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The Howard University Jazz Ensemble Partners with the Washington Ballet

Contributing Writer

Published: Sunday, February 2, 2014

Updated: Sunday, February 2, 2014 23:02

As the audience rushed to fill up the Sidney Harman Hall, they were slowed down by the soulful sounds of the famous Howard University Jazz Ensemble (HUJE) directed by its founder, Fred Irby, III.  On Saturday afternoon, February 1st, HUJE grabbed the attention of both young and old audience members before the show even started. The Washington Ballet and the Howard University Jazz Ensemble continued their long time partnership with each other to create the “soulful styling and glorious dance performance” entitled "Jazz/Blues Project" on January 29-February 2nd, 2014.  
Since its inception in 1975, The Howard University Jazz Ensemble has been performing all over the world in places such as the United States, Europe, South America, Asia, and the Caribbean, making them the leading college Jazz ensemble.  Its members and alumni have won many awards for their work as performers and composers/arrangers. 
With these accolades, it was not surprising to see the overwhelming response from the audience members. HUJE and the Washington Ballet combined the styling of ballet with the majestic tones of both jazz and blues. Hearing the music of Charlie “Bird” Parker and Etta James coincide with the talented dancers brought life to the performance because the dancers never missed a beat when performing with HUJE. Every audience member had a look of satisfaction on his or her face.
“I thought that it was incredible to see the movement of Jazz intertwined with ballet. The show had a lot of great layers of emotion," said Matthew Robinson, junior Music Business with Jazz Voice major.
Fred Irby, III directed with ease, even after 44 years with the ensemble. His members expressed that although the working environment with him produces a lot of laughs and great times he completely prepares his ensemble to be the best performers and working with him presents unlimited opportunities. His members praised him for his composition and writing skills so, it is no surprise that he has won numerous awards over the years including his most recent award for the National Association for Music Education Lowell Mason Fellow. 
One of the unofficial Howard University Jazz Ensemble members, Shacara Rogers, a graduate student in the field of jazz studies and Howard University alum expressed how working with Irby for about six years on and off has lead her to singing in the "Jazz/Blues Project."
“Singing with the dancers for the first time was a new experience. It was beautiful combining live jazz and blues with the dancers.  They were highly talented and the experience was new and wonderful,” said Rogers.
To follow the tours and performances from HUJE visit their website at

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