The Jazz of Darden Purcell

Where I Last Got Paid to Sing Series


Darden Purcell, a Washington D.C. based jazz vocalist, enjoys an active performing career in addition to being the director of jazz studies at George Mason University. She has performed nationally and internationally, has released two CD’s, Easy Living and Where the Blue Begins, and is even a former Washington D.C. Air Force Band vocalist. This month she shares her performance experience with the Richmond Jazz Society (RJS).

Where did you last sing and get paid?
My last performance was with the George Mason University jazz faculty for the RJS Guest Educators Concert Series in downtown Richmond, Virginia. The RJS has been around for 40 years, and they have established a distinctive series of innovative performances, educational programs, and events to serve performers, students, teachers, and the existing jazz audience in Richmond (www.vajazz.org).

Musicians with me on this performance were Wade Beach on piano, Regan Brough on bass, Harold Summey on drums, and Matt Niess on trombone.

How much were you paid?
The Richmond Jazz Society paid us a stipend and the George Mason University Jazz Studies department contributed to travel expenses. Richmond is only a 90-minute drive away, so we drove down the day of the concert and came home directly following.


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Where and when was the gig?
The gig was part of the RJS Guest Educators Concert Series, where they bring in educators and performers throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia to perform for their patrons and general public. The concert took place at the Capital Ale House downtown
music hall on November 13th, 2018.

How long did it last?
Our performance lasted 90-minutes. We put together a show that combined vocal and instrumental pieces. I wanted to showcase our faculty and their respective talents, so we combined jazz standards from the Great American Songbook with original compositions and arrangements. I also performed songs from both of my albums Easy Living and Where the Blue Begins.

How did you get the job?
I was contacted by the director of the Richmond Jazz Society last summer to take part in this series. As the director of jazz studies at George Mason University, I am often asked to put together faculty concerts and I love not only performing with our faculty, but also being able to travel outside of the Washington D.C. area. It was fun to travel to a different part of the state and bring our music to a new audience.

What was your overall experience like?
Our overall experience was wonderful! The Richmond Jazz Society took incredible care of us and the audience was filled with jazz enthusiasts, so it was a blast. I especially loved performing with my faculty. At school, we are all so busy teaching and performing in different groups, it can be challenging coordinating schedules. It was great to make music with them.

Would you do this or a similar gig again?
Absolutely! To have a dedicated jazz audience is always an amazing experience. This audience was incredibly well-informed. They knew the music, the composers, and the performers and that makes connecting with them even more enjoyable.

One member of their society is a well-respected radio host in Richmond and will be playing our music on WDCE.net (University of Richmond), so that is fun. You just never know who you are going to meet at a gig.

Anything else you would like to add?
The Richmond Jazz Society is dedicated to the education, preservation, and advancement of jazz. They are doing amazing work and we are very grateful to them for this performance opportunity.

You can learn more about Darden Purcell at dardenpurcell.com.

Michelle Latour

Dr. Michelle Latour is active as a teacher, singer, writer, and adjudicator and lives in Las Vegas. She has been on the full-time faculties at several universities. She is currently a voice faculty member for the Italian-based summer program, The International Opera Performing Experience and owns a private studio, the LATOUR Voice Studios. You can visit her at www.thelatourvoicestudios.com, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.