Pianist, jazz vocalist and vocal instructor
Winner of the Billie Holiday Vocal Competition and semi-finalist in the American Traditions Vocal Competition, jazz vocalist Sara Jones has toured nearly all 50 states and performed in numerous concert halls across the country.
Jones has performed as a soloist with the Boston Pops Orchestra, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, and Ravinia Festival Orchestra. In the Baltimore/Washington area, Jones was a featured vocalist with the Jazz Ambassadors and has graced the stages of the Hippodrome Theater, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Strathmore Mansion, and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Jones, who began her musical career as a pianist, received her Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and her Master of Music in Piano Accompanying at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. After graduation, she started a professional vocal career with the Soldiers’ Chorus of the U.S. Army Field Band. Now a civilian, Jones maintains an active performing schedule and teaches Jazz and Commercial Voice at Towson University, where she also directs the Towson University Vocal Jazz Ensemble.
Sara Jones’s recording, Daydream A Little, features Grammy-nominated Brazilian jazz group Trio Da Paz and is a lovingly curated CD of Brazilian jazz standards and songs from the Great American Songbook. It is available on Amazon.com, cdbaby.com, and iTunes.
D.C. based jazz vocalist and vocal instructor
Darden Purcell is a Washington D.C. based jazz vocalist. A multi-faceted musician, Ms. Purcell is an active featured soloist with symphony orchestras, big bands and small ensembles, band leader and vocal instructor. Ms. Purcell has shared the stage with many of the world’s top jazz artists including Eric Alexander, Terell Stafford, Jim Pugh, Chip McNeill, Chuchito Valdes, Dana Hall, Don Heitler, Glenn Wilson, Chip Stephens, Stockton Helbing, Byron Stripling, Bobby Watson, Joel Spencer, Darmon Meader, Jeff Helgesen, Jim Carroll, Charlie Young, Chris Vadala, Kenny Rittenhouse, Shawn Purcell, Steve Fidyk, Matt Niess, Dave Detwiler, Joe McCarthy, Wade Beach, Harold Summey, Tom Williams, The Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra, the United States Navy Commodores, Naval Academy Big Band, Next Wave, The Airmen of Note and the American Festival Pops Orchestra (Tony Maiello) performed at concert halls and clubs throughout the nation, including Blues Alley (Washington DC), Pops for Champagne (Chicago), The Jazz Kitchen (Indianapolis), The Blue Wisp (Cincinnati), Sandler Center (back-up vocals for Ben Folds) Meyerhoff Center (Baltimore Symphony Orchestra), Wolf Trap for the Performing Arts (National Symphony Orchestra) and The Kennedy Center (back-up vocals for Mr. George Benson). Dr. Purcell is the Director of Jazz Studies, Jazz Voice Instructor and Director of the Mason Jazz Vocal Ensemble at George Mason University.
Dr. Purcell is a former Washington DC Air Force Band vocalist, with the groups High Flight and the Airmen of Note, performing nationally and internationally, including Germany, Italy, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Purcell performed back-up vocals for nationally renowned recording artists, Chaka Khan, BeBe Winans, Bryan White, Lari White, Janie Frickie, Freda Payne, Sherrie Payne, Gloria Loring, Melba Moore and Rita Coolidge as well as a televised performance behind Darlene Love on “The Late Show with David Letterman.”
In addition to her active performing schedule, Dr. Purcell is a sought-after jazz vocal educator and clinician. Dr. Purcell was the Jazz Voice Instructor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and founder/director of the University of Illinois Jazz Vocal Ensemble. She is now the founder/director of the Mason Jazz Vocal Ensemble. Her groups have been invited to perform at the New York Voices Jazz Festival (Chicago), Western Michigan’s Gold Company Jazz Vocal Invitational (Kalamazoo, MI) the 2012 Jazz Education Network (JEN) conference (Louisville, KY) and the Kansas City Jazz Summit (Kansas City, MO). Dr. Purcell has served on the faculty of the W.O. Smith Music School camp (Nashville), Illinois Summer Youth Music, George Mason Summer Jazz Workshop, National Jazz Workshop and Music/Arts/Theatre Camp (Evanston, WY). She has been a guest artist with the Texas Tech University Jazz Faculty and Virginia Tech Jazz Ensemble and guest conductor/clinician for the Southern Nazarene University Vocal Jazz Festival and Harford County All-County Jazz choir. Her students have won “Outstanding soloist” and “Outstanding Musicianship” awards at collegiate festivals as well as Downbeat Student Music Awards. Spring 2016, the Mason Jazz Vocal Ensemble was one of two groups honored with “Outstanding Ensemble” at the Kansas City Jazz Summit and will perform at the JENerations Jazz Festival, January 2017 in New Orleans, LA.
Dr. Purcell received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Vocal Jazz Performance at Virginia Tech, a Master of Music and a Doctor of Musical Arts in Jazz Performance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Ms. Purcell’s CD, Easy Living, released on Dallas based record label Armored Records, features Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Chip McNeill, Shawn Purcell, Chip Stephens, Dennis Carroll and Stockton Helbing. Easy Living can be purchased from Amazon.com, CDBaby.com and iTunes. Darden’s upcoming CD, produced by Stockton Helbing with arrangements by Shawn Purcell, is scheduled for release, November 2016.
Sarah Andrew Wilson
Director of Music Education at Levine Music
Sarah Andrew Wilson is currently the Director of Music Education at Levine Music, one of the country’s largest nonprofit community music schools with 3,500 students of all ages and abilities. With a career mission of bringing music to as many people as possible, Wilson has worked with world-renowned performing artists and educators at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, and Washington National Opera. Throughout her career, she has served on Boards, committees, and panels for the National Endowment for the Arts, Jazz Education Network, Smithsonian Institution Jazz Appreciation Month, Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival, DC Mayor’s Arts Awards, and National Flute Association.
Wilson holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music from the University of North Texas, a Master’s Degree in Music from Arizona State University, and an Executive Certificate in Arts & Culture Strategy from the University of Pennsylvania. In her free time, she enjoys getting her hands messy while painting with acrylics and avoiding shin splints while training for half marathons.