The Kennedy Center

The Howard University Jazz Ensemble


Howard University Jazz Ensemble (HUJE) was founded in 1975 by its director, Fred Irby, III. Outstanding performances in the United States, Europe, South America, Asia, and the Caribbean have allowed it to be recognized as one of the foremost college jazz ensembles. HUJE has been heard on radio and television as well as in concert, often appearing with celebrated performers. Members of the HUJE have won awards as performers and composers/arrangers, and the ensemble includes among its alumni several prominent jazz artists. Additionally, the HUJE was featured during the 1992, 1996 and 2005 Kennedy Center Honors Gala (CBS-TV). The HUJE has released thirty-seven recordings in a distinguished series that began in 1976. To learn more about the Howard University Jazz Ensemble, please visit our web page at

Fred Irby, III, a native of Mobile, Alabama, is a graduate of Grambling State University (Louisiana) and Southern Illinois University (Edwardsville). As Professor of Music at Howard University in Washington, DC, Mr. Irby is the Coordinator of Instrumental music, trumpet instructor, and Director of the internationally acclaimed Howard University Jazz Ensemble (HUJE). He is also Principal Trumpet of the Kennedy Center Opera House Musical Theater Orchestra and has recorded several films for the History Channel. He can be heard playing principal trumpet on the cast recording of Stephen Sondheim's latest musical BOUNCE.

The HUJE has 37 recordings to its credit, given concerts in China, Japan, Romania, Haiti, Trinidad, Jamaica, Guatemala, Colombia, U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Thomas and St. Croix), Martinique, and was featured on the 1992 (Lionel Hampton), 1996 (Benny Carter), and 2005 (Tony Bennett) Kennedy Center Honors Gala (CBS-TV).

Mr. Irby served as Music Director for the Washington Ballet during its visit in 2002 to Havana, Cuba for the 17th International Ballet Festival, he visited Caracas, Venezuela with the Howard University Jazztet in 2004 giving lectures at several universities, and he traveled with HUJE to Japan in 2005, 2007 and 2009 to give charity concerts for disadvantaged children and families. As a recitalist, Mr. Irby has commissioned and premiered compositions by two eminent African American composers, the late Ulysses S. Kay (nephew of New Orleans jazz cornetist Joe “King” Oliver) and Dr. Frederick C. Tillis. He has performed in the orchestras for two recordings by the Baltimore Choral Arts Society under the direction of maestro Tom Hall: Dave Brubeck’s cantata The Gates of Justice (with the composer as piano soloist) and Christmas at America’s First Cathedral (2010) recorded at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore, Maryland.

Recently, Mr. Irby traveled to Los Angeles, California to perform in the orchestras for the Twentieth Century Fox movie Alvin and the Chipmunks, the ABC-TV hit show Dancing with the Stars and the NBC-TV show America’s Got Talent.

In 2008, Mr. Irby was selected by DownBeat magazine to receive an “Achievement Award In Jazz Education” and was inducted into the Grambling State University (LA) “Alumni Hall of Fame”. At the 2009 MENC Teaching Music Awards ceremony, Mr. Irby received the “Disney Performing Arts Award for Excellence in Teaching Jazz” and he was designated a Lowell Mason Fellow at a ceremony during the MENC 2010 Music Education Week. Additionally, he was named the conductor of the 2011 MENC All-National Jazz Band. This group performed its inaugural concert at the 2011 Music Education Week in Arlington, VA.

He has served as music director for the Northwest MENC, Oklahoma, Maryland State Jazz Ensembles, and serves as an adjudicator for the Congressional Black Caucus Spouses Performing Arts Committee and the National PTA Composition

He holds active membership in the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, NAfME, formerly MENC: The National Association for Music Education, The International Trumpet Guild, ICSOM: International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians, The American Federation of Musicians, and is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Women's Brass Conference and the Washington Jazz Arts Institute.

Professor Irby has been a member of the Department of Music faculty at Howard University since 1974.

Watch Past Performances

Video 10/18/2018: Howard University Jazz Ensemble Featuring Tia Fuller

The Howard University Jazz Ensemble (HUJE) will perform classic American jazz selections. Performing with HUJE as a guest soloist will be saxophonist Tia Fuller. Fuller is Professor of Music at the Berklee School of Music. This performance is a part of Howard University’s Homecoming celebrations.

Video 11/20/2011: Howard University Jazz Ensemble and Afro Blue

The big band plays with the acclaimed jazz vocal ensemble, currently appearing on NBC’s reality TV competition series The Sing-Off. A dance floor will be installed. Part of Swing, Swing, Swing.

The Howard University Jazz Ensemble