Brendan Burns, July Artist of the Month

Artist of the Month

Can you give a brief overview of what you do?

Briefly, I am a musician. Guitar is my primary instrument, and I use it to create bigger works with many amazing and talented musicians, dancers, playwrights, comedians and students. As well as being a guitarist, I am a producer, an arranger, a musical director and composer. There are many different ways to be a musician, and I feel very lucky that I belong to a community of artists who work together to create things that are beautiful, excellent and fun, whether it be performing on a rock stage or in a children’s theater, an underground space or a historic venue.

Are there some past projects you would like to mention in more detail?

My pride and joy is TimeStamp back in 2012. It was a recording session spread out over 3 days at the Somerville Theatre. I asked my closest friends and colleagues to join me for some aural explorations in an inspiring theatre and documented the results on two albums and a 50min film.

Before that (2008-2012), my big focus was the Elephant Tango Ensemble. This was an artist collective made up of musicians and puppeteers. We had several full length shadow puppet shows and the musicians also doubled as the house band for the Bent Wit Cabaret. This is where I made many connections with the friends and colleagues that continue to challenge and inspire me today.

Is there anything new you’re working on?

Currently I’m working on three mega projects with some incredible collaborators:

  1. Schooltree, a dramatic progressive rock band, is deep in the trenches of putting together a full length rock opera. It’s an impressive collection of 20 songs in 3 acts that should be ready for preview in the fall. It’s a big leap forward for the band and huge creative achievement for composer and frontwoman: Lainey Schooltree.

  2. I’m incredibly proud and excited to be the producer and arranger for Phil Berman’s debut album: The Battle Of Bunker Hill. We’ll be recording at Dimension Sound Studios in August and we’ll not only be capturing Phil’s beautiful songs and performances, but adorning them with lush orchestrations from a string quartet, chamber ensemble, vocal choir and rhythm section. Phil’s written some incredible music. It’s going to be an amazing record. Expect more from that early 2015

  3. Bonnie Duncan, Tony Leva & I are working on a new all-ages puppet show to follow our breakout hit: Squirrel Stole My Underpants. The three of us have been working out this new piece over the past few months and expect a release at the Puppet Showplace Theatre in January/February 2015

Why do you do what you do?

It’s what makes sense to me. I believe in the power of education and the power of music. I’m dedicated and passionate about both. I grew up in a household where both of my parents took their jobs very seriously. My father owned his own business and my mother was a nurse. They brought the weight of their work home with them and valued their contributions to society. It’s inevitable that I care about what I do and I pursue it with excellence.  

What inspired you to pursue the arts?

The first time I remember being affected by a musical instrument was in church. It was the guest trumpeter for a holiday service and his sound moved across the rafters unlike anything I’d ever heard before. The physical presence of those sound waves left a profound impression on me. It’s an event that I keep coming back to as I work with children. I keep asking myself: how can kids experience live music today? What can we do to bring it to them?

Is there someone or something that was important in getting you on your way?

I’ve been very fortunate to have excellent and amazing teachers all of my life. From my first guitar teacher Jim Wilding, to the amazing faculty at Berklee College of Music and mentors afterwards: Tim Miller, Jay Weik and Charlie Banacos; I’ve been guided by dozens of master musicians and educators.

A profession in the arts can be difficult. Can you talk about some of the challenges?

I am exhausted and depressed with the rigmarole of self-marketing. There is nothing more anti-creative than writing a press release or promoting a show. It’s a necessary part of being a professional artist, but it’s the pits. In the past, the shows and projects that I’ve promoted the most successfully have always been at the expense of my art (and vice versa).

Any thoughts on the local Somerville, or Boston-area creative scene?

I love this community. I’m constantly inspired, challenged and excited by the creativity of my peers, colleagues and friends.

Where can people find your work online?

My main resource pages are BrendanBurns.com, Facebook, & BandCamp. You can also find me playing with my fine friends and colleagues: Schooltree, Kristen Ford Band, 3rian King, Phil Berman, Will Dick, Bonnie Duncan, Tony Leva, Karin Webb, Chelsea Barry, & Mary Dolan. I also chair the guitar department and teach at Brookline Music School.