A A Email Print Share

History of the Guitar Department

The Duquesne University Guitar Department was founded in 1975 in the Mary Pappert School of Music. From its humble beginnings as a one-man organization, the department was destined to expand thanks to the efforts of promising students and faculty. Joe Negri, founder and first chair of the department, sought to begin one of the first jazz guitar programs in the United States. The city of Pittsburgh, known for its strong history of jazz performers and venues, seemed the perfect place to begin the department.

Bill Purse became the third student to attend the program, and soon after John Maione and Bob Clarke (classical guitarist) were hired as instructors. Because of his busy schedule, Joe Negri handed the chair over to Bob Clarke. At this period of time, the guitar department was developing and expanding. After receiving his masters in 1981, Bill Purse became the chair in 1986 and promised to build a national program.

Mark Koch; Assistant Chair, Ken Karsh, Martin Ashby, Tom Kikta (Classical), Jeff Mangone (electric bass) and Tim Bedner were all added to the faculty in the following years. Following their busy schedules as instructors, members of the faculty still find the time to be active performers. Joe Negri is still on the faculty to this day and was the recipient of the department's first lifetime achievement award.

After 18 years of working with the industry, the Duquesne University Guitar Department is now rated one of the top 5 guitar programs in the country by Guitar Magazine and Guitar One Magazine. Many graduates of the department have gone on to be acclaimed performers. Others have even continued the tradition and now own their own teaching facilities and music studios.

Many members of the faculty have also been involved in publishing, working with such names as Mel Bay, Warner Brothers, Hal Leonard, and Back Beat Books. Faculty members also work with popular string manufacturers and guitar processors. The greatest association, however, is with Fender Guitar Company, who funds much of the school's equipment.

With the great success of the Summer Guitar Workshops starting in 1986, the Duquesne University Guitar Department has attracted both students and popular musicians to the school. The department has brought in some of the world's greatest guitarists to share their musical talents including: Steve Vai, Eric Johnson, Johnny Smith, Pat Martino, Jimmy Bruno, Sid Jacobs, Paul Bolenbeck, and Michael Hedges.

Thanks to the talent and dedication of professors, performers and graduates, the Guitar Department at Duquesne University continues the tradition of being one of the best guitar schools in the United States.