The student news site of Baldwin High School

The Purbalite

The student news site of Baldwin High School

The Purbalite

The student news site of Baldwin High School

The Purbalite

Advertisment
Hirt Locker
Support Us

Your donation will support the student journalists of Baldwin High School. Your contribution will allow us to fund our newspaper and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Advertisment
Hirt Locker
Support Us

Your donation will support the student journalists of Baldwin High School. Your contribution will allow us to fund our newspaper and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Baldwin alum has made a life in music

+Baldwin+alum+Shawn+Purcell+is+an+adjunct+professor+of+jazz+guitar+and+jazz+arranging+at+George+Mason+University.+Photo+courtesy+Shawn+Purcell.+Photo+courtesy+Shawn+Purcell%0A
Baldwin alum Shawn Purcell is an adjunct professor of jazz guitar and jazz arranging at George Mason University. Photo courtesy Shawn Purcell. Photo courtesy Shawn Purcell

Class of 1989 Baldwin alum Shawn Purcell has had a successful music career, from being a guitarist in the Air Force to now being an adjunct professor of jazz guitar and jazz arranging at George Mason University near Washington D.C.

Purcell’s life as a musician began at age 5 when he started taking piano lessons before he had even been in kindergarten. As he grew up and attended Baldwin High School, Purcell took an AP music theory class during his junior year. But most of his music activity happened outside of school.

“I had some garage bands during high school. We would play gigs and we played at a couple of the Baldwin talent shows. We organized ourselves and I started to do some professional music gigs during my senior year,” Purcell said.

Over time, Purcell’s musical taste adapted, eventually leading him to jazz.

“I was taking private (music) lessons in Carrick during high school. That’s when I started to get into jazz and considered it as a career. My mom was very encouraging. I have very fond memories of Baldwin, but I don’t know if they specifically shaped my career,” Purcell said.

After high school, Purcell ended up going to Duquesne University and earning his bachelor’s degree in music. Then, at age 24, he auditioned and got a job in the U.S. Air Force as a guitarist.

“The day I auditioned, the band leader offered me the position. Once I got in with them, I found a recruiter to get me into the Air Force. My job was to play guitar, but I was still on active duty,” Purcell said.

Purcell met his future wife in the Air Force, and they eventually moved to Nashville together Later, Purcell would get his doctoral degree in music at the University of Illinois.

Purcell eventually auditioned as a guitarist for the U.S. Navy band. He spent a year and a half at the Naval Academy playing guitar for the Next Wave big band jazz ensemble before auditioning for the Navy Commodores jazz ensemble in Washington, D.C., in 2013.

To this day, Purcell still does music for the Navy, but he is also an adjunct professor of jazz guitar and jazz arranging at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

Mike Tomaro, head of jazz studies at Duquesne University and a friend of Purcell, explained how they met.

“We first met in Washington, D.C., when I was down there as a member of the United States Army Band’s jazz ensemble, the Army Blues. Shawn had just won the audition with the Air Force jazz ensemble, the Airmen of Note,” Tomaro said. “I knew Shawn was from the Pittsburgh area so it was great to see a fellow Pittsburgher in the area.”

Tomaro said he loves Purcell’s music and has even performed with him multiple times.

“Shawn is an amazing musician. He is a virtuous guitarist and composer. In addition to all that, he is a really great person,” Tomaro said. “I am so glad that Shawn is receiving the recognition he so properly deserves. I am honored to call him a great friend.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributors
Sean Galentine
Sean Galentine, Multimedia Editor
Multimedia Editor Sean Galentine is a junior in his second year on the Purbalite. He can usually be found listening to music or playing games.
Seth Franco
Seth Franco, Multimedia Editor
Multimedia Editor Seth Franco is a senior in his third year on the Purbalite. When he's not writing, he often practices the drums, plays tennis, and sketches. 
Donate to The Purbalite
$345
$750
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Purbalite Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *