Pete Smyser is a professional guitarist/ composer/ arranger/ educator residing in Harleysville, Pennsylvania (a Northern suburb of Philadelphia). His influences and performing styles are widely diverse ranging from acoustic guitar renditions of contemporary pop and rock songs to straight ahead jazz, blues, folk and traditional classical guitar. He performs approximately 200 events every year.
Pete plays both six and seven string guitars. His custom made seven string guitars include an additional low string which extends the bass range of the instrument and creates new possibilities for composing, arranging and performing.
At the age of three, Pete declared, "I want to be a truck driver and a guitar player!" Well, he never pursued truck driving, but Pete did begin playing the guitar at eight years old and never looked back. For the next seven years, Pete took lessons and gained experience while performing in a variety of school, church and rock bands.
HIGH school (GETTING SERIOUS)
When Pete was 15 years old, his father approached him with a proposal... "If you're serious about pursuing a career in music, then we should find you the best classical guitar teacher and the best jazz guitar teacher in the area." Pete agreed and entered into an intense period of study and practice while attending weekly lessons with separate classical and jazz instructors. During this time he practiced between six and eleven hours each day.
Pete received a full scholarship to attend Temple University where he studied Jazz/ Commercial Guitar Performance. He continued to take private classical guitar lessons separate from his college courses.
His first professional opportunity to perform jazz came at the age of 18 when he was hired to provide guitar music on Friday evenings at a local restaurant. During this time, Pete also began teaching guitar students.
Post college (establishing a career)
After college, Pete formed a jazz fusion band which performed throughout the region. At one point, trumpeter/ EVI player, John Swana, joined the group. Swana is an outstanding straight ahead jazz musician from Philadelphia who recorded extensively on the Criss Cross Jazz label. Ultimately, Smyser dissolved "Alternate Routes" and turned away from fusion in favor of his interest in straight ahead jazz associated with the 1950s and '60s. He continued to work with John Swana for many years. John's trumpet and flugelhorn playing can be heard on two of Pete's recordings... "Out of Nowhere" (1996) and "The Scene is Clean" (1999).
Along with a great variety of "gigs," Smyser landed a regular Sunday night performance at a historical Inn in Doylestown, PA. He used this weekly opportunity to meet a number of Philadelphia's finest young jazz musicians. Pete invited a variety of bassists and drummers, established working relationships with them and grew his reputation as an up and coming jazz guitarist.
Pete released Out of Nowhere, his debut recording as a leader, at the age of 28. The CD was prominently featured on Philadelphia's premier jazz radio station, WRTI. In published reviews, critics likened Smyser's playing to that of Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass and Jim Hall. The CD created many new performing opportunities throughout the region for Pete. The recording also prompted him to be included among legendary guitarists in the reference book - The Jazz Guitar, Its Evolution, Its Players and Personalities Since 1900 (Ashley Mark Publishing Co.).
meet ted lis
Pete met saxophonist Ted Lis in 1996. The two became good friends and quickly landed a steady Friday night, duo gig at a prominent Inn located in Montgomeryville, PA. They continued to perform at the venue and many others for many years while growing a substantial following for their unique approach to performing standards. Pete and Ted continue to perform approximately 70 shows each year. Video samples of the duo are available on YouTube. Ted can be heard on Pete's 1999 release entitled "The Scene is Clean" (CD and MP3 downloads are available through iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon.com, etc.).
beginning the 7-string
In 1999, guitar luthier Dale Unger attended one of Pete & Ted's duo performances. At the show, he asked Pete to become a player/endorser for his company, American Archtop Guitars, and Pete accepted. Dale suggested that Pete's playing style of moving chords and walking bass lines would translate perfectly to the 7 string guitar. Pete agreed, so Dale built and delivered it to him in 2000.
meet larry mckenna
In 2000, Pete reconnected with one of his former teachers from college... Larry McKenna. Larry is an amazing talent on the saxophone and has been a significant influence on the development and education of a great many jazz musicians throughout the greater Philadelphia region. Pete scheduled a recording session with Larry which included a number of duo tracks where Pete used his brand new American Archtop, 7 string guitar. The recording, titled Pete Smyser & Larry McKenna, was highly praised and created numerous prominent performing opportunities for Pete and Larry at museums, universities, festivals and jazz clubs. The album is available for purchase and download at CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon.com, etc. Pete and Larry are good friends and continue to perform together.
moravian (teaching/ performing/ recording)
From 2006 through 2015, Pete taught jazz guitar as part of the adjunct faculty at Moravian College. A number of Pete's recordings have resulted from opportunities to perform at Moravian College. The first was in 2007 when he was invited to perform a solo program at The Bethlehem Guitar Festival. Although this annual festival is rooted in classical guitar traditions, there was a twist to the theme that year - "Jazz on the Classic." So, Pete put together a program of standards and jazz songs, but incorporated classical elements and performed it on a classical, nylon string guitar. He later recorded the material in the studio and released it under the title, "Pete Smyser, Solo Guitar... Jazz on the Classic." The CD and MP3 downloads are available through iTunes, CD Baby, etc.
Pete Smyser has a long standing, deep reverence for American Songbook standards — particularly the songs from the 1910s through the 1960s. So, in 2009, he chose to assemble and perform "An Evening of Gershwin" with his trio. The program included performances of timeless Gershwin songs along with brief entertaining stories about the songs and composer. It was very well received. Video of the performance is available on YouTube. The success of the concert led to other educational concerts, two of which resulted in commercially released CDs.
In 2010, Pete created and delivered a concert program entitled "The Guitar in Jazz" which demonstrated the changing role and development of the instrument in jazz from the 1920s through the 1970s.
His next concert, in 2011, focused on the songs of Jerome Kern and was performed by his quartet. This produced Pete's first live recording, titled "The Jerome Kern Concert ...LIVE!" Reaction was very enthusiastic to this presentation and recording. The CD reached the top 50 for National jazz radio play and remained there for several weeks. Video is available on YouTube and the CD and MP3 downloads are available through iTunes, CD Baby, etc.
In 2013, Pete returned to Foy Hall of the Moravian campus. This time with his quintet to present a new program dedicated to the songs composed by yet another legendary American songbook composer... Harry Warren. Once again, the public response was strong. In fact, one of the songs, "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," was voted onto WRTI's "Hot 11 Conutdown" for thirteen weeks in a row! It was #1 for three weeks in a row. At the end of the year, the song was crowned the #1 requested song on WRTI's "Top 100 Jazz Countdown of 2014." Video is available on YouTube and the CD and MP3 downloads are available through iTunes, CD Baby, etc.
Pete established a YouTube Channel in 2013 which he continues to populate with a variety of videos. He maintains an active performing schedule (approximately 160 performances annually) and offers private lessons from his home studio.