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Allen Hughes: Urbane Music and Dance Critic from Brownsburg

Described by the New York Times as “an urbane observer of the musical and dance worlds,” Allen Hughes was a music and dance critic for the New York Times from 1960 to 1986, but continued writing reviews and articles even after his retirement. The Brownsburg, Indiana native was an advocate for the avant garde, promoter of smaller companies, and a genuine lover of the arts. He passed away in Sarasota, Florida in 2009; Hughes was 87. The critic left behind a lasting legacy of taste and culture, both in New York and in the rest of the United States.

Born in the small Indianapolis satellite city of Brownsburg in the waning days of 1921, Allen Hughes and his family moved to Washington when he was 15. He served in World War II before returning to school at the University of Michigan, where he completed his bachelor’s degree. Before becoming a critic, Hughes was an educator: he taught at the Toledo Museum of Arts, where he was also an organist, from 1947 to 1948. Allen Hughes made his move to the Big Apple in 1948, when he entered graduate school at New York University. His writing career took off in 1950, when he began writing reviews for Musical America.

After a short stint writing freelance articles in Paris, Allen Hughes returned to New York and became a music critic for the New York Herald Tribune, where he worked for five years before joining the Times in 1960. His career with the New York Times spanned a whopping 26 years, in which he covered dance, opera, and classical music for the historic newspaper. He filled a number of roles in the New York Times: he was the newspaper’s chief dance critic from 1963 to 1965, and in the 80’s he was at the helm of the Arts and Leisure section.

Allen Hughes passed away in 2009 due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Though he only lived in Brownsburg for a short time, this famous Brownsburg person was a much loved and well respected critic who wasn’t afraid to take a stand against mainstream hegemony in the arts. His love for his subject matter was always evident in his writing and his life, and he’ll be remembered well in the Brownsburg arts community and in the rest of the performing arts world.


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