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Langston Hughes II is a DMV native with a passion for music, with the ability to both produce his own composition and reimagine classic songs with his own twist. Not far from his childhood stomping grounds of Capitol Heights and Bowie, Hughes performed a tribute to Duke Ellington late last month at the Kennedy Center. This tribute is available for viewing on YouTube

He recently graduated from Howard University, where he studied under the tutelage of Charlie Young III.  During one of his undergraduate classes, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) 2023 Jazz Masters Fellow Kenny Garrett even gave him feedback on one of his performances during class. His next plans are to study at the famed Juilliard University in New York and achieve a graduate degree in Jazz Studies. 

“This concentrated period of time will give me a unique opportunity to truly dive deep into the tradition of this music so that I can be a breath for generations whose impacts continue to bring forth an abundance of hope and strength in times of adversity,” he said, adding that even as a  Juilliard student, he will continue to perform in D.C.

While he originally wanted to study engineering as a child, his love for music led him to study the topic academically as well. The Foundation for the Advancement of Music and Education (FAME) and the NAACP ACT-SO competition both helped him develop as a young musician, and he said he is grateful for their role in inspiring his pursuit of musical achievement. He continues to volunteer with FAME to help grow the next generation of musicians. He cites music’s ability to develop cognitive abilities and jazz’s improvisational and spontaneous thinking as just some of the benefits for a child’s education.

“I realized early on the profound impact that music held, observing the passion, joy, sadness and sheer power it elicited in people who had never even picked up an instrument. So, when my fourth-grade teacher handed me a saxophone, I eagerly took the opportunity and became consumed by it,” the musician explained. “ Later, I discovered jazz and realized that it simply represented the creative expression of people’s experiences and lives.”

In 2021, Hughes served as an Artist-In-Residence at the Strathmore’s North Bethesda Art Center.

To clarify – Hughes is not related to the famous poet, with whom he shares a name.

“Although I’m not related, I do believe there is some kind of connection with him being an artist communicating through poetry and through spoken word, and I think I do the same thing but through music,” he said in a WTOP interview.

For Hughes, jazz is more than about the tunes; it’s the narratives behind them.

“Now, I not only love the music but also the stories that the music represents.”

To learn more about Hughes and his work, visit his website

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