Langston Hughes Jazz Concert


“Ask Your Mama”

“Ask Your Mama” is an 800-line, twelve part poetic suite written by noted African American poet/writer/playwright LANGSTON HUGHES in 1961. This work is described as a multimedia presentation that recreates Hughes’ vision of the global struggle for freedom in the coming, turbulent decade.  The piece itself is an original work conceived by USC Professor and Chair of Jazz Studies DR. RON McCURDY, and DR. JOHN S. WRIGHT, Morse-Amoco Distinguished Teaching Professor of Afro-American Studies & African Studies and English at the University of Minnesota.  A scholarly exploration of the original work by Dr. Wright revealed that Hughes had originally included musical cues to accompany his poem, intending to work with musical contemporaries on a full production; regrettably, Hughes died in 1967 before a production could be developed.  Dr. Wright felt that the unrealized work had enormous potential, not only to entertain, but more importantly to introduce modern audiences to the power of Hughes’ words and the eloquence of his political discourse.  A collaborative effort between Drs. Wright and McCurdy expanded on Hughes’ original concept, adding images from the Harlem Renaissance gleaned from Dr. Wright’s work at the Schomberg Research Center in Harlem, and an accompanying jazz suite based on Hughes’ original notes, composed and arranged by Dr. McCurdy and Eli Bruggeman.  As the McCURDY/WRIGHT CONSORT, these two gentlemen have presented “THE LANGSTON HUGHES PROJECT” in both performances and master classes on the college circuit and for African American Heritage celebrations throughout the nation.  Information about The Langston Hughes Project is available directly at:

Dr. Ronald C. McCurdy is Chairman of the Jazz Studies Department and Professor of Music in the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California (USC) and is Past President of the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE). Prior to his appointment at USC he served as Director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at USC. He has served as Professor of Music and chair of the Afro-African American Studies Department and served as Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Minnesota. In 1997, Dr. McCurdy served as Visiting Professor at Maria-Sklodowska- Curie University in Lublin, Poland. In 2001 Dr. McCurdy received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Kansas.

Dr. McCurdy recently released CD titled, Once Again for the First Time on the INNOVA label and is author of Meet the Great Jazz Legends, published by Alfred Publishing Co. Dr. McCurdy is co-author of a vocal jazz improvisation series titled Approaching the Standards, published by Warner Bros. He is currently touring The Langston Hughes Project, Ask Your Mama: 12 Mood for Jazz. The multimedia presentation features jazz quartet, spoken-word and images from the Harlem Renaissance.

Dr. McCurdy is in demand as a guest clinician, soloist, speaker, director of honor Jazz Ensembles and Choirs throughout the United States and Canada. He has directed All State Jazz Ensembles in New York, Texas, Arizona, Vermont, Nebraska, Ohio, Nevada, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Florida to name a few. Dr. McCurdy received his undergraduate degree from Florida A & M University and his Masters and Ph. D. degrees from the University of Kansas.

Dr. McCurdy is a consultant to the Grammy Foundation educational programs including serving as director of the National Grammy Vocal Jazz Ensemble. He served as Director of the Walt Disney All-American Summer College Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Singers in Orlando, Florida for seven years and continues to serve as a consultant for the college program. A few of the guest artists he has worked with include Joe Williams, Rosemary Clooney, Leslie Uggams, Arturo Sandoval, Diane Schuur, Ramsey Lewis, Mercer Ellington, Dr. Billy Taylor, Maynard Ferguson, Lionel Hampton, and Dianne Reeves. He as served as a member of the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Camp faculty. Dr. McCurdy is a performing artist for the Yamaha International Corporation.