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Fred Irby Leads Howard Jazz for 50 Years

Howard's jazz ensemble founder will retire at the end of this school year.

Fred Irby with group from Howard receives plaque

Fred Irby (center, with plaque) 

As the Howard University Jazz Ensemble prepares for its 50th anniversary in 2025, its founding director, Fred Irby, III, celebrated 50 years of service to Howard.

On November 16, 2023, the D.C. Jazz Festival, in conjunction with the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts, hosted “Return to Glory,” in honor of Irby’s lifetime of service. Held at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., the concert featured Vincent Gardner, renowned trombonist, composer, instructor, and maestro.

Fred Irby
Fred Irby

In addition to directing the jazz ensemble, Irby is also a trumpet instructor and coordinator of instrumental music at Howard. He was recognized at the inaugural Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts Distinguished Faculty and Staff Awards in 2022 for Outstanding Creative Work, Outstanding Teaching, and Outstanding Service.

Irby received the D.C. Jazz Festival Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016, among other honors. The Howard University Jazz Ensemble has toured the world and performed with many celebrated artists. In 1996, Irby established the Benny Golson Jazz Master Award to honor the 1950 Howard graduate, which has since been presented to 71 artists and institutions.  

This story appears in the Winter 2024 issue.
Article ID: 1871

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