Assistant Professor Christopher J. Smith
School of Music, College of Visual and Performing Arts
Christopher J. Smith's fascination with the power of live music started in the coffee houses of Boston. As a 13-year old, he spent his free time immersed in the late 1960s folk music revival. During one memorable summer, he was a regular in the coffee houses, listening for hours to traditional Irish music and Mississippi Delta blues - both played live and often in the same room. "This completely rocked my world," he said in a recent interview. "I have been very dedicated to the study and performance of various traditional musics ever since."
An Assistant Professor of Music History and Literature at Texas Tech, Smith's life melds two worlds: that of a versatile musician and that of a passionate scholar determined to give vernacular music its just due in the academy. He has lectured or performed at hundreds of colloquia, concerts, workshops, and pub sessions across the country and in Europe, and on National Public Radio, Minnesota Public Radio and the Fox Network.
Although trained as a jazz guitar player, after completing his doctorate Smith devoted himself to vernacular music - and has never looked back. Smith defines vernacular music -- also known as folk, improvisational or traditional music -- as simply "what is passed on by the ear rather than through musical scores."
Using music to build community is also a big part of what he does on campus through myriad activities big and small, such as launching a Vernacular Music Center and organizing the annual Celtic Christmas concert. An active performer on campus, in the Lubbock community and on the international music scene, his two main instruments are the Irish bouzouki (what he calls an "overgrown mandolin") and the button accordion.