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Soli Hughes shares the history of rock ‘n roll

HomeNewsSoli Hughes shares the history of rock ‘n roll

Soli Hughes is a world-renowned concert and ensemble guitarist and has been a COMPAS Teaching Artist for 30 years. In this blog post by Ashley Lauren, we’re honored to highlight his background, musical journey, and popular workshop, “The History of Rock ’n Roll,” which was recently offered at Hennepin County Library.

Soli grew up in South Minneapolis, where his journey as a musician began at an early age. When asked who served as a musical inspiration growing up, he explained, “It was the Beatles, but I’d always wanted to become a guitarist. I took lessons and was taught jazz, and that’s how I started playing the guitar. By the time I was 12 going on 13, I turned pro.”  

Soli’s life as a concert guitarist and ensemble performer has taken him around the world. He has performed as a featured soloist at World Jazz festivals in Finland and Italy, studied Spanish/classical guitar at the conservatory in Madrid, and performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London for the Queen and other royalty.

In the US, he has toured and performed with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Dizzy Gillespie, and many more. Some may also remember Soli as a member of bands like Flyte Time, Moore by Four, Crystal Haze, and the Sounds of Blackness. 

Soli designed the History of Rock ‘n Roll workshop to be a fun and educational experience. Participants learn about the turbulent 1960s and the wild 1970s and what shaped each decade’s individual character. They also discuss key songs and explore the historical events that have shaped rock ‘n roll. As Soli explains, he strives to offer an energetic experience that fully engages workshop participants. “I play guitar, bass, drums, piano, and sing. I do all the arrangements to bring back the 60s and 70s.”  

The workshop offers participants the opportunity to immerse themselves in a pivotal era of rock music, where they will encounter artists such as Jimi Hendrix, The Jackson 5, Donna Summer, Van Halen, and Deep Purple, to name a few. “They can expect to go right back into the 60s and 70s and feel like they are right there with the songs, the history, some of the jokes, and clothes,” says Soli.  

Soli’s upbeat disposition and engaging method of teaching always garner rave reviews from participants, which is exactly what happened when Hennepin County Library recently hosted the History of Rock ‘n Roll workshop. “The program was fantastic. I learned a different approach to music. It was tough for me not to dance,” one participant shared. “This was a wonderful program! Soli made me happy. He’s an excellent performer. Bring him back!” said another.   

Even the library staff were thrilled by the experience. “Soli was fantastic!” said one librarian. “He’s talented, funny, and engaging. I hope we partner with him again. People were dancing – even outside of the meeting room. Kids pressed their faces to the glass wall to watch and listen.” 

When organizations like Hennepin County Library work with Soli, they can be certain they are collaborating with an artist and a teacher who is passionate about his craft and sharing it with others. “I do this every day,” says Soli. “I’ve been a musician 24/7. It’s important to support the arts because studies show the arts help brain development, and you’re paving the way for younger generations.” 

 For information on how to bring “The History of Rock ‘n Roll,” or another fun COMPAS workshop or performance to your library, school, business, or organization, please contact us.

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COMPAS is an arts education nonprofit that puts creativity in the hands of Minnesotans, regardless of their age, background, or skills. Based in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro area, COMPAS teaching artists deliver creative experiences and arts programming across Minnesota.

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This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.