Sarah Marie Hughes



Photo by Andre Chung

Photo by Andre Chung


A Summary…

Sarah Hughes is an alto saxophonist, doubling on flute and clarinet, from Pasadena, Maryland. She is also a composer of ensemble music as well as electronic music for solo artist.  Sarah has been a music educator for over 10 years, but she considers herself first and foremost a free improviser, creating within, on top of, and despite many genre frameworks including jazz, experimental composition and noise, swing, blues, folk, rap and hip-hop, and rock. Sarah prefers to emote onstage in the most expressive and readily available way possible.

Sarah received a bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Maryland in 2008 where she studied with the brilliant classical saxophonist, Dale Underwood. She taught beginning band and strings programs in Prince George’s County for five years before leaving the DMV to earn a master’s degree in jazz saxophone performance from the New England Conservatory in Boston. She studied there with Jerry Bergonzi, Ran Blake, Anthony Coleman, and Donny McCaslin. From that experience, Sarah acquired an expanded vocabulary for improvising on her saxophone and met many young artists who influenced her personhood profoundly.

After graduating, Sarah recorded with Anthony Coleman on his latest album "You" and performed with his ensembles at The Stone and Roulette in New York City.  Also in 2015, Sarah toured in Sweden with Amy K Bormet’s "Ephemera" as a part of Sweden's first women in jazz festival. Sarah toured with her own improvising trio, "Lead Bubbles" in 2016, playing in Toronto and Montreal. She served as adjunct faculty at Towson University from 2017 - 2019, where she taught private saxophone lessons as well as jazz ensembles. In March of 2018 she release her first album Coy Fish, an avant-garde free improvisation album colored by free jazz. In August of 2019 Sarah was selected for her first cross-disciplinary artist residency in Zalaegerszeg, Hungary, where she collaborated with Spanish artist Estela Sanchis to create an interactive installation for the local art community.

During her time as a musician Sarah has had the great fortune of sharing the stage with superb improvisors and composers including Lee Konitz, Ted Brown, Mary Halvorson, Fay Victor, Allison Miller, Joe Morris, William Parker, Hamid Drake, Daniel Carter, Michael Formanek, Matt Wilson, Dan Tepfer, George Garzone, Anthony Coleman, Ben Schwendener, Freddie Redd, and Teddy Charles. She performs mostly locally with ensembles and alone at DC/Baltimore venues on a semi-regular basis, including Rhizome, The Red Room, Mercury Theater, True Vine Records, The Black Cat, An Die Musik, Twins Jazz, The Goethe Institute, Kogod Courtyard at The National Portrait Gallery, The Hill Center, Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center, and The Baltimore Museum of Art.  


upcoming performances


Words in the News…


Sarah Hughes...isn’t looking to reinvent the wheel, isn’t looking to pioneer some new subgenre of jazz or creative music or even really looking to expand its vocabulary for posterity. It’s not about posterity. She simply wants to find a place wherein she’s creatively fulfilled and comfortable. That’s more than enough—hell, it’s everything.
— Michael West, Washington City Paper

“I’ve always had a problem repeating myself,” Sarah Hughes says of her music. “I equate repetition with being kind of stuck. A person isn’t evolving if they keep repeating themselves.”
— Best of D.C. 2018, Washington City Paper

On the subject of creative growth, wow. Hughes has sustained the most stunning arc in recent memory, and moments of that came in defiance of a nightmarish assault and theft earlier this year. Conceptually, technically, improvisationally, she is one step ahead of damn near all of us—keep your eye and ear on her.
— Michael J. West, Jazzie Awards 2017, The District Now

Inside cover of the Washington Post. Check out what I have to say about the role of local musicians in our communities.


A one-of-a-kind performance from Sarah Hughes — and a handful of audience members

"...certainly one of the most inspiring nights of music this reviewer has witnessed."