Baldwin native will perform with Navy jazz ensemble in Hempfield |

Baldwin native will perform with Navy jazz ensemble in Hempfield

Patrick Varine
U.S. Navy Chief Musician Shawn Purcell, a Pittsburgh-area native, performs with the U.S. Navy Band’s Commodores Jazz Ensemble. The group will play a free concert Oct. 23 in Hempfield.
U.S. Navy Chief Musician Shawn Purcell (left), a Pittsburgh-area native, performs with Kristine Hsia and the U.S. Navy Band’s Commodores Jazz Ensemble. The group will play a free concert Oct. 23 in Hempfield.

As part of the Navy’s signature outreach program, Baldwin native Shawn Purcell will have a chance to perform in the Pittsburgh area for the second time as a member of the U.S. Navy Band Commodores Jazz Ensemble.

The group will play an Oct. 23 concert at Hempfield Area High School.

“I started playing guitar when I was 12,” Purcell said. “I didn’t play in high school jazz bands, but I came from a family of professional musicians.”

Purcell initially joined the Air Force in 1996, and performed with its jazz ensemble, the Airmen of Note.

“I did that for eight years, then got out of the military for eight years,” he said. “After that, I joined the Navy, got into the Naval Academy Band in December 2011, and arrived at the U.S. Navy Band in August 2013. That’s when I joined the Commodores.”

The group tours one of five regions of the country each fall.

“This tour will be the Northeast,” Purcell said. “I think I played in Pittsburgh and Butler during my first tour with the band.”

During his time as a military musician, Purcell has visited and performed in places as diverse as Turkey, the Azores, Belgium, Oman, Qatar, Italy, Kuwait and Bahrain.

He is also a composer and arranger, with pieces commissioned by the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst Jazz Ensemble, Tito Carillo and Joan Hickey.

But being onstage is what drives him.

“I’ve always enjoyed playing,” he said. “It’s probably the biggest part of my life, honestly.”

Below, watch a June 2019 performance from the Kennedy Center.

Purcell earned a degree in recording arts and sciences in 1993 from Duquesne University, and has since earned master’s and doctoral degrees in music from Middle Tennessee State and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The 7:30 p.m. show is at Hempfield Area High School, 4345 Route 136, Hempfield.

It is free and open to the public, but attendees must reserve tickets by calling 724-850-2071 and leaving a name, address, phone number and number of tickets requested. Tickets will be mailed out about two weeks before the concert.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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