Simon Purcell was appointed International Chair in Improvisation at the Guildhall School of Music in London in 2018. Formerly Head of Jazz at Trinity-Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance from 2005-2017 and member of the Pop and Jazz Steering Group for  the Association of European Conservatoires from 2009-2018.

Simon is best known as an educator. During his teacher-training he was fortunate to be tutored by Janet Ritterman (until recently the principal of the Royal College of Music) at that time, Head of the Music Education Department at Goldsmiths College. A succession of Tuesday afternoon workshops required him to teach songs nonverbally, i.e. without any verbal explanation or notation. This introduction to hemispherical function of the brain, educational psychology and the realisation that lesson planning and evaluation was not only necessary in order to achieve trouble-free lessons but also was a form of creative problem-solving, convinced him of a joint vocation as musician and teacher. Fascinated by how music students learn (and jazz musicians in particular), Simon has continued to draw on his early experiences as a school teacher, over the years accumulating a mass of materials and informal research as a result of reflection, systematic recording, planning and evaluation of lessons, consequently forming a number of templates for diagnosis and interpretation of educational phenomena.


Simon’s educational research was published in 2001 (Staff Development through Creative Co-Mentoring Partnerships), 2003 (Musical Patchwork: Teacher Research Within a Conservatoire), and 2005 (Teacher Research Within a Conservatoire – a condensed version of the former, published by Ashgate). His current research interest is “The 4 Ps”, an approach to developing the play state within improvisation through balancing musical product, process and the inner person. More to follow on this site in due course.

Simon has taught and mentored several generations of Britain’s finest jazz musicians. Between 1987 and 2005, he was professor of jazz piano and improvisation at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and was appointed Head of Jazz at Trinity College of Music in September 2005, meanwhile, co-directing the Glamorgan Jazz Summer School (formerly the Barry Summer School). In between times he has acted as a consultant to Birmingham Conservatoire, been educational director of the National Jazz Youth jazz Orchestra of Scotland and in 2006, received the award for Jazz Educationalist of the Year from the Parliamentary Jazz Committee.

Simon lives with his wife Karen in London, without pets but with a frustrating loyalty to West Ham United and English Rugby. He was also a setter for the Newham Jazzers Volleyball Club, who never failed to reach a final when he played for them!


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