During the 1990’s, I had the pleasure of serving on the board of a school in Nashville that I dearly love, W.O. Smith Music School https://www.wosmith.org/. One of the many reasons I treasure the school is their mission to change lives through music. It is that singular focus that changed my late husband, Harlan Howard’s life forever. Though Harlan didn’t have access to a music school, the W.O. Smith School was the perfect fit for Harlan and I to give back to an industry that has been so kind to us.
W.O. Smith School enables students from low income families a chance to learn and master an instrument for 50 cents a lesson. William Oscar Smith’s life was changed by music. Mr. Smith believed in the power of music. It was his love of music that enabled him to earn a PhD and teach music at Tennessee State University. Music put him on the path and on the map to playing with jazz greats Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker to name a few. W.O. Smith was the first African American member of the Nashville Symphony. His legacy lives on in the young lives of the musical students at W.O. Smith School.
Much like the Harlan Howard Birthday Bashes, Harlan hosted several shows at the Hard Rock Café called Harlan and Friends Unrock the Hard Rock. Harlan gathered his songwriting buddies and for one night each year, put on a show to raise money for the school. It was an intimate singer songwriters’ night of music and storytelling from the writers who penned the hit songs.
Some of my favorite writers who participated are Waylon Jennings, Vince Gill, Max D. Barnes, Big Al Anderson, Gerry House, Tom Douglas, Matraca Berg: you get it, the lineup was impressive and too little space to mention them all. Many thanks to all the songwriters who so graciously donated their time and talent to help raise money for W.O. Smith School of Music!
Respectfully written 8.20.19