(Above) Photo by Richard Termine. (Left) Photo by Jennifer Taylor(Above) Ensemble ACJW performs at Weill Recital Hall with clarinetist Liam Burke playing the solo for one of the songs. (Left) A headshot of Liam Burke
Scituate native Liam Burke has gone from playing clarinet at Scituate High to graduating with a music degree from The Juilliard School in just a few years.
Now a fellow at the prestigious Carnegie Academy, and a soloist in the ensemble’s performance at Carnegie Hall last Monday, the 24-year-old Burke opens up about what it is like to be on the edge of a burgeoning music career.
Boston Globe: You went from South Boston High School to Scituate public schools, soon transferring to Walnut Hill School for Arts. What has been your path since you graduated?
Liam Burke: When I graduated high school, I went to Easton School of Music for a year and transferred to Juilliard, where I became a freshman again. And I did an accelerated Bachelor's and Master's music degree, so it ended up being five years. I graduated last year and started the academy this last September.
BG: Talk to me a bit about your history with the Ensemble for Academy Carnegie Juilliard Weill Music Institute (ACJW) – what has it been like?
LB: I joined in September, and I’ve been really enjoying it ever since.
It’s comprised of teaching and performing. The academy assigns each fellow, about 20 of us, and they assign every one of us a public school to teach at. Mine is PS21Q in Queens, and I teach a variety of classes … We do private lessons for any of the instruments in the band and we also teach the 5th and 4th grade band. We also do chorus sometimes. That’s really fun.
And with the ensemble, we just did a residency at Skidmore College in upstate New York. That was teaching classes and speaking to them about music. The fellows do a variety of classes, some play in arts class and had the art students write down how their art related to music and draw pictures based on what they were hearing. Another class [talked about music with] left-brain and right-brain in a neuroscience class. I sat in on a career development senior seminar with the student at the college. Sam Adams was the composer who was with us for the week, and his piece was being premiered with the ensemble, and we talked about career development in the arts.
We performed there and then performed at Carnegie hall on Monday…That was my first big project I did with them. We did a program piece by Sam Adams called “Twenty Four Strings.” Played Mozart Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, then Tchaikovsky’s “Souvenir de Florence.”
BG: After auditioning, were you surprised to be chosen for the group?
LB: Yes. It was one of the most competitive things I’ve ever auditioned for. When I found out I was accepted, I was really happy…
The great thing is it shows you how to shape a career as a musician in the 21st century. You can’t just have one job and do that as a musician. You need to be able to have these skills, such as teaching and performing solo music, chamber music…and go around and talk to people and share what you do with speaking and playing. They get us to hone those skills, and it’s getting us to shape a career that way.
BG: You also had this solo performance. Reviews of the piece speak very highly of it, but how did you feel it went?
LB: I felt great. I was talking to my colleagues, and we felt it was a performance we’ll remember forever. It was one of the most fun performances we’ve ever had. Playing with those musicians, it feels like it’s such a responsive group, and we react with each other, what we’re doing in the moment on stage…. We were doing stuff we hadn’t even talked about in rehearsals, but in performance we felt the music together and were having fun.
BG: So what is the best aspect of playing with such a highly talented group?
LB: I have to go back to the fun…it's really what its all about. There is nothing more fun than playing with this group of wonderful musicians.
BG: What upcoming performances do you have?
LB: We’re repeating some of the pieces that we played this past concert and doing new repertoire throughout the season.
I’m involved in several pieces…some of them we do one performance of the piece and some we perform again towards the end of the season in different venues throughout the city.
[A full schedule of performances can be found here]
BG: What are you goals after you’re done performing with this group?
LB: I want to continue to have a mixed career, doing everything that they teach us -- teaching and doing a variety of different type of performances. I’ll take orchestra auditions. I want to continue being in New York City and continue being a freelance musician, as there are so many opportunities for that here.
For more information on the Academy, click here.