From concerts, recordings and military service in Seoul, Korea to jazz festivals as a Jazz Ambassador; conducting orchestras across the United States as a musical director to recording and producing records as a pianist and leader of his own group; Fred Hughes has had a long and varied musical journey.
Fred began studying keyboards and low brass at the age of 8 and by age 12 was a member of Local 294 of the American Federation of Musicians in his hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He performed alongside his father in the New Holland and Bainbridge Bands on tuba and in his dad’s jazz group on organ. Professional performances continued with his own organ trio until graduating from high school.
In 1979, Fred enlisted in the United States Army and upon advancing out of the Armed Forces School of Music, was assigned as a tuba player in the First Army Band at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. His keyboard prowess soon had him playing in the duty combo, show band and big band with the First Army Band as well as an organ trio in his off-duty time in the Baltimore/Washington area. He also performed with the UMBC Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of Ron Diehl, playing with such guest artists as Al Cohn and Ashley Alexander.
1981 to 1985 was a period of tremendous opportunity for Fred, not only as a member of the Eighth Army Band in Seoul, Korea, but numerous performance opportunities in his free time. As a soldier- musician, he was rising quickly up the ranks, reaching the rank of staff sergeant. His responsibilities included leader of the duty combo, show band, and big band for the Eighth Army Band as well as operations noncommissioned officer; overseeing the booking of the organization.
In his off-duty time, Seoul was becoming a hotbed of jazz activity and Fred was performing almost every night of the week by the time he left Korea. His group, Just Friends, had recorded six albums for the Oasis/EMI label and had become popular across the Korean Peninsula; performing for sold- out houses and to live radio and television audiences. It was through these performance opportunities that Fred had the honor of being chosen to serve as the rehearsal conductor and jazz coach for the MBC Pops Orchestra.
Returning to his native Lancaster in 1985, Fred began performing extensively in a piano trio setting with the group Alternative. Alternative, which included Harrisburg legend Sammy Banks on drums and the formidable J.J. Wiggins, now Hassan Shakur on bass. Alternative was in demand in the Central Pennsylvania area and was the house band at what is now the Eden Resort Inn in Lancaster.