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3 things to know about Fred Hughes of the Columbia Jazz Band

3 things to know about Director of the Columbia Jazz Band, Fred Hughes
3 things to know about Director of the Columbia Jazz Band, Fred Hughes

Fred Hughes took the reins of the Columbia Jazz Band in 2017, but he’s “spent his entire life immersed in music.” He played tuba in a community band alongside his father when he was 12, played accordion in a German band at Hershey Park and traveled around the world as pianist with the Fred Hughes Trio. A Pennsylvania native, Hughes, 59, lives on the Eastern Shore. Here he shares a few facts about his life that not many people may know.

He polished his jazz skills in South Korea

After enlisting at 18, Hughes spent six years playing tuba in the U.S. Army, the last four in South Korea, where he performed jazz in Seoul nightclubs. He also formed a jazz band called Just Friends while there and recorded six albums. After returning home to Lancaster in 1985, he played in a piano trio. From 1989 to 1996, he was a pianist with the Army’s renowned Jazz Ambassadors.

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He reads musicians’ biographies

Hughes has read numerous books on John Philip Sousa, composer of “The Stars and Stripes Forever” and longtime conductor of the U.S. Marine Band. Sousa’s body of work “informs me on how I direct a community band and piqued my interest in studying the tuba,” he said. He’s also read books on Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson, both jazz pianists, and saxophonist Wayne Shorter.

He enjoys cooking outdoors

Hughes likes to lose himself in the process of cooking prime rib, smoked wings, brisket or brined turkey with cherrywood or applewood. He cooks outdoors about four times a month, even in rain and snow. While he’s perfecting his other craft, he likes to observe and photograph birds, from the bluebirds that gather at his mealworm feeder to eagles and ospreys.

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