Spotlight: Aaron Broadus

Aaron Broadus and his spirited sound have deep local roots

By: Chris Wilson

As a teenager, Aaron Broadus delivered pizzas to Wolf Trap, where he would catch glimpses of performers like James Brown and George Benson.

Broadus, 37, still goes to Wolf Trap—but now to play.

The vocalist and trumpeter’s musical roots go back to Shiloh Baptist Church in McLean, where his father was the organist and Aaron sang his first solo, at age six, in “God Has Smiled on Me.” He went to Langley High, then George Mason to study classical music. He won a scholarship to Howard University to get a master’s degree in jazz studies.

While at Howard, he was recruited to play with an act at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. The group? The Temptations.

That led to other bookings, providing backup for Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, and Ray Charles.

Most of Broadus’s training was in jazz and classical, but his first album, Feels Like the First Time, branches out into R&B, hip-hop, and two contemporary covers of Stevie Wonder standards.

“No one is doing just jazz anymore,” he says. “You’ve got to modernize it, maybe throw in some contemporary artists.”

His band, the Aaron Broadus Group, took top honors last fall at the local Cornucopia Music Festival. In addition to playing around Washington, he leads the jazz ensemble and pep band at Georgetown University and is an instructor for Virginia Music Adventures, a nonprofit he helped found that runs three youth ensembles.

Broadus, who writes his own music, is part of a growing flock of artists who can live where they please thanks to technology that has made it easier to record and distribute music. “I don’t have to move to New York or LA to make it,” he says.