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April 22, 2015

Faces of Fauquier: Wearing music, theater, horse hats

Photo/Cassandra Brown
“The kids keep you young,” Michael Hughes says of his work at Highland School. “It’s a constant creative challenge working with young talent in music and shows. It is tremendously rewarding.”
I wish the people who were moving into Fauquier would learn more about the county and its history. I think they would appreciate it more if they did. It is a community, to an extent, centered around the horse.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
He has influenced music, theater and equestrian enthusiasts in Fauquier County for decades.

Michael Hughes, artistic director of the Highland School Center for the Arts and chairman of the Fine and Performing Arts Departments, has played key roles in the community’s cultural affairs since he and his wife moved here in 1977.

“We fell in love with Warrenton and Fauquier County,” Mr. Hughes said. “The people are extraordinarily friendly; the businesses are neat, and there is a true feeling of community.”

He and his wife, Diane, helped found the Fauquier Community Theatre in 1978.

He helped start the Piedmont Symphony Orchestra with a group of musicians in 1996 and conducted the group for nine years.

At Highland, Mr. Hughes teaches music and has directed 23 student theater productions. This spring, “The King and I” became the largest Highland School production, with 50 children on stage.

“The kids keep you young,” he said. “It’s a constant creative challenge, working with young talent in music and shows. It is tremendously rewarding.”

An avid equine enthusiast, he regularly serves as a public address announcer for horse race events such as Virginia Gold Cup steeplechase races, throughout Virginia and Maryland.

He would change one thing about this place: “I wish the people who were moving into Fauquier would learn more about the county and its history. I think they would appreciate it more if they did.”

• Age

• Home

• Work
Artistic director of the Center for the Arts and chairman of the Fine and Performing Arts Department at Highland School since 2003. Teaches chorus, theater, music theory and directs school plays.

Music and drama teacher at Notre Dame Academy (now Middleburg Academy) from 1994 to 2003.

Announces most steeplechase races in Virginia and some in Maryland with Will O’Keefe.

At one time, we announced almost 24 meets a year.

Started the Piedmont Symphony Orchestra with fellow musicians in 1996. At first, it was known as the Piedmont Regional Orchestra. I conducted for nine years.
Director of the Virginia Thoroughbred Association from 1977 to 1981.

Formerly owned Hughes Bloodstock, started in 1981, in Warrenton. Bought and sold horses, sold insurance. Managed several horse farms over the years.

My wife and I helped start the Fauquier Community Theatre in 1978.

• Why do you do the job?
The kids keep you young. It’s a constant creative challenge working with young talent in music and shows. It is tremendously rewarding.

Here, I have directed 23 productions. This spring, Highland’s performance of “The King and I” was the largest production at the school, with 50 children on stage. My wife did the costumes. It’s a team effort; teachers jump in. It’s a very intensive period of time. Over 150 students have performed on stage in the past 10 years. Our first production was “Our Town” in 2004.

On announcing equine race events:

I do it because Will is one of my best friends and we have known each other since our early teens. There is a camaraderie at the race meets. The group of officials mostly stays the same. It’s kind of like a club. Lots of friendships involved. Keeps me in touch with the horse world.

• Family
Wife, Diane; daughter, Michelle; grandson, Christopher Flinspach, who attends Highland.

• Education
Master’s degree in conducting from Shenandoah University, 1993. Bachelor’s in music from University of Virginia, 1974.

• Civic and/or church involvement
At one time, I was the senior warden of St. James’ Episcopal Church. Sang in several church choirs over the years.

Four years ago my wife and I lost our son, Phillip to leukemia and he had a lot of friends. He was a bartender at Molly’s Irish Pub and at the Red Horse Tavern in Middleburg. We set up a youth foundation, the Phillip A. Hughes Foundation, and we give out music scholarships every year. There is a big golf tournament in July, and we usually raise around $15,000 to $20,000 a year and give that money to music students in Fauquier and surrounding counties. We give it for all ages up to 18 years old.

• How long have you lived in Fauquier?
Since 1977. My wife and I were born and raised in Orange.

• Why do you live here?
We love it. It’s a gorgeous place. We have lived all over the county. We fell in love with Warrenton and Fauquier County.

• How do you describe this county?
Fortunately it is still generally rural. Physically beautiful. I think the fact that we have not turned into a Fairfax and Loudoun County is such a benefit, and I think people move here because of that. The downside is the more people move here, the less it becomes like that. It’s a Catch-22 situation, but you can walk down Main Street in Warrenton, or you used to, and know everybody on the street. That has changed, but the people are extraordinarily friendly; the businesses are neat, and there is a true feeling of community.

• What would you change about Fauquier?
I wish the people who were moving into Fauquier would learn more about the county and its history. I think they would appreciate it more if they did.
It is a community, to an extent, centered around the horse.

• What do you do for fun?
I love to go sailing on the Chesapeake. I play percussion, some brass. I play trombone . . . That’s the instrument I started with in elementary school.

I do occasional narration, and I am a guest conductor for occasional pieces with the Piedmont Symphony Orchestra.

• What’s your favorite place in Fauquier?
I love the view from the top of Paris Mountain looking down the Crooked Run Valley. I announce the (Delaplane) Strawberry Festival every spring at Sky Meadows (State Park), and that is gorgeous.

Announcing at all the race events all over the county at different venues. Each one is different, but each one has it’s own particular reward.

• What will Fauquier be like in 10 years?
I hope and pray that downtown Warrenton doesn’t change. That it maintains its character. That’s so important. Obviously, it’s going to grow. I hope it grows with caution.

A lot of land has been put into easement, and I hope that continues. I know it’s a hard thing to preserve land and yet encourage investment. I think that’s a constant battle that has to be fought, and compromises have to be made. The way they are doing things now with service districts I think is very good.

Development is going to come whether we like it or not. One of the great benefits of living in Warrenton and Fauquier: Not only do we have access to our local arts organizations, but we are not that far out of Washington for arts, entertainment and history.

• Favorite TV show?
“Boardwalk Empire”

• Favorite movie?

• Favorite book?
My favorite author is Wilbur Smith. I’m primarily a fiction reader. One of the great institutions in Fauquier is the library.

• Favorite vacation spot?
Dewey Beach, Delaware, and the Chesapeake Bay near Annapolis and St. Michaels.

• Favorite food?
Fresh seafood, shellfish especially. Nothing beats a good steak. I’m a meat and potatoes guy.

• What is the best advice you have ever received? From whom?
When my wife and I first got married we performed at the Oak Grove Theater in Staunton, owned by Dr. Fletcher Collins. When I had the chance to come to Highland, I called him and asked for advice.

He said: “I’m not going to tell you what to do, but if it’s something you think you want to try and you don’t, you’ll always regret it. It’s better to try and fail, then always wonder.”

That and the former choral director at St. James’ Episcopal Church, Mary Lou Hartsell, who always pushed me to get my master’s.

The most influential person in my life has been my wife. She has supported me through thick and thin. We will celebrate 44 years this August.

• Who’s your hero and why?
My son, Phillip. With the fortitude he had. He never lost his sense of humor. He was always upbeat and that was a true lesson in life for me.

• What would you do if you won $1 million in the lottery?
Do some philanthropic things. Buy myself a sailboat and a beach house for my wife.

>> Suggest a “Faces of Fauquier” profile subject

Do you know someone who lives in Fauquier County you would like to see in Faces of Fauquier? E-mail Cassandra Brown at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or Editor Lou Emerson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Previous Faces of Fauquier:

• Store in Goldvein part of Susan Leopold’s family legacy.

• County native Maggi MacQuilliam devoted to the great outdoors.

• Health care for the needy Rob Marino’s mission.

• Daphne Latimore focuses on human capital.

• Horses extend Louise Summers’ work as teacher.

• As volunteer coach, Jeff Budd develops young wrestlers.

• Fraces Allshouse’s jobs focus on preservation.

• Jessica Smolinski’s book introduces children to Old Town Warrenton.

• Margaret Rice’s job all about fitness and fun in Warrenton.

• Robert Sturgeon has built his 70-employee businesses in Bealeton from scratch.

• 4-H leader Zach Woodward relishes the lessons of farming.

• Hospital auxiliary volunteer Alison Lee also earned fame in drag racing circles.

• Highland School veteran staff member Lise Hicklin always wanted to teach.

• As 9-1-1 dispatcher, Kateland Rich works to maintain calm during crisis.

• Chaplain Liz Danielsen finds a giving community.

• 9-1-1 response in Rodney Woodward’s bloodline.

• Fast talk a tool of the trade for auctioneer Kathy Shumate.

• Sam Poles takes care of varmits.

• Diane King mentors student performers at Fresta Valley Christian School.

• Lewis F. Lee Jr. followed his father into taxidermy business.

• Edward Payne returns to Orlean and to photography with passion.

• Janet Metzger’s Old Town Warrenton shop a hub of creativity.

• Pablo Teodoro bakes to build community.

• Community trails have become passion for retired VDOT engineer Bob Moore.

• Teresa Reynolds makes transition from butcher to museum director.

• After working in New York and Italy, Christine Fox moved home to open fashion boutique 25 years ago.

• Steve Lewis develops hunting reality show on Dish Network.

• Julia Trumbo grew up in the family grocery business.

• Tax preparer Renée Turner enjoys owning a business in Old Town Warrenton.

• ICU staff Carol Jones values patients’ trust.

• Wilson Sanabria grew up working in his family’s Warrenton restaurant and learning to box.

• One-man band Peter Fakoury quit 9-to-5 to learn from children.

• Liberty graduate Brittany Aubrey works in the smile business.

• Walmart cashier Lulu Baer loves to play violin and several community roles.

• In Sandra Alm, SPCA dogs have a loyal companion.

• St. James’ Episcopal new Rector Ben Maas appreciates community’s embrace

• Bicycles dominate work and play for Brian Larson.

• Teaching music therapy combines Abigail Newman’s passions.

• Brenda Rich leads volunteers who organize and run the Fauquier County Fair.

• 1st Sgt. Greg Harris stresses empathy in his job as a supervisor at the county detention center.

• Chuck Tippett challenges the “rich guy” stereotype about pilots.

• County government employee Surja Tamang previously worked as a Mt. Everest sherpa.

• Woody Isaac found his calling as a chef at age 16.

• Horses take Tommy Lee Jones all over the county.

• Retired nurse Angela Neal continues to volunteer in hospital ER.

• Gilmer Lee really knows high school sports in Fauquier.

• Stage remains central to Tim Bambara’s life journey.

• Bus driver Melissa Strain’s weekend job all about “fun.”

• Bartender Taylor Edgar has a pretty good standup routine.

• A nomad childhood led Paul Schmeling to start a moving company.

• Adam Lynch’s family owns café with local food focus and a special name.

• Patricia McMahon Rice turns passion for art into her livelihood.

• Cindy D’Ambro works as “director of first impressions” at LFCC.

• Ginger Hilleary leads local literacy organization.

• Farmers with groundhog problems call Rod Kirkpatrick.

• Horses “retire” to work with Jeanne Blackwell.

• Remington cattle farmer Doug Linton loves his home and work.

• Sports central to Robert Glascock’s life’s work.

• For Richard Mast, company ownership started with his summer work as a teenager.

• Bernice Simpson knows northern Fauquier back roads and the people who live along them.

• Eddie Payne has logged 38 years as a volunteer firefighter in Marshall.

• Stephanie Layton turns her lifelong passion for dance into her livelihood.

• Shawn LaRue matches children and adoptive families.

• Biker and psychology major Clif Stroud makes music in a big way.

• Becky Crouch greets lots of visitors.

• She helped blaze trail to equality for black teachers.

• Family and food come first for Marshall pizzeria employee.

• Rural “closeness” of Fauquier appeals to Kansas native

• A “spoke” in the wheel of preservation.

• His job dovetails with passion for hunting

• Veteran educator sees the potential in every child.

• His passions: Fixing cars and helping people

• Habitat ReStore volunteer appreciates Fauquier’s diversity.

• Dad’s example led to new career at Fauquier Hospital.

• He lives and works in a beautiful place.

• The Goldvein firehouse ranks as his favorite place.

• Pretty things everywhere she looks.

• Through scouting, he encourages girls to explore.

• One day, he might run the company.

• FISH volunteer likes to help others.

• She sees the community’s generosity.

• Cop patrols while most people sleep.

• Pastor a constant in Calverton.

• She keeps the courthouse spotless.

• He loves working working outdoors at the park.

• She sees “everyone” at Carousel

• Library assistant works in a “fun place"

• Hat lady sets up shop in Old Town Warrenton

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Jim Griffin · April 25, 2015 at 8:18 am
A community treasure, how lucky we are to have people like this amongst us. We must be doing something right! Whatever it is, more of that, please.

A reminder that STEM education needs Arts, making it STEAM.
Bekemp · April 23, 2015 at 10:25 am
I had the honor of working with Mike for a number of years as board member of PRO. I treasure his laughter and intelligence. He and Diane are wonderful people. But, I'm biased since we are "related." Our respective corgis were brother and sister.
tffirestone · April 22, 2015 at 12:36 pm
You were an inspiration to me as I revisited my music orchestral roots with the PRO some years ago. You've done an outstanding job in keeping the music arts programs alive for this community. Keep up the good fight for keeping the arts programs at the forefront for our young people. Well deserved recognition!
dave jenkins
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