We had the good fortune of connecting with Olivia Hughart and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Olivia, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
Hi my name is Olivia Hughart, and I am from just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I grew up in a very musical family. Both of my parents are lovers of jazz music, and my brother is also a musician. I first heard jazz when I was little. My parents would blast jazz throughout the house to wake my bother and me up in the morning. I quickly found a passion for the music and wanted to pursue it in every way I could. I joined the middle school jazz band, followed by the high school jazz band, and also sought additional opportunities at our local music school, Settlement Music School. I was fortunate to be able to learn from Philly jazz greats like Tony Miceli, Larry McKenna, in addition to Chris Oatts, Andrew Neu, and I also was able to absorb all the music possible at famous Philadelphia venues like Chris’ Jazz Cafe and South Jazz Kitchen. Growing up on the Philly jazz scene made me realize how special this community and music is, and it has inspired me to continue on the path that I am on. I am hoping that I can leave an impact within this music and be an inspiration to others.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a saxophonist, woodwind doubler and composer currently majoring in Jazz Studies at NYU (Class of 2023). I am a gigging and recording musician and I play with bands in New York City, Philadelphia, and beyond. I perform regularly with Aberdeen the Band and the NYChillHarmonic, and am a part of the Grace Fox Big Band. I have also played with the Andrew Neu Big Band and the DIVA Jazz Orchestra. I have been studying saxophone for 12 years, and am looking forward to continuing to rehearse with my quintet and compose more music! I am currently working on writing music for my first album. I feel that my compositions as well as my sound and tone set me apart from others.
The other half of my artistic life is dedicated to my organization, Key of She Jazz, which is an initiative that I started as a twelve-year-old when I noticed I was one of the only girls in the middle school jazz band. From that point, I wanted to make a change, and inspire other girls to be involved in jazz music. I started an all-girls-jazz ensemble where we could play music together and not have to worry about any other barriers that might stand in our way otherwise. As I got older and gained more access to resources, I grew this ensemble into a stand alone organization which reached not only girls in my immediate community, but now from coast-to-coast in the USA and all over the world. As an organization, we host events throughout the year which feature established women in jazz in the industry for masterclasses, performances, panel discussions, workshops, and more. Our inaugural conference in 2019 hosted 200+ students of all genders, educators, and musicians from the Philadelphia area and beyond. Since then, we have hosted four virtual events which have allowed us to reach global audiences. Girls need to see other girls succeed in jazz, and representation is key. Our goals are to continue to show young musicians that there is space for them in this music, and that their voices are important and deserve to be heard! We are looking forward to our next in-person event to continue this networking opportunity for the next generation of women in jazz.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I spend a lot of time in two awesome East Coast Cities: Philadelphia and New York City.
In Philadelphia, I’d have to recommend all of the Philly classic spots. The Philadelphia Museum of art is always a delight! Then, a nice lunch at Reading Terminal Market is always a crowd pleaser to find the classic Philly Cheese Steak or a Roast Pork Sandwich. I always enjoy a walk through center city, hanging out in LOVE Park or Dilworth Park near city hall. On the weekends, the Rittenhouse Square Farmers Market is always a great time too. You’d of course have to end the day at a jazz club like Chris’ Jazz Cafe for some great food and awesome music.
In New York I live in the East Village and there are plenty of great things to do in the neighborhood! I like to start the day with a pastry. My favorite spot is “Fournil” which is an incredible French bakery that has some of the best pastries in the whole city. When I’m hanging out in the village, I love to hit up some of the record shops and thrift stores for unique finds! I love discovering music and records and also picking up a few new clothing items to have on hand for gigs. For lunch, a bagel is a New York necessity. I prefer Tompkins Square Bagels or Bagel Bobs. For an afternoon coffee, 787 or the Bean are excellent, and I also love a good donut from my favorite donut shop, “Donut Pub”. I always enjoy a nice walk over to the park (either Washington Square Park or Tompkins Square Park), or perhaps a stroll along the East River. On Saturdays, the Union Square farmers market is a great place to find fresh produce and other delicious treats. There are so many great restaurants and bars for happy hour and dinner, but I always prefer to end my night at a jazz club like the Village Vanguard.
There are no shortage of activities and places to check out in either city, and I feel so lucky to be able to have a foot in each place.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My shoutout has to go to my incredible mother, Amy Hughart. My mother is my right-hand-woman for my organization, Key of She Jazz. She is a constant inspiration to me and always pushes me to become the best version of myself that I can be. She dedicates so much of her time towards her passions, including helping me with move our organization’s mission forward of supporting and encouraging more girls to be in jazz. She is also a lover of this music, and her knowledge and drive always motives me to work hard and achieve my personal goals. She not only supports me with everything I do, but also gives me the mentorship, love, and encouragement to keep moving forward with all that I do.
Olivia Hughart Headshot and Olivia Hughart Quintet Photos: Please credit Manasa Gudavalli https://www.gudavalliphotography.com/ All other photos can be credited by Key of She Jazz