Lisa Marie Maestas on Viola Smith

“Once you find your passion then your job is just love every day.”

VIOLA SMITH was the first female big-band drummer ever! In WWII she played with the Andrews Sisters and lived to the ripe age of 107! All her long life Viola advocated for women players, "Give a Female Musician a Break!" and kept thwacking her drums. She credits her longevity to the athleticism of drumming. Drummer Lisa Marie Maestas dances a double tap and explains Viola Smith and her unique playing style and wondrous life. Give a listen-- this one's a blast.

Our storytellers share these astonishing women with us conversationally and unscripted; we fact-check afterwards and note any major discrepancies for accuracy.

Viola Smith died on October 21, 2020, after this piece was filmed.


Lisa Marie Maestas

Lisa Marie Maestas is a drummer, percussionist, singer, and songwriter from Colorado who has lived in Los Angeles since 2005. She is an award-winning Teaching Artist for the LACER AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAMS and has been teaching drums and vocals to middle-school rock band classes in Los Angeles, CA for the past 13 years. Grateful for having the pleasure of playing for, touring with, and sharing stages with some of her musical heroes, she truly believes that music and drumming helped shape her life, work through tragedies and tribulations, saved her from making terrible choices and gave her the confidence to continue living off her passion and love for music. She hopes to pass this along to her students so that hopefully they will find their solace, passion, and inspiration in music too. She is currently in the hard-rock duo Praise the Dead where she sings lead and play drums at the same time. Praise the Dead’s EP, The Heavy can be found on all streaming platforms.

Read more about Lisa Marie here: Voyage LA

Featured Woman

Viola Smith

Viola Smith was an American drummer best known for her work in orchestras, swing bands, and popular music from the 1920s until 1975. She was one of the first professional female drummers. Her signature style of 13 drums, particularly, two 16 inch tom-toms at shoulder height, was never copied; however, Smith noted Louis Bellson using 2 bass drums after meeting and observing Smith with the tom-toms. An advocate for female equality in the music industry, Viola wrote an article, during World War II for Billboard magazine called ‘Give Girl Musicians a Break!’: since most of the male musicians were serving in the military, why not give exceptionally good female musicians a shot? Viola believed that her drums kept her in good shape; a testament to her living to the ripe old age of 107.