Pete Smyser is a professional guitarist/ composer/ arranger/ educator residing in Harleysville, Pennsylvania (near Philadelphia). His influences and performing styles are widely diverse ranging from jazz to acoustic guitar renditions of contemporary pop and rock songs, blues, folk and traditional classical guitar. He performs between 170-200 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 3, 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 8 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, his father offered a bit of advice... "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 while attending weekly lessons with separate classical and jazz instructors. During this time he practiced between 6 and 11 hours every 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.
After 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 a highly regarded straight ahead jazz musician from Philadelphia who recorded for Criss Cross Jazz. 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 and The Scene is Clean.
Along with a great variety of "gigs," Smyser landed a regular Sunday night performance at The Doylestown Inn. He used this weekly opportunity to network with some 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.
out of nowhere!
Pete released this 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 The Joseph Ambler Inn. They continued to perform at the venue and many others for many years while building a following for their unique approach to performing standards. Pete and Ted continue to perform approximately 90 shows each year. Video samples of the duo are available on YouTube. Ted can be heard on Pete's 1999 release titled The Scene is Clean. The duo also released a recording in 2018 titled Slow Boat.
Switching to 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 Pete’s first 7 string archtop jazz guitar in 2000.
meet larry mckenna
In 2000, Pete reconnected with a former teacher from Temple University... Larry McKenna. Larry is an amazing talent on the saxophone and has been a significant influence on the development and education of many jazz musicians throughout the 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. Pete and Larry are good friends and continue to perform together regularly.
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.
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."
ESTABLISHING A HOME STUDIo for REcording & teaching
In 2015, Pete decided to step away from Moravian College in favor of teaching exclusively from his home studio - a barn circa 1800 which he had meticulously renovated some years earlier. The barn is his work space for teaching, composing, recording audio & video, etc.
Pete's goal of cultivating the space and resources to release high quality, commercially available audio recordings created in his home studio was realized in 2018 with his release of Wee Small Hours, a solo jazz guitar recording as well as Slow Boat a sax & guitar jazz duo recording. A variety of solo, duo & trio recording projects are in the planning stages for the near future (stay tuned).
Pete Smyser on YouTube
Subscribe to Pete Smyser's YouTube Channel to view videos that showcase a various configurations (solo, duos & other combos) and diverse genres (jazz, classical, contemporary popular).