AUSTIN, Texas — Texas-based musician and artist Darden Smith has been named the first recipient of the new songwriter in residence program at The University of Texas at Austin. The program, housed in the College of Fine Arts, is part of the University’s efforts to expand live music experiences while integrating the campus community into Austin’s vibrant live music community and economy.
“The location of our University is significant. Being in the heart of Austin creates collisions and synergy with industry, intellectual pursuits, and the arts, including live music,” said President Jay Hartzell. “UT has been a big part of making Austin the live music capital of the world, including the talent that is gathered on the Forty Acres or launched from it. I am truly excited that one of those talented artists, alumnus Darden Smith, will interact with our students as our resident songwriter, passing on his life lessons as a UT student and successful musical artist. This program will further enrich the spirit and soul of Austin and Texas and will bring more vibrancy to the campus and community through additional live events. Darden and his successors will also provide transformative experiences for our students, many of whom have inspiring stories to tell through music and songwriting.”
The residency includes a nine-month stipend supporting the fellow’s continued professional practice and assimilation into the University community through workshops, concerts and other public programs. During the residency, the artists will create and release new music as a song, album or video and debut their new music on campus at Texas Performing Arts or KUT, creating a minimum of two performance showcases per semester. The new material will include a credit to UT, which will become part of building the University’s presence as an incubator of new music.
“Darden Smith has an expansive view of the arts and their relationship to place and the Texas region,” said Ramón H. Rivera-Servera, dean of the College of Fine Arts. “He’s a performer who has advanced a successful music career, but he’s also produced photography books that integrate his lyrics alongside images to create narrative and story. With this residency, we’re excited to think about placemaking and how we can engage our broader community.”
A committee of University and Austin music stakeholders will nominate future fellows, and the University’s president will select the Texas Songwriter in Residence each spring semester. The committee will seek talented and accomplished musicians who have had sustained impact on Austin’s live music scene, have engaged broad audiences with ranging knowledge and musical skills, and who have committed to advocating for the future of live music communities and economies in Austin and Central Texas.
Smith graduated from UT with a Bachelor of Arts in American studies. He toured the U.S. with Stevie Nicks and Europe with Joan Baez and has released 17 critically acclaimed albums. Beyond songwriting, he has composed a symphony, scored multiple full-length dance theater works, produced a BBC2 Radio documentary, and written music for film and television. He has written a book and produced a multimedia collection that included a photography book, lyrics and essays, two albums, videos, and a suite of lithographs and drawings. Smith’s career spans 35 years and continues to grow and evolve.
“It’s an honor to be the inaugural songwriter in residence at UT Austin,” Smith said. “My years at UT expanded my horizons, made me a better writer, and most importantly, taught me how to think. The time to pursue what might have seemed to others as rather random lines of inquiry, coupled with the influence of several key teachers — including Michael Adams, Jeffrey Mieckle, Bill Stott and Bill Goetzmann — stays with me to this day. My goal is to reflect all these gifts to as many students as possible, all while elevating the appreciation of the mighty craft of songwriting.”