Native Detroiter Walt Szymanski has enjoyed a vast and
exciting career of over 40 years. From his earliest days as a young choir
singer he knew that his mission in life was to develop his musically artistic
talent that had been bestowed upon him by the creator.
By his high school years he was already arranging for jazz
orchestra as well as penning horn charts for local rock bands. His trumpet
studies included Herbie Williams, Marcus Belgrave, Larry Egan, Clifford Lillya
and James Tamburini.
Following his college years at Oakland University’s famed
Afram Jazz program under the direction of Marvin “Doc” Holladay (studying
trumpet with Herbie Williams and Marcus Belgrave) he began recording and
touring with some of Motowns’ legendary acts including Johnny Taylor, the
Temptations, the Four Tops, Martha Reeves, Parliament Funkadelics and Aretha
Franklin. He also was a founding member of Impact, a popular and cutting edge
jazz quintet for which he penned numerous compositions.
In the early 1980’s, after brief tours with Ray Charles and
the Duke Ellington Orchestra (under the direction of Mercer Ellington) Walt was
chosen by drum legend J.C. Heard to be his musical director as well as arranger
and composer. Together they created the J.C. Heard Orchestra and employed
Detroit’s finest musicians and performed extensively with jazz giants Dizzy
Gillespie, Milt Hinton, Buddy Tate, Ahmad Jamal and Max Roach. Also at this
time he held the position of Artist in Residence for the Detroit Dance
Collective, The Acoustic Arts Ensemble and Detroit Concert Choir.
Walt relocated to New York City in 1992 and quickly found
himself in the company of many of the music world’s greatest practitioners.
Among his associations were Clark Terry, Frank Foster, Lionel Hampton, Dizzy
Gillespie, Eddie Hendersen, Kirk Lightsey, Cecil McBee, Charles Tolliver. Along
with acting as principal trumpet for the Billy Strayhorn Repertoiry Orchestra
at Lincoln Center He also led two extensive tours for the U.S. State Department
under the banner of their Jazz Ambassador program.
In 2007 he began a relationship with Ray Chew at BET as an
arranger/orchestrator for the show Sunday’s Best, working with Reverend Kirk
Franklin and other gospel artists and also arranged the music for President
Obama’s first inaugural ball featuring Beyonce. Walt became an orchestrator and
arranger with the TV show American Idol in 2011 and in 2014 added Dancing With
Upon relocating to Ecuador in 2010 Walt served for a season
as Maestro of the Nacional Sinfonica at the Teatro Sucre in Quito and in 2011 began
a 2 year tenure as professor of Jazz studies at the University of San Francisco
de Quito’s (Ecuador) College of Music, an international affiliate of the
Berklee School of Music in Boston. His duties included head of the brasswinds
department, contemporary arranging and composition for large ensembles and
director of the mini and big bands.
2016 was very busy compositionally for Walt and included the
composition and performance of a trumpet concerto plus orchestra written in a
tribute to his hometown of Detroit, MI entitled “Motor City Reflections” which
was premiered by the Orquestra Sinfonica Nacional del Ecuador and conducted by
Presently Walt lives in Tumbaco Ecuador, performing with his
second line ensemble, the ZULU KINGS BRASS BAND and writing for a myriad of
clients globally including the World Wrestling Federation, London Symphony Pops
and Broadway (two original shows; “Sleigh Bells Swing” and “Trouble Man”).