John Burke ’11 released his first solo piano album in fall 2011. We recently caught up with him to see how he managed to reach such a milestone so early in his career.
John: The album came out in October. It’s called “Synesthesia” and my goal was to provoke a sense of colors through music. All songs are named after colors and the album has a psychological edge to it that tests your mind while you’re enjoying the music.
It’s an instrumental album and I wrote and composed all the tracks. It took me about a year and a half to complete it. I actually found my inspiration during a study abroad trip to Spain I took while at OU.
OU: So, Oglethorpe helped your development as an artist?
John: Yes. I chose OU because of its size and tight knit community. Looking back, I do not see myself being anywhere else but OU. I majored in Spanish and minored in Music. I also sang in the choir. Oglethorpe made it easy for me to balance between full academic load and music practice by providing access to the piano room on campus. I was able to steal little increments of time between classes to practice. It is a great place to thrive.
OU: How did your love for music begin?
John: It started during my senior year in high school. My friends and I started a rock-and-roll/blues band named “Vinyl”. I had no formal schooling in music before OU. I just listened to music and tried to apply it by ear.
OU: Impressive! What was the first tune you learned on piano?
John: The first tune I learned must have been “Imagine” by John Lennon. My favorite thing to play now is George Winston, whom I consider to be the most influential pianist in my life.
OU: What’s your dream stage to perform on? Dream duet?
John: I would love to perform at Carnegie Hall. And a dream duet would be with Ray Manzarek, keyboardist for The Doors—piano and organ. And I would also love to compose an album for a blockbuster movie. I dream big. The sky is the limit.
OU: You are obviously very talented. Do you have musical genes in your family?
John: My father is a musician; he currently leads and directs a band at church. He is my role model and motivation, and I can honestly say that if it were not for him I would not be where I am today.
OU: How often and for how long do you practice? What advice would you give beginner musicians?
John: I practice every day, on a good day between 2-4 hours. Beginners, and even those with experience, should not stop practicing and always try new things and different styles. Practice and variety help you grow as an artist.
OU: Music is a big part of your life. Do you have any other musical initiatives?
John: Yes, I am a choir director at a church in Brookhaven, and I have also taught music theory, reading music and also piano. I would like to spend more time teaching music and sharing my passion for it. It is very rewarding to reveal the beauty of music to someone else.
The album is available at www.johnburkemusic.com. John’s music also airs on Best Smooth Jazz and Best Smooth Grooves, two radio stations in the United Kingdom.