Ron McCurdy’s performance of

The Langston Hughes Project

A multimedia concert performance of Langston Hughes’ kaleidoscopic Jazz poem suite, “Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz.” (Hughes’ homage to the struggle for artistic and social freedom at home and abroad at the beginning of the 1960s).

By way of videography, this concert performance links the words and music of Hughes’ poetry to topical images of Ask Your Mama’s people, places, and events, and to the works of the visual artists Langston Hughes admired or collaborated with most closely over the course of his career. Together the words, sounds, and images recreate a magical moment in our cultural history, which bridges the Harlem Renaissance, the post World War II Beat writers’ coffeehouse jazz poetry world, and the looming Black Arts performance explosion of the 1960s.


an emotionally infused multimedia performance that is “intellectually stimulating and musically electrifying!” -Lillian U. Harder, Director at the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts, Clemson University


our list of successful programming at these colleges– Skirball Cultural Center, Carnegie Hall, University of Nebraska, Arizona State University, Cal Poly University, University of Southern California.


your audience to the wonderful world of blues, gospel songs, bebop, Afro-Cuban mambo music, German lieder, West Indian calypso, and African drumming!


the moment in our cultural history which bridges the Harlem Renaissance, the post World War II Beat writers’ coffeehouse jazz poetry world, and the looming Black Arts performance explosion of the 1960s.

About the Langston Hughes Project

Jazz was a cosmopolitan metaphor for Langston Hughes, a force for cultural convergence beyond the reach of words, or the limits of any one language.
It called up visual for him as well, most pointedly the surrealistic techniques of painterly collage and of the film editing developed in this country in the 1930s and 40s, which condensed time and space, conveyed to the viewer a great array of information in short compass, and which offered the possibility of suggesting expanded states of consciousness, chaotic remembrances of past events or dreams — through montage. “To me,” Hughes wrote, “jazz is a montage of a dream deferred. A great big dream — yet to come — and always yet to become ultimately and finally true.”

Ask Your Mama was dedicated to Louis Armstrong, “the greatest horn blower of them all,” and to those of whatever hue or culture of origin who welcomed being immersed in the mysteries, rituals, names, and nuances of black life not just in America but in the Caribbean, in Latin America, in Europe and Africa during the years of anti-colonial upheaval abroad and the rising Freedom Movement here at home. Not only the youthful Martin Luther King, Jr. but the independence leaders of Guinea and Nigeria and Ghana and Kenya and the Congo fill the chants and refrains of Hughes’s epic poem.

About Ronald C. McCurdy, Ph. D.

The performance is brought to life by the extraordinary talents of the Ron McCurdy Quartet. Dr. Ronald C. McCurdy is professor of music in the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California (USC) and is Past-President of the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE). Prior to his appointment at USC he served as Director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at USC.
He has released two CDs. The first one titled, “Once Again for the First Time” on the INNOVA label and the most recent CD titled “April In Paris” with his vocal funk group, The Ron McCurdy Collective. He is co-author of a vocal jazz improvisation series titled “Approaching the Standards”, published by Warner Bros.
Dr. McCurdy is the director of the National Grammy Vocal Jazz Ensemble and combo, and also serves as Director of the Walt Disney All-American College Band in Anaheim, CA.

Dr. McCurdy has performed with a host of legendary jazz artists, including Wynton Marsalis, Joe Williams, Rosemary Clooney, Terence Blanchard, Leslie Uggams, Arturo Sandoval, Diane Schuur, Ramsey Lewis, Mercer Ellington, Dr. Billy Taylor, Maynard Ferguson, Lionel Hampton, and Dianne Reeves. He is a performing artist for the Yamaha International Corporation.

For interviews and bookings please email

“The Langston Hughes Project attracted the most diverse audience I have ever seen on our campus. Young and old, black and white, students and teachers, university administrators and community members all enjoyed the celebration of the artistic accomplishments and contributions of black Americans. In addition to being a fine musical performance and an exquisite display of African-American art and poetry, the Langston Hughes Project fosters an atmosphere of racial reconciliation and understanding.”

Dr. Peter Madsen, Professor of Music
University of Nebraska-Omaha


Langston Hughes Project

Performance Schedule 2021

Texas State University                                       February 1

Texas Women’s University                               February 3

North Central College                                        February 4

South Mountain Community College             February 9

Scottsdale Community College                        February 10

Lone Star- North Harris Campus                     February 11

Culver City High School                                     February 16

North Tech College                                             February 17

Belmont College                                                  February 18

Phoenix College                                                  February 18

Mesa College                                                       February 20

Gateway College                                                 February 22

Glendale College                                                February 24

Concordia College                                             February 25

University of Maryland                                   February 26

Collins Center                                                    March 1

Shea Center                                                        March 3

Arizona State University                                 March 18

University of Tennessee-Knoxville               March 24

Texas Tech University                                     March 25

Clayton County School District                     April 23

Reviews & Press

“…a raging, inspired revival that would make Langston Hughes proud…Ask Your Mama is as relevant today as it was in 1960.”

The Guardian

The optimism of Langston Hughes was exposed to us in “Ask Your Mama” as we discovered the people, places and events cleverly portrayed as a valuable part of the rich history of the road to freedom.

Judy Shafer

Director of Education, Jazz Arts Group of Columbus

Wow! What an amazing show tonight – it got a standing ovation. Not only are Mr. Hughes’s words so timely still, the music was amazing and the visuals on the screen quite powerful and insightful. Not to mention parallel alignment with the mission statement. Wish we could have done a second show.

Teresa Enroth

Producer, Skirball Cultural Center

The Langston Hughes Project was a tremendous success at Clemson University. Dr. Ron McCurdy and colleagues have created an amazing multi-media performance of Langston Hughes: Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz. The use of the spoken word, visually stimulating images from the Harlem Renaissance, and great music performed by their jazz quartet, made for a fantastic celebration of life and creativity. Dr. McCurdy’s masterclass for Clemson’s jazz ensemble was definitely a highlight of the students’ musical experiences this year, for he is an experienced educator who knows how to communicate with students. I highly recommend this project to anyone who wants an intellectually stimulating and musically electrifying performance.

Lillian U. Harder

Director, Brooks Center for the Performing Arts, Clemson University

“The Langston Hughes Project” blends passionate spoken word and original soul, swing and gospel music composed by McCurdy with a vivid visual backdrop featuring the works of African American visual artists who Langston Hughes either admired or collaborated with. Honouring the poet was not the only objective for McCurdy and Ice T’s project. The projects secondary purpose was to highlight the fact that music had become “too segregated” from other art forms and was trying to blur the lines by creating a true multimedia performance with a clear social message. 

Winner of the Jazz FM 2016 Awards!

Jazz FM

“…the evening’s focus was the imaginative intelligence, rhythmic magic and contemporary relevance of Hughes’s jazz-infused poetry which had been so warmly brought to life. The performance won its ovation, and the show deserves a run.”

Financial Times

Ron McCurdy and the Langston Hughes Project presented a polished and vibrant program celebrating the poetry of Langston Hughes and the richness of the Harlem Renaissance! The music was phenomenal and the spoken word powerful. The audience was completely engaged and left the performance feeling energized and uplifted!

Jennifer Phillips

Coordinator of Continuing Education, Huntington Library

“Although interweaving of verse, music and images is not unusual these days, few [Ron McCurdy] have created such a poignant, eloquent and exceptionally soulful work. 

Chris Walker

JazzTimes UK

The Langston Hughes Project is a truly magnificent event. It combines quality entertainment, with key educational information. It is uplifting and truly special, and is attractive and valued by all segments of the community. A wonderful event that we definitely plan on bringing back to our Cal Poly community.

Dr. Ken Barclay

Professor Coordinator of the Artist Series, Cal Poly University San Luis Obispo

“…Ron McCurdy’s setting of the text…brought the house down at the Barbican on the penultimate night of the London Jazz Festival…his aim was to ‘spread the gospel of Langston Hughes’ and he certainly achieved that. He had a capacity crowd hanging on the poet’s every word and on their feet, cheering themselves hoarse come the end. He got his Baptist church atmosphere too – there were plenty of “Amens”.

JazzWise Magazine

Now Accepting Bookings

Educational/Community Outreach activities include:
Local Poetry Slam contest (winners have their poems set to music by Ron McCurdy, and they get to open the show), Numerous Master Classes and Workshops conducted by Dr. Ron McCurdy or Use of well-known local celebrity as guest narrator.

Ron McCurdy
Beyond Category Productions
c. 818.429.2494

For Bookings:
Fran Heller 
BiCoastal Productions
o. 212.268.6969 c. 917.686.3313

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