Bill Purse (1972) Piano

Bill Purse at Montreux

​I attended New Trier West from 1969 to 1972. I was in the Lab Band in my freshman year and was fortunate enough to be promoted to Jazz Ensemble in my sophomore year. I became a student director in my senior year, along with Gregg Dorner and Joe Mahoney. In that year, I won the American Music Foundation award, and the Downbeat Student Composer award for my composition Montreux Shout.

After graduating, I spent my first year in college at Loyola University in New Orleans, thinking (erroneously) that New Orleans would be a good place to study jazz. What I did not realize was that in that year, New Orleans was stuck in a time warp, so there was not much contemporary jazz to be found. Also, I was placed as first chair in all the ensembles I tried out for, and therefore had no one to learn from. So, I switched to the University of Miami for my second year of college.

It was night and day. I auditioned for the top jazz band and made it, although I was fourth chair. While there, I was hired to play in the show band at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. There, I played for acts such as Ann-Margret, Sonny & Cher, Frank Sinatra, Seals & Crofts, Johnny Carson, Wayne Newton, Donna Summer, and a host of others. Also, during that time, I became the pianist for Dionne Warwick, and later Isaac Hayes, for whom I became the arranger for his albums and arranged horns and strings for about 6 or 7 albums he produced. In 1979, I toured with the Bee Gees.

Later in 1979 I moved to Los Angeles, and shortly thereafter I became the arranger and pianist/trumpeter for Star Search and did that for nine years running. During that run, I bought recording studio equipment and started recording all the synthesizer overdubs in my home, eventually also mixing the tracks. When that ended, I started post scoring commercials for a variety of companies.

In 2002, I had quintuple bypass surgery. They found that my best artery was 85% blocked. I was certain to become someone who just dropped dead one day. I had a second double bypass in 2010 and have been healthy since then. But I pretty much quit the music business after my first bypass.

The skills I learned in the Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of Roger Mills, stayed with me throughout my music career. They made a huge impact on my focus, professionalism, and direction. I am so grateful for that experience.