We caught up with Mary Louise Burke, Colorado Children’s Chorale Associate Director and Director of the Concert Choir to ask her some questions about music, her native country of Canada and the newest member of her family.
CC: How long have you been working with the Colorado Children’s Chorale?
MLB: I started to work with the Chorale in January 1986 as a music assistant at Concert Choir rehearsals. I was terrified, as I’d never actually spoken to a child before (I’m the baby of the family) but quickly discovered that I loved working with these talented, delightful young singers!
CC: We all call you Ms. Burke, but really you’re Dr. Burke. What did you get your doctorate in?
MLB: I received a DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy from CU Boulder in 1992.
CC: What is your favorite thing about directing the Concert Choir of the CCC?
MLB: The energy, joy, commitment and sincerity with which they sing. I can’t wait for our rehearsals on Thursday afternoons!
CC: Not only do you work with the Children’s Chorale, but you are also the assistant conductor of the Colorado Symphony Chorus. Be honest…who’s more fun: the kids or the adults?
MLB: Well, the adults are better at demonstrating the “singer slump”, as in how not to sit. The kids are more expressive and definitely faster at learning/memorizing the music.
CC: When did you first realize that you wanted to make music such a big part of your life?
MLB: When I found out that I couldn’t aspire to becoming an NHL star (no girls allowed!), I had to shift my focus from hockey to music! When I started junior high, I joined a top quality girls choir in Edmonton (Alberta). It was such a rich learning experience in so many areas: musical, vocal, social. A couple of years after that, I started going to a summer camp where I had the chance to do music from morning til night. I loved it so much that I decided to go to the University of Alberta for my Bachelor of Music degree.
CC: What interests do you have outside of music?
MLB: I like to work in my yard, although not all plants actually survive my tender loving care….
CC: The 2010 Winter Olympics took place in your home country of Canada. What was the best part of those Olympic games for you?
MLB: Other than the men’s hockey team winning the gold medal (!!), it would have to be the great video/pictures of the beauty of British Columbia. It’s truly breathtaking. Plus all the positive coverage about Canada and Canadians, ’cause ‘We rock’!
CC: Is there anything about living in Canada that you miss living here in the U.S.?
MLB: Canadian chocolate bars. My favorite is the Coffee Crisp. If any of you are going to Canada in the next little while, please bring some back for me!!! I’d be ever so grateful.
Also, Tim Horton’s coffee and donuts. And, the opportunity for outdoor skating 300 days a year (just kidding).
CC: Can you tell us something special about Canada that you think most Americans don’t know about?
MLB: The Kiwanis Clubs (a service organization) sponsors a music festival every spring in many, many towns and cities throughout Canada. This provides young singers (and instrumentalists) with the opportunity of competing in several classes, and possibly winning scholarships and going on to compete at the provincial and national level.
In Edmonton, for instance, the festival lasts two weeks. It’s a great way to hear others perform, to learn repertoire and performance skills.
CC: We heard that you might be getting a new puppy soon. Are the rumors true?
True!! My little Molly is 11 weeks old. She’s a “Whoodle”, a combination of a Wheaten Terrier and a Standard Poodle. And very smart: she reads music and can sing in three languages. Oh wait, maybe it’s that she can “chew music in 3 languages….?”