Join Ryan for an interview with Dr. JD Burnett of UGA, a true “situational leader” due to his ability to jump in and use his skills to do what it takes.
J.D. Burnett enjoys a varied career as a conductor, singer, and teacher. He is Assistant Professor of Music and Associate Director of Choral Activities at the University of Georgia Hugh Hodgson School of Music, where he conducts the Men’s and Women’s Glee Clubs and the Collegium Musicum, and teaches courses in choral literature and conducting. Additionally, he is Artistic Director and Conductor of the Kinnara Ensemble, a professional chamber choir based in Princeton, New Jersey.
Formerly, he served as Assistant Director of the Dallas Symphony Chorus, conducted New Jersey Youth Chorus Young Men’s Ensemble, was Associate Conductor of the Masterwork Chorus of New Jersey, and was Acting Director of Choral Activities at Montclair State University. His earlier posts include Interim Director of Choral Activities at San Jose State University, Artistic Director of the New Jersey Chamber Singers, Music Director of the Houston Masterworks Chorus, and Founder/Conductor of Men’s Consort Houston. Burnett taught on the choral music faculty at Kingwood High School in suburban Houston. He also served as Choral Editor at McGraw-Hill, Inc.
Dr. Burnett did undergraduate study at Stanford University and Oklahoma State University. He holds advanced degrees in choral conducting from Westminster Choir College and the University of North Texas. As a professional choral singer, Burnett has performed seasons, concerts, and recordings with the Stillwater Chamber Singers, Cantare Houston, The Santa Fe Desert Chorale, The Robert Shaw Festival Singers, Fuma Sacra, the Choir of Trinity Church Wall Street, the Oregon Bach Festival Chorus, and Conspirare.
The moment you knew you’d dedicate your life to music
In his early musical life, Dr. Burnett sang the James Erb Shenandoah in the All State Choir back in New York. He felt such great emotion and connection, while he was singing with 150 other young men.
Also, as an undergrad at Stanford, he really missed music, having been accepted for a major other than music, and couldn’t shake the feeling that he needed to leave and pursue his passion for music.
Worst musical moment
In reflection after a concert or upon listening to a recording of a performance, Dr. Burnett has had many moments where he thought things didn’t go his way.
Specifically, Dr. Burnett doesn’t think he did a good enough job encouraging his high school students to sing after high school.
The proudest musical moment
Recently, Dr. Burnett went on the road with 25 students to the University of Kentucky to sing with the Men’s Choir there. At the end of that concert, he was “beaming with pride”.
Dr. Burnett has had a very well-rounded experience, having worked with youth, high school, university, community, and professional choirs. He mentioned the term “situational leadership”, a term that was coined by his friend, to describe the ability to jump in and do what it takes by tapping into a wide variety of skills and and personality traits.
Empathy plays a big part in making the transition from working with one type of group to another type of group, as Dr. Burnett knows what it feels like to be in all types of situations.
Most excited about right now
Dr. Burnett is excited to be a singer over the summer. He’ll be singing concert with both GRAMMY-award winners Conspirare and the Santa Fe Desert Chorale.
Advice for your younger self
“Be more willing to trust those who have been through things that you have not been through.”
What makes a great conductor?
Two things: Passion and connection to the sung word AND they need to like people.