She was a pioneer of the instrument among women. She began her career as a child, was part of different formations and became a reference.
Her life spanned the entire 20th century, she was one of the oldest people in the world and a pioneer of women drummers and All Girls Bands (the girl bands). Viola Smith died this Saturday at the age of 107.
Born on November 29, 1912, in Wisconsin, United States, Smith was one of the first professional women of the instrument and played in swing bands and in female-only orchestras, the calls All Girls Bands. Smith kept playing drums until a few months ago.
When I was just eight years old, his father founded the Schmitz Sisters Family Orchestra, later the Smith Sisters Orchestra where he gathered his seven daughters. All of the sisters knew how to play the piano and some other instrument, and on weekends and summer vacations, they went on tour. Viola was on drums and she never stopped again.
In the 30s, already professional, he had his most successful stage with several girl bands. First was part of The Coquettes and later, installed in New York, thanks to a scholarship from the prestigious Juilliard music school, he created another band made up entirely of women, la Hour of Charm Orquestra.
In one of her last interviews last year, Viola said: “I was the first to develop the technique of tom-tom. No one has ever imitated me since. You might think so, but what there is is a lot of man willing to become the expert Over there”.
Smith also performed with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, recorded music for films as a member of the National Symphony Orchestra, and even He acted with figures like Ella Fitzgerald and Chick Webb.
Viola was called the “female Gene Krupa,” in reference to renowned jazz musician and Big Band drummer Gene Krupa. Considering that Krupa was born just three years earlier and emerged on the scene a little after Smith, it might as well have been the male Viola Smith. She was also known as “the fastest girl drummer”.
Since its inception, Smith defended the fact that women could touch any instrument as well as men. In an interview, conducted in 1942 for the magazine Down Beat, In the midst of World War II, Viola said: “In these times of national emergency, many of the star instrumentalists of the big bands are being recruited. Instead of replacing them with what may be a mediocre talent, why not let that some of the great women artists of the country have their opportunity? “.
In her extensive career, Viola also participated in several Broadway theater shows, including, Cabaret. And he also gave a concert for then-US President Harry Truman in 1949.
The legendary drummer led her own band, Viola and Her Seventeen Drums for several years. Unstoppable was also part of the Kit Kat Band, in the ’60s and’ 70s.
The years were not an impediment to Smith’s passion for music and especially drums. In recent years, already a hundred years old, she continued playing with the Forever Young Band: America’s Oldest Act of Professional Entertainers (The eternally young band: the oldest American show of professional artists) with whom they did different shows in California.
His figure and style had a great influence on other women who came later and dedicated themselves to the instrument. Drummers like Georgia Hubley from I have it, Meg White, de The White Stripes, or Sandy West, from The Runaways recognized Viola Smith as their great reference.