Photo: Susana Neves

Photo: Susana Neves


Wilson Tanner Smith is a Chicago-based cellist, composer, improviser, multi-instrumentalist, and performance artist originally from the Philadelphia area. His music is characterized by an interest in limited materials and simple forms, and the much that can be found in patient looks into the small and subtle. His work probes also the nature of communication/communion: its levels, means, impossibilities—and going on trying anyway.

As a cellist/improviser he has been praised in the Chicago Tribune, and regularly performs solo and collaboratively across mediums of music, movement, and theatre. Past work includes performances with dancer/choreographer Ayako Kato, the Kristina Isabelle Dance Company, the Hubbard Street Professional Program, and musicians Keefe Jackson and Ryan Packard, and at venues including Links Hall/Constellation, Elastic Arts, the Ragdale Foundation, the 2017 Pivot Arts Festival and Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival, and at numerous apartment/house galleries across Chicago. He has given world premieres of music composed by Manfred Werder, Ben Zucker, and Carlo Diaz.

In February 2018 he performed as a dancer and cellist in the world premiere of Ayako Kato's “Stück 1998 / Anchor 2018” (including the world premiere of pages 879-908 of Manfred Werder's “Stück 1998”), a one-time-only movement and music work spanning 4 unique nights of performance at Links Hall, Chicago.

Smith’s movement-theatre practice is grounded in aikidoistic movement, as developed through formal study under his late father, dancer and sensei Henry Smith, Shihan during childhood. This basis is informed more recently by the anatomical movement work of Ayako Kato.

His composed music has been performed in the U.S. and Portugal by Ensemble Linea, saxophonist Brandon Quarles of ~Nois, Stephanie Wagner and Raquel Lima, and flutists in collaboration with Claire Chase; and at venues including the Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre in Chicago. His flute duo, "After Thought," was published by Scherzo Editions in 2017.

He received a B.M. in music composition with a minor in musicology from Northwestern University in 2016, and is a student of Jay Alan Yim, Juan Campoverde, and the late Lee Hyla.

He also dabbles in poetry and visual art, some of which can be seen throughout this website---thank you for reading!

For any inquiries, questions, or just to chat, fill out the form below or write me an email directly at

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