World-class composer, pianist and arranger, Richard Smallwood has clearly and solidly changed the face of gospel music. He can impeccably blend classical movements with traditional gospel, and arrive at a mix that is invariably Smallwood's alone. A diverse and innovative artist, Richard Smallwood has achieved many honors; Dove Awards and a Grammy also attest to his talents.
Richard graduated cum laude from renowned HowardUniversity with degrees in both vocal performance and piano in addition to graduate work in the field of ethnomusicology. His gifts were stirred up early in life. At age five, he was playing piano by ear, at seven, began formal training, and at eleven, formed his first gospel group. Richard Smallwood is attributed with many gospel 'firsts'. He was a member of the first gospel group on Howard's campus, The Celestials. They were also the first gospel group to appear at Switzerland's Montreux Jazz Festival. In addition, Richard was one of the founding members of Howard's first gospel choir, and The Richard Smallwood Singers were the first black gospel group to go to the Soviet Union.
Richard Smallwood has been honored by the Smithsonian Institution as a "gospel innovator and songwriter," and his hometown, Washington, D.C.heralded two separate occasions as "Richard Smallwood Day," also, distinguishing him with the Mayoral Art Award for "precision and excellence in artistic discipline." Smallwood's gift has made room for him to minister to presidents and dignitaries at all of D.C.'s halls of fame, including the Smithsonian, the KennedyCenter and the White House. Touching all areas of the arts, Richard and his singers toured with a theatrical musical, "Sing Mahalia Sing" starring Jennifer Holiday, which segued into a guest appearance on television's "Ryan's Hope" for ABC. He also was recently inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and received the Distinguished Achievement Award from HowardUniversity.
Richard began his recording career in 1982 with an album simply titled, The Richard Smallwood Singers. The debut project spent 87 weeks on Billboard's Gospel chart. The next project, Psalms received a Grammy nomination. Two years later, another nomination for Textures, the album that contained the classic, "The Center Of My Joy" penned by Richard Smallwood along with Bill and Gloria Gaither. Smallwood continued to amass successive Grammy nominations with the following projects, Vision, Portrait, Testimony and Live at HowardUniversity. Richard continued to climb to the pinnacle of success, receiving a Grammy Award and Dove Award for his production on the Quincy Jones' gospel project, Handel's Soulful Messiah.
Richard's music has never been confined to anyone artistic genre. His song, "I, Love The Lord" crossed onto the big screen when Whitney Houston sang it in the film, The Preacher's Wife. The same song was also used in the tune, "Dear God" by R&B artists, Boyz II Men on their CD titled “Evolution.” His music has also been recorded by artists such as Destiny's Child, Yolanda Adams and Karen Clark-Sheard. He has even accompanied legendary opera diva Leontyne Price as a part of the White House Christmas celebration during the Reagan administration.
Richard, with his current group Vision, an ensemble of multitalented ministers of music, has recorded four projects for Verity records, "Adoration," "Rejoice," "Healing...Live in Detroit," and the newest entitled "Persuaded-Live in DC" which was also nominated for a Grammy and multiple Stellar Awards. He is currently working on his Master's degree at HowardUniversityDivinitySchool.