Professor Jerry C. Smith
Minister Of Music
Jerry Smith has been immersed in music since his birth, having been born and raised in the culturally historic Farish Street District of Jackson, Mississippi, built by and for descendants of slaves. Before integration, it was the black Mecca of Mississippi - music, ministry, and business. He remains connected to the community, where he serves as Minister of Music of Farish Street Baptist Church - the second oldest African American church in Mississippi.
He was mentored by Dr. Lannie Spann-McBride, whose iconic voice resonates with tones cultivated by a lifetime of singing gospel. Her talent landed her a part in the 1988 film, Mississippi Burning, where her contemporary arrangement of Rev. James Cleveland’s Walk of Faith is played over the closing credits. Jerry was able to show gratitude to Dr. McBride by inviting her to accompany him on two tours of Spain.
He is a founding member and minister of music of the Mississippi Mass Choir, where he directed, produced, composed and arranged many of the songs that established the choir as one of the premiere groups in all of gospel music, including “Lord We Thank You,” “I Need Thee,” This Morning When I Rose,” “Lord We Praise You,” “There Is None Like Him,” O Holy Night,” “God Will Fix It,” and co-wrote “God’s On Your Side,” with award-winning songwriter Stan Jones. He also arranged “His Eye Is On the Sparrow” with the Mississippi Children’s Choir that caught the ear of the gospel world and made Bryan Andrew Wilson a singing sensation.
He is also an artist in his own rights, having founded the Children of Israel in 1983 and recording their first album - I’ve Been Touched - with Malaco/Savoy Music Group - the largest Gospel Record Label in the world. In addition to Jerry, the album includes songs from the pen of such renowned songwriters as Walter Hawkins, V. Michael McKay, David Curry Jr., and Rev. Milton Biggham.
According to the legendary gospel artist Dorothy Norwood, “not since Rev. James Cleveland, have I known anyone better than Jerry Smith, when it comes to teaching songs.”
The Children of Israel vocals can be heard on the Canton Spirituals’ 1993 groundbreaking Live in Memphis recording, the Mighty Clouds of Joy 1996 Live in Charleston project, as well as numerous Malaco/Savoy studio recordings, including Rev. James Moore, Dorothy Norwood, and the Williams Brothers.
He is also the founder of the Black Heritage Singers, an aggregation that has reached legendary status from multiple tours of Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands. He and the group will return to Europe for a highly anticipated month long tour that will pay tribute to the 50th Anniversary of Aretha Franklin recording of Amazing Grace - the best-selling album in the history of Gospel Music.
Not only does Jerry play music by ear, but he is also a classically trained pianist. He earned a bachelor’s degree in piano performance and a master’s degree in music education from Jackson State University, in Jackson, MS. Where he currently as the Music Department Staff Accompanist. Those degree and training served him well in 2010 as he, along with the Mississippi Mass Choir performed with the Orquesta Sinfònica de Tenerife on Christmas day.
Perhaps his greatest personal accomplishment came in December 2004 when he was asked to conduct the world-renowned San Sebastian Choral Festival in San Sebastian, Spain. Jerry arranged and charted the music, as well as directed 180 youth from all over Spain to rave reviews. In 2005 and 2006, Jerry returned to Spain to direct the annual festival.