J. Smith (christopher.smith@ttu.edu) is Professor and Chair of Musicology and founding director of the Vernacular Music Center at the Texas Tech University School of Music. He holds the Bachelor of Arts (Music, Summa Cum Laude) from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and a Master's in Music (Jazz, Magna Cum Laude) and Ph.D. in Musicology (with high distinction) from the Indiana University School of Music. At Indiana, he was the 1997 recipient of the John H. Edwards Fellowship and the 1998 recipient of the Walter Kaufmann Musicology Prize. His principle professors at Indiana were J. Peter Burkholder, Thomas Mathiesen, Austin B. Caswell, Richard Bauman, David N. Baker, and Ruth Stone.

 At Texas Tech, he has been the recipient of the TTU Alumni Association's New Faculty Award (2003) and the “Professing Excellence” award (2005 & 2009), election to the TTU Teaching Academy (2006), the Texas Tech President's Excellence in Teaching Award (2010), election to the TTU Institute for Inclusive Excellence (2011), the TTU Office of International Affairs' Global Vision Lifetime Achievement Award (2011), the Barnie E Rushing Faculty Distinguished Research Award (2015), and the Faculty Book Award (2015). He is a fellow of TTU's Engaged and Integrated Scholars program and of the TTU Institute for Inclusive Excellence.

 He has taught at the University of Massachusetts at Boston and Indiana University, and as a guest lecturer at University College Cork, the University of Limerick, and the Dundalk Institute of Technology; in summer 2015 he served as lecturer at CESMECA graduate school in San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico.
He teaches courses in American, 20th century, and African Diasporic musics, as well as vernacular, world music, and ethnomusicology topics, intercultural learning, and community arts entrepreneurship. His research interests are in American and African-American Music, 20th Century Music, oral-tradition music and dance idioms, improvisation, music and politics, and performance practice.

In addition to the Vernacular Music Center, he directs the Roots Music Institute (a 501c3 organization), and served as faculty adviser for the Tech Irish Set-Dancers, Caprock English Country Dancers, and Caprock Morris Border dance team. From 2009-12 he served as External Examiner for the BA program in Traditional Music and Dance at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick, and continues service as External Examiner for PhD dissertations at institutions in the USA, UK, Ireland, and the EU, and for the Irish government's music program accreditation bureau. In 2015 he completed a second two-year term as President of the American Musicological Society – Southwest regional chapter.

 He is the author of Celtic Backup for All Instrumentalists, “The Celtic Guitar” (in The Cambridge Companion to the Guitar), “Miles Davis and the Semiotics of Improvised Performance” (in Improvisation: In the Course of Performance), “Trusting the Tradition: The Meaning of the Irish Session Workshop” (in Proceedings of the VIIth International Symposium on Cultural Diversity in Music Education: The Local and the Global), “Identities, Contexts, and Gender in the Irish Musical Landscape” (in Irish Studies: Geographies and Gender), “Gaelic and Continental Musical Interaction in Early Modern Ireland” (in The Renaissance in Ireland), “Cinematic Constructions of Irish Musical Identity” (in Popular Culture and Postmodern Ireland), “Papa Legba and the Liminal Spaces of the Blues” (in American Cinema and the Southern Imaginary), “Blacks and Irish on the Riverine Frontiers" (in Rethinking the Irish in the American South: Beyond Rounders and Reelers), "Randy Newman and the Narrative Resonance of the Past: Historiography in 'Louisiana 1927,' in Popular Music and Society, and a variety of other essays and book chapters. His scholarly monograph The Creolization of American Culture: William Sidney Mount and the Roots of Blackface Minstrelsy (Illinois), published in September 2013, won the 2015 Irwin F Lowens Award from the Society for American Music; Dale Cockrell (Demons of Disorder: Blackface Minstrels and Their World) called it "A dazzling addition to the literature on American popular music and its history." His new book project is Dancing Revolution: Bodies, Space, and Sound in American Cultural History (Illinois, 2019), which dance scholar Julie Malnig calls “A very ambitious and impressive study [whose] breadth and scope…are remarkable.”

 He has published articles in College Music SymposiumNew Hibernia ReviewT.D.R. The Drama ReviewR.P.M. (Journal of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music), Early Music AmericaMusic in ArtContemporary Music Review, the Journal of American FolkloreSouthern CultureEarly Music (London), Irish MusicHistorical PerformancePiping TodayAmerican MusicThe Journal of Music in IrelandThe Tallgrass Journal, and the Journal of the Vernacular Music Center, reviews in the Journal of the American Musicological Society and the Journal of American History, and chapters on music in The World and Its Peoples, The Encyclopedia of Franco-American Relations, and the Encyclopedia of Music in Ireland.

He has presented papers at the national meetings of the Society for Ethnomusicology, the Society for American Music, the American Musicological Society, College Music Society, the International Society for the Study of Popular Music, the Narrative Society, the American Council for Irish Studies, the Film and History Society, the Stage and Screen Conference, the Southern American Studies Association, and the LYRICA Society for Text and Music Studies. He has chaired sessions at University College Cork, Scoil Samraidh Willie Clancy in County Clare, the University of Limerick, and the Popular Culture Association; originated and chaired the First Annual Texas Tech Fine Arts Colloquium and the TTU Arts Practice Research conference, and has presented papers internationally at the International Council for Traditional Music (Dundalk), at the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Conference (Glasgow), the School of African and Oriental Studies (London), Texas Music Educators Association (San Antonio), Hearing Landscape Critically: Sense, Text, Ideology (Oxford), the North Atlantic Fiddle Conference (Derry), Dance Music Research Forum (Donegal), Music and Migration (Southampton), Representing Ireland (Newcastle), the Society for Musicology in Ireland (Derry), the Council for Cultural Diversity in Music Education (Brisbane), the International Meetings of the Council for Irish Studies (Liverpool), the International Ballad Conference (Netherlands), the International Council for the Study of Traditional Music (Newfoundland), the North Atlantic Fiddle Conference (Derry-Donegal), Dance Music Research Forum (Limerick), the UCCB Storytelling Symposium (Nova Scotia), the Biennial Conference on Music in the 19th Century (Cardiff), the Conference on Arts & Society (Budapest), the Internacional Federation for Theatre Research (Barcelona), History – Analysis – Pedagogy / Music Analysis Conference (Nottingham), Decolonizing Music – COMTA (San Juan PR), the Smithsonian Museum's National Portrait Gallery, and Analyser les Processus de Création Musicale 2013 (Montreal). He has designed and created World Wide Web content for Prentice-Hall's music history textbook series, for the Buddy Holly Center, and for www.banjosessions.com.

In addition, he records and tours internationally with Altramar medieval music ensemble (7 CDs to date on the Dorian Group label, with concerts throughout North America, Canada, Holland, Ireland, Germany, and Austria) and with RattleSkull (Euro-French Balfolk dance music), leads the Irish traditional band Last Night's Fun (with TTU Professor Angela Mariani) and the Juke Band (pre-WWII blues and jazz), directs the Texas Tech University Celtic Ensemble and the Elegant Savages Orchestra, has lectured or performed at hundreds of colloquia, concerts, workshops, and pub sessions across the Continent and in Europe, and on National Public Radio, Minnesota Public Radio, and the Fox Network nationwide, and in 2005 released a solo CD of Irish traditional music. His disc with Last Night's Fun is Johnny Faa, a program of songs and tunes in the Irish tradition. He has written liner notes for Dorian Group, Ltd., for Naxos World, and for independent CD releases and served as columnist for www.irishmusic.com. He was the traditional-music consultant for noted composer Dan Welcher's Minstrels of the Kells and performed at its TTU premiere and on an Olympic tour of mainland China, directs the annual Caprock Celtic Christmas at Texas Tech, formerly served on the International Advisory Board for the Naxos World record label and Flatlands Dance Theatre, and currently serves on the boards of Supporters of Fine Arts and Caprock Early Music. He is co-Director of the TTU Symposium of World Musics and Southwest Early Music, serves as informal consultant to the Society for Ethnomusicology and to the Buddy Holly Center educational program, and is a founding staff member of ZoukFest, the world's only music camp and festival for players of the Irish bouzouki.

 He is the composer, librettist, and musical director of the full-length theatrical dance show Dancing at the Crossroads: A Celebration of African American and Anglo-Celtic Dance in the New World, which premiered in February 2013; the “folk oratorio” Plunder: Battling for Democracy in the New World (2016); and the full-length immersive theatrical show Yonder, a collaboration with the historic Wallace Theater in Levelland, TX (2020). His original scores for the TTU Theater & Dance department's productions of Brecht's Mother Courage, Our Country's Good, and (in collaboration with Roger Landes) Much Ado About Nothing three times received the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Meritorious Achievement Award. He is also the founder and music director of the Elegant Savages Orchestra, a "symphonic folk" ensemble performing Dr Smith's orchestral arrangements of folk and traditional musics. His co-composed original chamber-orchestral score for the classic silent horror film Nosferatu (1922) was commissioned by the Flatland Film Festival in 2015. He serves as a “lead artist,” music director, and house composer for the Bassanda Project, a movement & music collaboration with modern dance choreographer Nicole Wesley (Texas State University).

As an instrumentalist, he concertizes on Irish bouzouki, tenor banjo, button accordion, slide guitar, saz, lute, gittern, Turkish lavta, and percussion. He is also a former nightclub bouncer, line cook, carpenter, lobster fisherman, and oil-rig roughneck, and a published poet.

To contact Christopher Smith, email christopher.smith@ttu.edu.

Dr. Smith is the Executive Director of the Roots Music Institute: https://www.rootsmusicinstitute.com/