Daniel Hughes is in constant demand as a conductor, accompanist, coach and choral clinician. He serves as the Artistic Director & Conductor of San José Choral Productions (an organization whose vision is “to heal our world through music and words”) where he directs Menharmonics — a critically-acclaimed men’s chorus dedicated to celebrating diversity, creating community, and forming fellowship through quality musical performance; as well as the internationally award-winning ensemble The Choral Project — a mixed-voice vocal ensemble specializing in dramatic, conceptual performance of high-level choral music from the medieval period to the contemporary — whose mission is “to connect to one another through choral theater, education and musical excellence.” Under his direction The Choral Project has received worldwide recognition, performing to standing ovation crowds in the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, England, Scotland, Wales, and Spain. The ensemble has also received top prizes in international competitions throughout the world. They have recorded seven compact discs on the Gothic Records label.
In addition to his work with San José Choral Productions, Mr. Hughes also serves as the Chancel Choir Director for Los Altos United Methodist Church, in Los Altos, CA — a 2,500 member, multi-staff church that features two adult choirs, two youth choirs, two children’s choirs, and a resident orchestra.
Hughes has directed many sessions in Vocal Pedagogy and Conducting Technique for the American Choral Directors Association, the American Guild of Organists, the California Music Educators’ Association, and GALA Choruses. He has been a regular adjudicator for the California Golden State Choral Competitions, and has conducted honor choirs and festival choruses throughout the west coast. Collaborations include international performances with well-known ensembles such as Costa Rica’s Café Chorale, The Australian Voices, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, concerts with the critically acclaimed San José Chamber Orchestra, and creative work with award-winning Broadway composer & lyricist Stephen Schwartz. Hughes’s concert appearances include performances at Lincoln Center (New York City), Caulkins Opera House (Denver), Gusman Concert Hall (Miami), and Davies Symphony Hall (San Francisco).
Hughes began studying piano and composition at the age of four. He has extensive training in piano and voice, and holds a Master of Arts degree in Conducting. 1st place ~ Conductor’s Choice Round, 2nd place ~ Required Pieces Round, and 3rd place ~ Folk Category (2007 California International Choral Competition); 2nd place ~ Mixed Choir competition (58th annual International Eisteddfod); 4th place ~ Small Ensemble Category (35th International Choral Competition, Gorizia, Italy); the 2nd place award (ACDA National Student Conducting Competition); the Christina Cadena Memorial Accompanying Scholarship; and the California Arts Scholar Awards for piano and composition. He is also a recipient of Arts Council Silicon Valley’s 2013 Artist’s Laureate Award (“On Stage” category), The American Prize Award for Choral Direction, and a 2010 Silicon Valley Arts & Business Award for 20+ years of excellence in the arts in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is an accomplished composer and arranger, and has his own choral series through Santa Barbara Music Publishing. Mr. Hughes’s biography is featured in Who’s Who in America. He maintains a private music studio in the Bay Area.
I began my introduction to the world of music at a very young age. When I was four, I was hit with a case of strep throat. In order to ease my discomfort, my parents let me sleep the day away in their waterbed (it was the 70s after all.) My mother put on some classical music to soothe and lull me. I was soothed, but far from lulled. Instead my fascination with what was playing struck me profoundly. I asked my mother what she was playing. It was the Beethoven Bicentennial Collection put out by Deutsche Grammaphon. The pieces played—Bagatelles, Sonaten, Concerti—were wonderful. I insisted that I wanted to begin studying piano. As chance would have it my parents were babysitting a piano for some friends and set all of the children to study. I stayed with it and continued my keyboard studies on through high school, having the fortune to study with the renowned JoAnne McNiell, whose technique can be traced directly back to Leopold Godowski, the legendary pianist.
When I was eight, I began composing. I was hearing melodic and harmonic structures in my head and sat at the keyboard, trying to work them out into my hands. As this process became faster I began writing the music down. I had caught the “composition bug.” Often, when I was supposed to be practicing, I spent the time composing instead. My mother jokingly called it “de-composing,” teasing me into practice.
When I entered middle school, I joined the string orchestra. I took up the double-bass. It was fun to learn a new instrument, but, in all honesty, it was really tough hauling that instrument to and from school. I am not a tall guy as an adult. In seventh grade I was even shorter. UGH! I continued to play in the orchestra when I entered high school, but moved to the cello. I loved playing the cello, although I was never really fantastic at it. However, I had the chance to play in a youth symphony orchestra, which was a terrific thrill. It was at this time I began accompanying musicians and participating in chamber music. One of my closest friends and musical colleagues in school was Juliana Brown (now Zolynas.) She was an astounding violinist. Through accompanying her and playing in a piano trio with our friend Peter Morgan, I was introduced to some magnificent string works. I did the “piano competition thing,” with
some successes and some failures. Yet, as much as I adore the instrument, I never felt like I fully found my stride as a solo pianist. I was able to create music with great expression and always had a knack for finding the right “feel” for a piece, but I often lacked the technical proficiency to fully realize them. In the back of my mind I wondered if something else was musically in store for me.
As I graduated from high school and began college I was introduced to choral music. The power of voices united in message was overwhelming for me. The human voice is such an astounding means of expression—so pure, so honest. To hear a group of voices together in unified expression, thought and spirit is a potent experience. I had found my place.
I was fortunate to continue my keyboard studies with Laurel Brettel at San José State University, and equally as lucky to work with the late Jeanne Garson in voice. My musical life seems to have been guided by the mastery of women, and the final culmination of this training fell to Dr. Charlene Archibeque. Her sheer technique as a conductor is unsurpassed, and her rehearsal technique is prodigious. She was a wonderful and challenging mentor.
As a result, I find myself today making music with diverse, inspiring musicians, and helping singers in both my choirs as well as in my private studio unlock their vocal potential through voice instruction. I count my blessings every day that I can be so fulfilled in what I do. The journey here was far from easy, and my choices were not always the best. However, I am the culmination of all my experiences and I am proud to be the man I am today.