Duquesne celebrates Guitar Day with Joe Negri

Gabriella DiPietro | News Editor



Not only did “Handyman Negri” bring joy to viewers through the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but he impacted the lives of many students at Duquesne University.

Joe Negri is an adjunct professor in the Mary Pappert School of Music’s jazz guitar department, which he founded in 1973. The 92-year-old, who formerly served as the chairman of the department, has been teaching at Duquesne for the last 45 years.

To honor his contributions and dedication to the university, the City Music Center at Duquesne University hosted a “Guitar Day with Joe Negri” on Saturday, July 21.

The day began with a proclamation issued by Mayor Bill Peduto, followed by a master class taught by Negri at 1:00 p.m., which focused on live performance, improvisation, technical mastery, stylistic coaching and more.

The class, which was open to the public, did not require attendees to bring an instrument. In fact, attendees were not even required to play guitar.

Negri began playing the guitar when he was eight years old, after learning how to play the ukulele. At age 16, he began touring with a swing band.

The guitar legend also plays bass, piano, banjo and mandolin, and has composed a number of film scores for documentaries. He has also performed with multiple artists, including YoYo Ma, Tony Bennett, Itzhak Pearlman, John Williams, Michael Feinstein and Andy Williams.

Seth Beckman, professor and dean of the music school, praised Negri for his talents, noting how he impacted the university and its students for the last 45 years.

“Joe Negri is a true legend: a renowned entertainer, musician, mentor and teacher. He is also a humble, kind and generous man,” said Beckman. “It is both an honor and a privilege to have him as a member of our Duquesne community. His contributions here have inspired countless students, faculty members and indeed our entire community.”

Guitarist Bill Purse was one of the first jazz guitar majors at the university, getting the opportunity to study with Negri both during his undergraduate and graduate programs. He has since assumed Negri’s former role as chair of the jazz guitar department, in addition to serving as the chair of contemporary music media.

“Joe is an incredible guitar player and has been such a national treasure here in Pittsburgh,” said Purse. “He’s been kind of a guiding light for me.”

Negri, who loves sharing his skills and imparting his knowledge to students, still teaches around four or five students each year, all of whom are excited to learn from the Pittsburgh guitar legend.