LaDonna Smith (born 1951 in Birmingham) is a classically-trained violist, violinist and pianist known for her contributions to improvisational composition and performance. She organized the first Birmingham International Improvisation Festival, founded the improvisor, an international journal of free improvisation, and runs her own Trans Museq recording label. She is also an instructor and the director of the Birmingham Suzuki Violin Association and teaches improvisation at the Central Pennsylvania Suzuki Institute.
Smith was inspired to study music while attending a Carlos Montoya concert at Birmingham-Southern College when she was 6 years old. She began piano lessons a year later at the college's Birmingham Conservatory of Music. She taught herself to play the guitar and, later, the accordion. In college at the University of Alabama she studied musical composition and taught on early electronic instruments. Discovering the sonic range of the viola, she took it up as an improvisational tool while she tried to keep up with the orchestra. She also played piano for jazz ensemble.
In 1973 Smith met guitarist Davey Williams, who encouraged her improvisational work. They held a first public performance as a duo at Alabama's Ferguson Center on April 7, 1974. They began rehearsing and recording with other Tuscaloosa musicians including Adrian Dye, Theodore Bowen, Timothy Reed, James Hearon and Anne LeBaron under the name Transcendprovisation. She and Williams moved to Birmingham in 1984 where they began performing as Trans Duo and working with local musicians Doug Carroll and Wally Shoup. She has also performed with other groups such as Fred Lane & the Debonairs, The LSD Trio, Curlew, Dice and the surrealist Glass Veal Group.
Soon they began working with established improvisational dancers in Birmingham like Mary Horn, Sycamore and Juanita Suarez. They founded Trans Museq and began to actively promote the art of improvisation by bringing national and international acts to play in Birmingham. They participated in the New York-based Improvisors Network when it was founded in 1980 and soon found themselves touring around the world themselves. Smith also became involved with the Network's board, gradually developing the Improvisor journal out of their newsletter, which survived the dissolution of the Improvisors Network itself.
Over the following decades Smith has played scores of performances and workshops around the world and produced numerous recordings. She regularly writes on the subject of improvisation and surrealist philosophy and also pursues visual art, dance and yoga as part of a holistic view of creativity.
- Eye of the Storm (1992), recorded in Gent, St Gallen, Birmingham and St Louis
- Burnette, Kelly (August 2003) "LaDonna Smith: The impulse is the catalyst, improvisation is action and the exploration" interview. Perfect Sound Forever