’09 Alum Rocks
The first word that comes to mind when you hear “TJ rock star” may be “geologist,” but alums from the Class of 2009 can say that they knew indie-rock star AJ Smith before he made it big. Smith, who played to an appreciative hometown crowd (his mention of TJ got the loudest shout-out) at Vienna’s Jammin’ Java on August 10th as one of many stops on his DC-area tour, is now a successful singer/songwriter/musician on the rise.
Andrew Smith, TJ ’09, enjoyed his time at TJ, from Latin with Ms. Conklin (he has written songs based on the Classics) and English with Ms. Seavey to Physics with Dr. Dell and Mr. Forbes and an NRL Optics Mentorship, but he has always had a passion for performance. At TJ, Smith performed in Oklahoma and Inspector General, and was even a “Mr. Colonial” competition participant. He was also a Young Associate at the National Symphony Orchestra during his senior year. In fact, he has been composing, mixing, and performing his own music since he was in elementary school.
Smith holds two degrees in Music Theory & Composition from New York University, including a Master’s with a Concentration in Songwriting (2014), for which he received two prestigious songwriting scholarships. While captaining NYU’s lacrosse team and serving as a dormitory Resident Advisor, Smith opened for the legendary band The Eagles at a scholarship gala. It was this rare combination of talents and contributions that landed him a spot as one of Washington Square News’ Ten Most Influential NYU Students of 2012.
Smith, whose first EP was released in April 2013, recently returned from Los Angeles where he was recording vocals for a new single. He composes his own music, writes his own lyrics, and is a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist whose diverse repertoire runs the gamut from soulful ballads to energetic dance mixes. GRAMMY-winning songwriter Claude Kelly may have called his lyrics, “vivid, deep, and intensely emotional,” but that didn’t stop his dance hit “Summertime,” from climbing to the third spot on Australia’s ARIA Top 50 Club Tracks Chart, behind the familiar hits Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” and Swedish House Mafia’s “Don’t You Worry Child.”
As Smith was heading down to Richmond for a show, he talked about what he aims for in his music. He believes that the best songs have layers of meaning so that the more you listen and reflect, the more you understand. A TJ boy at heart, he aims to give his songs an almost mathematical structure, and analogized encountering a well-written song to making an unexpected discovery in the course of conducting research : “As you dive a little deeper, you find something more amazing . . .”This was the most fun I’ve had covering a story. -ed.