Lucy Smith was born and raised on the Southside of Chicago. She’s a singer, songwriter bandleader and producer. Her quartet/quintet frequents the Chicago jazz scene and her musical collaborations include works for theatre, film and spoken word productions. Her newest project, Autumn in Augusta, is a working tribute for and about her mother, and her mother’s music.
I first met Lucy Smith as a freshman at Bradley University. We were both on the speech team, which had developed into a competitive powerhouse (relatively speaking, this is speech, after all). The constant weekend traveling to tournaments forged a comradery that makes a phone call out of the blue a joy to make and receive. What I remember from those years was Lucy’s humor, intelligence and presence when she performed. I still remember her interpretation of the Amy Lowell poem, Patterns. It was a joy to discover she is still performing, although these days, she is sharing her talents as a jazz musician and composer in Chicago.
SONGS OF HOME
19 Reverie Fair / July, 2014
Tell us about your journey to becoming a professional musician. Was it a rather circuitous path?
I remember singing occasionally in grammar school, and a brief stint with the gospel choir when I was in high school. In college, I sang more regularly with a gospel choir and would also perform at talent showcases staged throughout the school year. I was quite hesitant to study music at Bradley because I didn’t think that I could make a living as a musician. Instead, I had a double major of Public Relations and Speech Communications. After graduation I found work that meshed with my skills, both at a public affairs firm and at a public foundation. During that time I was still drawn to making music. I took classes at Old Town School of Folk Music and the Bloom School of Jazz and for a while I studied privately with pianist, composer and vocalist Patricia Barber. At times, I’d get together with fellow music hobbyists and “jam.” I landed a few gigs and formed a small band. We called ourselves the NonProphets of Jazz (yes, a cheesy play on words…most of us worked full-time at non-profit organizations). As the years progressed, I transitioned to making music on a regular basis.
How was music a part of your childhood?
I can’t recall a time when I haven’t been into music. From listening to the radio in my parents’ room when I was really young, to perking up when the organ or choir sent waves of sound my way in church, to looking intently at the instrumentalists (not the vocalists) when my family had the opportunity to attend a live concert. I grew up on the Southside of Chicago and was
An Interview By Barbara Barrows