William Oscar Smith (1917-1991)
Through hard work and perseverance, W.O. Smith earned a PhD and became a member of the music faculty at Tennessee State University. In addition to his successes in academia, he was the first African American member of the Nashville Symphony and a noted jazz bassist, playing with jazz greats such as Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. W.O. Smith believed in the power of music, and thought that by offering musical instruction to children from low-income families that they would be able to change their lives.
In 1984, his dream became a reality when W.O. Smith Music School first opened its doors. The school began with 45 students; it now serves more than 650 annually. Over the course of its existence, W.O. Smith Music School has introduced thousands of interested and deserving children to the world of music.