Local artist profile: Kim Burns
THIS week we chat with ukulele maestro, performer and inspirational musical director Kim Burns, who fell in love with the Portuguese-originated instrument while studying education as a mature-aged student and has never looked back.
What initially motivated you to take up the ukulele?
As a child of a piano teacher, I was subjected to seven years of piano lessons in my childhood, then once I hit my senior high school years, I discovered the saxophone and became involved in the Golden Square Concert Band. So, it’s fair to say I had a solid background in music and music theory.
Now skip to 2012, where, as a mature-aged student studying education, I attended my first classroom music session where we were exposed to inclusive ways of teaching and creating music through bucket drumming and ukulele. Prior to this, I thought the ukulele was just a kid’s toy and not really a serious instrument, but the way the instructor used it that day made me think of it in a whole other light, and I simply had to learn it! So, a week later, I purchased my first ukulele and began my journey.
How would you describe your style?
My style varies depending on the audience I am performing for. My preferred genre of music to play is traditional and contemporary folk, but that isn’t what all audiences like to hear, so I dabble a little in blues, jazz, country and easy-listening popular tunes.
Which other bands or musicians inspire you and why?
Dorset (English county) folk duo Ninebarrow are my biggest inspiration. I stumbled across them in 2015 while doing a Google search for ukulele folk music. The music of Ninebarrow is hauntingly beautiful and their lyrics lead you on a historical journey through their much-loved homeland, but what I love most about them is their harmonies and their humility.
What are some highlights or fond memories you have from your career so far?
In 2015 I became part of the Jigarre Jamming Leadership Team (in the township of Girgarre), which involved running ukulele workshops and leading monthly jam sessions.
In 2017 I became involved in a small ukulele group based in Bendigo which is now called Goldfields Ukestra. Goldfields Ukestra has grown exponentially since then and is now a 50+ member strong group of which I am the musical director.
For a long time, I was a solo performer who avoided live audiences due to stage fright, but I shone brightly in numerous online ukulele communities including the 100 Day Ukulele Project, Ukulele Encore, and the Ukulele Hat Club.
Since COVID, my online involvement and postings have slowed down considerably as I am now concentrating on developing a new duo/trio called Wandering Foxes with a local musician whom I met at the 2023 Girgarre Moosic Muster.
What would you say to young regional aspiring musicians who are thinking of making a go of the creative life?
Recognition in the music world takes a lot of hard work and dedication to your craft.
Playing at open mic nights is a great way to build your confidence and performance skills as well as providing you with networking opportunities.
Presenting live music to an audience is as much about engaging the audience with stage banter and chit-chat as it is about playing your music. Building relationships with your audience is key to a successful performance.
You are never too old to learn an instrument and hit the stage. Get out there and give it a go!