Monthly Archives: March 2019

Jazz and Higher Education with Dr. Shawn Purcell Ep039

Dr. Shawn Purcell, who teaches jazz guitar and jazz arranging at George Mason University and performs for the U.S. Navy Commodores, provides us with many insights into his story, learning and teaching music at a collegiate level, touring with the Ringling Brothers Circus, and his career as a military musician.
Shawn, Joe, and Aaron discuss methodical and efficient practice routines, working with new students to develop these practice routines, and the need to adjust these practice routines to prepare for different sorts of gigs and musical opportunities.
Shawn’s story takes us from his youthful days of Led Zeppelin, Ozzy Osbourne, Steve Vai, and Van Halen to his college days in which he studied jazz guitar and the recording arts at Duquesne University.  Upon graduation he landed a gig touring with the Ringling Brothers Circus, for which he spent two years traveling around the country on a circus train and played guitar for a living.  His next stop was eight years as the guitarist for the Air Force’s premier jazz ensemble, the Airmen of Note.
in 2004, Shawn and his wife, Dr. Darden Purcell, moved to Nashville where he gigged and earned his Master of Arts in Music from Middle Tennessee State University.  He gives us details of his experiences in the Nashville music scene.
If you thought Shawn had already received a lot of music education, he and his wife then moved to Illinois where he earned his Doctor of Musical Arts in Jazz Performance.  After a period of teaching at the National Guitar Workshop, he landed the job as the guitarist for the U.S. Naval Academy Band, and a couple years later he won the position as guitarist for the U.S. Navy Band “Commodores” jazz ensemble in Washington DC.  Shawn tells us lots of information about becoming a military musician, the lifestyle, the necessary skills, etc.  He stresses the importance of being able to sight read!
Finally we get into a deeper discussion about higher education: how to become a music professor, what that experience is like, how universities work, etc.
Shawn was one of Joe’s jazz guitar teachers at George Mason University, and Shawn’s methodical and organized style of teaching helped Joe achieve tremendous growth as a guitarist and as a teacher.
Check out Dr. Shawn Purcell at

Drums and Music for the Under-Resourced (with Joe Hamm of El Sistema) Ep038

Drummer and music educator, Joe Hamm, joins the conversation as we learn about the El Sistema philosophy of providing music programs to under-resourced kids, the social value of music, the role of the drums within the context of a band, and touring.

Joe Hamm gives us his musical and educational background, and we talk about melodic drumming, ear training, and the deprivation of sounds and colors.
The philosophy of El Sistema was created in Venezuela in 1975.  It focused on the idea that an orchestra is a community and thus models the larger society.  Organizations that adhere to the El Sistema philosophy provide under-resourced students with consistent access to intensive music education.  Joe Hamm tells us about his program, Soundscapes, with which he and ~9 other teachers work with students in Newport News, Virginia.
We talk about Joe Hamm’s former rock band, Chasing Arrows, their tour schedule, and the impact of the financial crash of 2008 on the music industry.
More information about Joe Hamm can be found at
More information about El Sistema can be found at
More information about Soundscapes can be found at

Hosting FM Radio (with Guest Host Steve Black)

Steve Black may have conducted over 1500 interviews of famous musicians and bands over the past 30 years, but Aaron and Joe use the opportunity to get Steve’s story of what it’s like to be a rock radio host. Steve tells us about how his incredible journey started back in 1989 at a radio station in Detroit, Michigan, and how a blizzard gave him the chance to run his first radio program. We dig into Steve’s take on what makes a good radio personality, how he runs his own show, and how he sets up interviews and then prepares for them.

Steve tells us about interviewing Ted Nugent, Bob Ezra (producer for Pink Floyd), and Paul O’Neil (producer for Trans Siberian Orchestra). He tells us about his friendship with Steve Vai. He even tells us about the time he went to a birthday party with Guns ‘N Roses.

We discuss the changing music industry and how to get your music onto the radio. We also get the story behind Steve’s book, “From Black to Light.”

Steve has his own show called the Chop Shop, which is centered around the guitar, but includes many different styles of music.

Also check out Steve’s podcast:

The Sound Of

Gigging, Military Bands Part 2 of 2 (with Guest Host, Jason Cale) Ep036

We dig into the experiences of Jason Cale, an incredible guitarist out of Southeastern Virginia. Jason gives us insight into playing in military bands, cultivating an original sound and leading a professional band. With formal training in classical and jazz music, Jason is very influenced by blues and fusion guitarists like Allen Holdsworth, Greg Howe, Ritchie Kotzen, Robben Ford, Jimmy Herring, Frank Gambale, Eric Gales, and Joe Bonamassa. He is also keen on blending blues, funk, and gospel into his music.

The guys discuss gigging bands, the impact of horn and piano players, professional rehearsals, and how to play to audiences.

Jason tells us about his career as a military musician primarily with the United States Air Force, including performances in the Middle East for the US troops, backing up John Popper of Blues Traveler, performing on Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

We can’t help but to talk about gear. Jason tells us about his rig, complete with details about his Fender tube amps, analog pedals, and multiple guitars.

Aside from Jason’s guitar playing, we talk about singing, production and studio work.

Check out Jason and his band, the Jason Cale Band, at