Beyond Category is a production company formed with the intention to merge art forms of different categories under wide-range topics related to African American culture, and thus to immerse the audience in multimedia experiences. In doing so, Beyond Category hopes to form deeper conversations between artists and audiences.
The Langston Hughes Project is a multimedia concert performance of Langston Hughes’ kaleidoscopic Jazz poem suite, “Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz”. It links the words and music of Hughes’ poetry to topical images as well as the works of the visual artists he admired or collaborated with closely, revealing the struggle for artistic and social freedom at home and abroad at the beginning of the 1960s.
Harlem South: A View Through The Lens is a multimedia performance that chronicles the dynamics of African American life in 1920’s Columbia, South Carolina, through the photography of Richard Samuel Roberts. It’s a story about their strength, community, and hope, providing a glimpse of Black life and art in a moment of intense challenges and changes.
Shanghai Jazz: A Culture Mix celebrates the 1935 collaboration of acclaimed Chinese musician Li Jinhui and jazz musician Buck Clayton with a unique blend of American jazz and Chinese traditional music. Ron McCurdy and USC alum Gary Shields have reimagined and orchestrated three suites of Li Jinhui’s folk songs. Blending three cultures — Western art music (classical), American jazz, and Chinese traditional music.
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.
“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
“…a raging, inspired revival that would make Langston Hughes proud…Ask Your Mama is as relevant today as it was in 1960.
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.
Director of Education, Jazz Arts Group of Columbus
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
“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.
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
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.
Producer, Skirball Cultural Center
“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!