Student Artist of the Month: Claire Burden ’17

Claire Burden ’17 has been singing her entire life and is very musically involved at PHS and elsewhere in the Princeton community. She has a vast musical background, participating in various choirs before joining PHS Choir and becoming a leader in the well-known a cappella group, Around 8. She also works with the Trenton Community Music School as a rehearsal assistant and conductor.

Has music always been an interest or was it a recent development?

It’s always been an interest. So, from a young age, my parents kind of stressed in me the importance of making music my number one priority … instead of sports, my parents would have me practice my piano scales. They’d have me sing, learn my solfege … instead of practicing soccer, for example, I’d stay at home and practice piano.

How has singing affected you as a person (what has it taught you)?

I think it’s taught me to be more open-minded, which sounds a little cheesy, but working with so many different conductors in the 17 years that I’ve been singing, I’ve had to think on my feet and be ready to change what I’m doing within a second … that’s kind of hard, but it’s a good skill to learn, and I think that I’m going to be able to use that later on in my life, not just with music.

Who or what is your biggest musical influence, and how has that influence shaped you as an artist?

I think my biggest musical influence is my father, actually. My dad has been a professional opera singer for 35 years, and I’ve gotten a chance to travel around the world with him and that was kind of my first experience with music … he’s worked in a lot of different places, and I’ve seen his professionalism and the way that he handles himself in an opera house … the way he learns his music … how he practices and keeps getting better … has lessons and does the stuff you need to do to make sure that you’re ready to perform at the top of your game and perform in an opera house full of thousands of people.

What musical programs are you a part of, and what is the best thing about being a member?

I am a part of the Princeton Girlchoir … this is my tenth year being a part of [their Ensemble group]. I [also] participate in PHS Choir … and I am one of the leaders of Around 8, one of the a cappella groups at PHS. I also work with the Trenton Community Music School. I’m one of their rehearsal assistants/conductors for the third graders, so I get to work with them every Thursday and teach them all about music theory. The best thing is meeting all of the new people. With Princeton Girlchoir … we all just get together and sing and have a really good time and that’s the same thing with Around 8. I get to meet a lot of really cool people that [I] might not have necessarily hung out with otherwise. It’s really nice.

Do you see yourself pursuing music as a career? If so, what kind of musician do you hope to become?

I’ve been getting this question a lot right now because of college applications, but … I actually am not pursuing music as a career. It’s been the largest part of my life … but now, with this big transition, I’m going to shift my focus and try and move away from that a little bit—not be the girl whose parents are opera singers … [to] try and be a new person. I’m not going into college with the idea of becoming a musician, but I do want to keep pursuing it as a hobby, so I’m going to audition for some a cappella groups in college and participate in other music groups.

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