Most residents of Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District know U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy as their six-term congressman.
Constituents of his district -- which includes the South Hills plus parts of Washington, Greene and Westmoreland counties -- may know he has worked as a psychologist, is co-chairman of the Mental Health Caucus and holds a senior position on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
But the Republican congressman will show the public another side May 4 when he makes a guest appearance at the Washington Symphony Orchestra concert in Trinity High School.
"I plan to bring my guitar and perhaps my banjo and sing three songs with the symphony," Mr. Murphy said during a phone interview from his office in Washington, D.C. The songs will include "Wichita Lineman," which was made popular by Glen Campbell in the 1960s, and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?"
Mr. Murphy said he basically taught himself to play after picking up his brother's guitar at the age of 14. In high school and while attending Wheeling Jesuit University, he played guitar in a couple of bands at clubs and coffeehouses.
Some of his most memorable performances with the bands, he said, were opening for Earl Scruggs, Grammy Award winner and an inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and for folk and bluegrass musician John Hartford, another Grammy Award winner.
While attending college in Wheeling, he went to several concerts at the Wheeling Jamboree, where he learned that the banjo was popular with bluegrass fans. Determined to learn the instrument, he bought a banjo and taught himself to play it.
"Both instruments have their own level of difficulty and rhythmic complexities," he said of the guitar and banjo. "Compared to the guitar, the banjo has a lot of different fingering. While I do like to play the banjo, I don't consider myself a master by any means."
Following college, Mr. Murphy limited his public performances to charity events such as Celebrity Performing Arts Night, a fundraiser for the Washington Community Arts and Cultural Center in Washington, Pa. At one such event, he played guitar while Yugo Ikach, music director and conductor of the Washington Symphony Orchestra, sang "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
"Yugo liked what I did and invited me back," Mr. Murphy said.
He has performed at three arts center fundraisers, playing "satirical songs" he wrote that are aptly titled "I Want a Bail Out" and "How a Bill Becomes a Law." He also played other charity events with pickup musicians that included Lucas Piatt, president of Millcraft Investments.
"I don't think that many people know that Rep. Murphy sings and plays guitar and banjo really well," Mr. Ikach said. "His voice, to me, is a mix of John Denver, James Taylor and Glen Campbell."
The congressman also plays guitar just to relax. He keeps one in his office in the nation's capital and one in his home in Upper St. Clair, which he shares with his wife, Nan, and daughter, Bevin.
The Washington Symphony Orchestra concert at 8 p.m. May 4 is appropriately titled Country Jamboree and will feature the orchestra performing such songs as "Ashokan Farewell" from the Ken Burns' Civil War documentary; Aaron Copland's "Rodeo"; the theme from "Bonanza"; "Shenandoah"; and the "Tennessee Waltz."
Mr. Murphy will join Mr. Ikach, his wife Charmaine and nationally recognized hammered dulcimer player Adam Sutch of West Pike Run in a medley of four-part harmony songs that will include "Daddy Sang Bass."
"We'll end the concert with everyone on stage in a rousing, foot-stomping number that will include the audience," Mr. Ikach said.
For tickets: 724-223-9796.
Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.