Composer David Smooke (b. 1969) currently resides in Baltimore, Maryland, where he teaches music theory, rock music history, and composition at the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University. The Washington Post claims that “Smooke has some of the most uninhibited brain cells around” and describes his music as “superb […] a kaleidoscopic sonic universe where anything could happen […] one of those rare pieces you fall in love with from the get-go.” The Baltimore Sun adds that his music is “a highly creative, absorbing experience.” His honors include those from the Maryland State Arts Council, a Rubys Grant from the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance, BMI (William Schuman Prize for Most Outstanding Score, BMI Student Composer Awards), the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Ragdale Foundation, the National Association of Composers USA, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and SCI/ASCAP (Regional Winner). He has composed commissions for groups and individuals including the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), CUBE, Rhymes With Opera, Volti Choir, the Peabody Wind Ensemble, Great Noise Ensemble, loadbang, Pictures on Silence, pianists Amy Briggs and Geoffrey Burleson, bassoonist Michael Parker-Harley (of Alarm Will Sound), bassist Jeffrey Weisner (of the National Symphony Orchestra), and toy pianist Phyllis Chen (of ICE), and has worked with such ensembles and performers as the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Pacifica String Quartet, eighth blackbird, the California E.A.R Unit, Verge Ensemble, Dark in the Song, the University of Chicago Contemporary Chamber Players (now called Contempo), Dal Niente, Syzygy (the Rice University faculty new music ensemble), and the University of Iowa Center for New Music.
Previously he was on the faculties of Ohio University, the Chicago College of Performing Arts of Roosevelt University, the Merit School of Music, the University of Chicago, Columbia College Chicago, the Birch Creek Music Performance Center, and the Sun Valley Summer Symphony Workshops.
Smooke performs improvisations and original works on various instruments including toy piano, supported by Schoenhut toy pianos. He has created free improvisations on toy piano alongside such luminaries as Michael Formanek, Susan Alcorn, Tim Feeney, Courtney Orlando, Erik Spangler, John Dierker, Dave Ballou, Bonnie Lander, Adam Hopkins, and Dana Jessen. He has collaborated with visual artists including the puppet-maker (and Chair of Fiber Arts at MICA) Valeska Populoh, filmmaker Meg Rorison, and interdisciplinary artists Mayumi Ishino and Katherine Kavanaugh. Previously, Smooke has served as co-composer/curator for the Lunar Ensemble (with Emily Koh) and League of the Unsound Sound (with Ken Ueno), and has written over 150 columns for NewMusicBox, the online magazine of New Music U.S.A.
He received an MM degree from the Peabody Conservatory, a BA magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, and a PhD from the University of Chicago, where he received the Century Fellowship, the highest fellowship offered by the Humanities Division. His composition teachers have included Shulamit Ran, David Rakowski, John Eaton, Robert Hall Lewis, Ronald Caltabiano and Richard Wernick.