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Joel LaRue Smith. Photo Courtesy of Alonso Nichols

CAMD Music Department faculty member, Joel LaRue Smith, Part-Time Lecturer, has been named a recipient of a 2019 Live Arts Boston (LAB) Grant. The award, in the amount of $15,000, will support his work on Passages (Pasajes) – An Afro-Caribbean Musical Odyssey, which is a collection of original music that he will both compose and perform. Smith, who has already produced two albums in his career, is creating this next CD with the hope of documenting his journey through music.

“Time passes us all. What does it really mean? Experiences, words, incidences and thoughts all pass through us, and teach us things about life, and ourselves in relationship to this vast world in which we live,” Smith said about his inspiration for Passages. “This body of work is a confession, a revealing and very personal poignant story about my journey through studying, performing and composing jazz and Latin music.”

He plans to release Passages (Pasajes) – An Afro-Caribbean Musical Odyssey, which will feature a variety of music and dance genres, in 2020.

“This music is a rich blend of jazz and Afro-Caribbean rhythms and harmonies. The songs and compositions often combine infectious Cuban, Puerto Rican and Dominican Republic dance forms such as timba, mambo, songo, Mozambique, cha-cha, merengue and rhumba with compelling jazz bebop, hard bop, and swing melody lines,” Smith explained. “I want this music to ignite the passion for anyone to dance, and give each listener great melodies to sing and remember.”

The Live Arts Boston Grant is provided through The Boston Foundation, a community organization for the Greater Boston Area dedicated to building a prosperous city and promoting a positive culture. Each year, the organization focuses its efforts on providing grants to ambitious community members, working with donors to achieve impactful philanthropy, and acting as a hub for centralized information. The Foundation created the Live Arts Boston Program in March of 2017 to promote and support local performing arts. For each cycle of LAB, between 60 to 80 grants of up to $15,000 are awarded to small performing arts organizations, bands, producers, and many other aspiring artists.

In 2018, there were over 350 applicants for LAB grants, and this number is anticipated to have increased for the 2019 awards. Priority is given to applicants who demonstrate artistic excellence, take risks in their artistic mediums, and create projects with the potential to grow.

A pianist, arranger, composer, and performer, Joel LaRue Smith has won numerous awards for his music, which is known to have complex Jazz harmonies, an infusion of Afro-Cuban rhythms, and diverse cultural and emotional themes. He has shared the stage with incredible musicians such as Tony Bennett, Kenny Burrell, Wayne Andre, and many more. Carnegie Hall, the White House, Lincoln Center, and Symphony Hall are just a few of the impressive venues at which he has performed in his career. He is passionate about breaking musical boundaries and using his work to tell his personal story.

“As an artist, I am inspired by working and playing! I want to always push myself to explore new ways of creating sound,” Smith concluded. “Building technique, practicing, and composing are three ways to ensure that one is moving forward into new musical territory. Releasing an album is a great way to document and share my music and gifts; I wish to be the narrator of my story. My last CD, Motorman’s Son came out two years ago in 2017, and I have been writing new music with the intent of producing the new CD, Pasajes, in 2020.”

We wish him the best of luck on his newest project and look forward to seeing his progress over the next year.