Dr. Darden Purcell

Darden Purcell
Titles and Organizations

Director of JAZZ STUDIES, JAZZ VOICE, Dewberry School of Music, CVPA

Contact Information

Campus: Fairfax
Building: de Laski Performing Arts Bldg
Room A428
Mail Stop: 3E3

Personal Websites


Darden Purcell is a featured soloist with symphony orchestras, big bands and small ensembles, band leader and vocal instructor. Ms. Purcell has shared the stage with top jazz artists including Maria Schneider, Eric Alexander, Terell Stafford, Jim Pugh, Chip McNeill, Chuchito Valdes, Dana Hall, Alan Baylock, Don Heitler, Glenn Wilson, Chip Stephens, Stockton Helbing, Byron Stripling, Bobby Floyd, Joel Spencer, Darmon Meader, Lisanne Lyons, Jim Carroll, Charlie Young, Chris Vadala, Shawn Purcell, Matt Niess, Dave Detwiler, Joe McCarthy, the Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra, US Navy Commodores, Naval Academy big band, Next Wave, The Airmen of Note, US Army Blues and the American Festival Pops Orchestra (Tony Maiello) performing at concert halls and clubs nationally and internationally, including Blues Alley, Pops for Champagne, The Jazz Kitchen, The Blue Wisp, The Kitchen Cafe, The Bop Stop, Con Alma, JazzB (Sao Paulo, Brazil), Sandler Center (back-up vocals for Ben Folds) Meyerhoff Center (BSO), Wolf Trap for the Performing Arts (NSO) and The Kennedy Center (back-up vocals for Mr. George Benson, Sara Bareilles and Caroline Shaw). Dr. Purcell is the Director of Jazz Studies, Jazz Voice Instructor and Director of the Mason Jazz Vocal Ensemble at George Mason University.

Ms. Purcell is a former Washington D.C. 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, Western Michigan’s Gold Company Jazz Vocal Invitational, the 2012 Jazz Education Network (JEN) conference and the Kansas City Jazz Summit. 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 Mason Jazz Camp to name a few.

She has been a guest artist/clinician at Capital University, Illinois Wesleyan University, Texas Tech, Virginia Tech, Southern Nazarene University, Tiffin University and Indiana State School Music Association. 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 awarded “Outstanding Ensemble" at the Kansas City Jazz Summit and in January 2018, the Mason Jazz Vocal Ensemble was a featured collegiate ensemble at the JEN conference in Dallas, TX.

May 2018, Darden was honored to present at the Institute for Jazz Research "Jazz Voices" conference in Graz, Austria and March 2020, through a George Mason University Global Education grant, she performed at Projeto GURI and JazzB in Sao Paulo Brazil. 

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.

Darden’s CDs, Easy Living and Where the Blue Begins, produced by Stockton Helbing with arrangements by Shawn Purcell, can be purchased at Bandcamp, iTunes and Amazon.

Associate Professor of Music

  • Applied Jazz Voice
  • Mason Jazz Vocal Ensemble
  • Jazz & Blues in America
  • Jazz Pedagogy


  • BFA Jazz Performance, Virginia Polytechnic and State University
  • MM Jazz Performance, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • DMA Jazz Performance, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign