Shirley Smart is recognised as one of the UK’s most versatile and creative cellists – being equally at home and well versed in jazz and Middle Eastern music, as well as classical music.
Originally trained under Raphael Wallfisch at the Guilldhall School of Music, and Janos Starker in Paris, she subsequently moved to Jerusalem, where she remained for 10 years, studying and performing a wide variety of musical traditions from the North Africa, Turkey and Middle East. She was also highly active on the jazz scene, working with artists including Avishai Cohen, Omer Avital and Yasmin Levy. Since returning to the UK, she has quickly become known as one of the most creative cellists on the music scene and has worked with many leading jazz and world music groups, including Antonio Forcione, Mulato Astatke, Gilad Atzmon, Neil Cowley, Julian Ferraretto, Robert Mitchell, Maya Youssef and Alice Zawadzki.
Shirley is Professor of Musicianship and Improvisation at the Royal College of Music in London, and an Assistant Lecturer at Kent University.
She also teaches at Trinity Laban Conservatoire, and RCM Junior Department, as well as a visiting tutor for the National Youth Jazz Collective, and an in demand workshop leader.
The Slightly Longer Version
Shirley has had an unusual and diverse career. She studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London with Raphael Wallfisch, where she performed with the London Symphony Orchestra, made a concerto debut at the Heritage Museum in St. Petersburg and gave a concert of trios with renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma at the Barbican, After further study in Paris with Janos Starker, with Steven Isserlis and Ralph Kirshbaum at IMS Prussia Cove and at the International Menuhin Academy in Switzerland, she left the UK for Jerusalem.
Although she initially went for a year, Shirley became involved with a great many musical projects, and met many musicians and friends, so ended up staying for 10 years. She joined Moroccan jazz fusion group Sound of the Ground - the result of a chance meeting in a Jerusalem restaurant, which led to many other projects playing Arabic, Oriental and North African music with groups including Sabreen, Yasmin Levy, Tarshika Orchestra, Khaled Jubran, Radio Effendi, al-Farabi Trio, Maurice El-Mediouni, and oud players Bilal Irshed, Haytham Safia and Nizar Rohana.
She also began developing a long-held interest in jazz, taking studies in jazz improvisation on cello and piano at the Jerusalem Centre Creative for Music, run by saxophone player Arnie Lawrence. She subsequently joined both his band, and worked with many musicians on the vibrant Israeli jazz scence, including Avishai Cohen and Omer Avital.
Shirley has toured most of Europe, Russia, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco as well as all over Israel and Palestine (and occasionally getting caught in the crossfire….)
Shirley studied musicology and English Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and was a tutor of Cello for several years at the Edward Said Conservatory of Music in Ramallah. She acted on several occasions as a deputy teacher of Cello at the Tel Aviv Conservatory of Music and now teaches Musicianship and Improvisation at the Royal College of Music Junior Department.
Since moving back to London in 1999, Shirley has quickly established herself of both the jazz and World Music scenes. She has performed at arts centres and festivals around the UK, and the Channel Islands, and has worked with, among others, Neil Cowley, Robert Mitchell, Mulato Astatke, Gilad Atzmon, Antonio Forcione, Attab Haddad, Julian Ferraretto, Partikel, Maciek Pysz, Maurizio Minardi, Al-Andaluz, Yazid Fentazi, Khyam Allami, Tamer Abu-Ghazaleh, Alejandro Toledo and the Magic Tombolinos, She'Koyokh, Komsos, Sefiroth Ensemble
Venues at which she has performed include the Barbican, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room, Kings Place, Elgar Room, Ronnie Scotts, 606 Jazz Club, Vortex, Brunel Museum, Forge, National Theatre, Green Note, Rich Mix and others.
She performs with her own projects, which include an duo recital programme drawing on her various musical infleuces, her jazz trio and sextet projects and world music band Melange.
Shirley is Professor of Musicianship and Improvisation at the Royal College of Music in London, and an Assistant Lecturer at Kent University. She also teaches at Trinty Laban Conservatoire and the RCM Junior Department.
She is a visiting tutor for the National Youth Jazz Collective and in demand as a workshop leader.
Shirley speaks Hebrew and Arabic, and keeps making doomed attempts to learn French. She likes playing tennis, and has a massive soft spot for kittens..and hedgehogs.....