Kathy and Emerson Hughes

Kathy and Emerson Hughes

After graduating from VCU with degrees in music education, Kathy (B.M.E.’65) and Emerson (B.M.E.’65) Hughes spent many years teaching music and performing in Richmond. In 2018, they turned their attention to the students at VCUarts with a gift to the school’s Department of Music.

Their gift provides scholarships for music education students, supports the opera program and offsets the cost of hiring accompanists for student performances. It’s also a chance for the Hugheses to express their deep appreciation for the music community that supported them.

“We believe in the idea of paying back for something that was gifted to us,” Kathy says, “Having observed and participated in the music program for many years, we recognize areas that need financial support in order to make students more successful. We look forward to seeing the department’s continued success and even more growth in the years to come.”

Emerson and Kathy played a key role in the Richmond music community for many years. Emerson taught choir at Henrico High School, led the choir at Randolph Macon College and worked with the Richmond Symphony, and he and Kathy performed locally. They both continued performing after founding Holiday Barn Pet Resorts In 1972. The business has expanded to two locations, with 125 employees, and appeared on the Travel Channel as one of the “10 best places to pamper a pooch.”

Despite the career change, the couple maintained friendships with many faculty members, including the late Wayne Batty, professor emeritus, who founded VCU’s opera program. Their affection for the music department inspired their daughter, Bekah, to earn her bachelor of music degree at VCUarts in 1995.


The Kathy and Emerson Hughes Scholarship in Music Education is awarded to a VCU music student each year.

“Having the Hughes family appreciate what we do so much that they would provide this support means more to us than we can articulate,” says Terry Austin, Ph.D., the department’s longtime director of bands and interim chair of the music department when the Hugheses made their gift. “In addition to the financial assistance it provides, it is an affirmation of the wonderful work that our faculty and students do every day. We are so happy to have enjoyed the friendship and support of this great family for many years.”