AMAS Faculty Spotlight: Q&A with High School Student Wind & Band Director Experience Coordinator, Dr. John Burdett

John Conducting 1.jpg

What are you most excited about this summer at the symposium?

I am excited about seeing some friendly faces, folks who have been at it for the last two years at the symposium, excited to see our guest clinicians from out of state, and seeing the students grow through our time together.

What projects are you working on right now?

I have a couple of chapters in a book I am working on. It’s a series and I’m submitting a chapter about spirituality, music education, and Christian theology and exploring the relationships between those things. Music deals with the life underneath the skin that we can’t see - feelings, thoughts, & beliefs. Spirituality is quite similar to that, so I’m exploring those connections. And I am also gearing up for a world premiere performance next spring. 

Coffee or Tea?

I’m a coffee person, straight black. All the time.

Band or Artist that has caught your attention this past year?

The “Inception” soundtrack is something I’ve been captivated by recently. There’s also a composer here in the area. His name is Adam Schoenberg. I’ve been captivated by his music as of late as well.

Any session highlights you can give us before the symposium?

For the students, I’m excited about them premiering a piece by Ian Grom and the interaction he’ll have with the students, as he’ll be writing the piece with their input. So they experience first hand the interaction that comes with creating a piece of music, not simply representing or recreating what someone else has written. 

I’m also excited to hear from a lot of our guests that are coming from out of state and talking to the band directors. I’m Interested to hear their best practices and what has made them successful in Texas, and the way we might borrow from those concepts and bring them to California. 


First thing you do when they wake up

Check my phone, which is probably not good.


At the core of my life, my desire is to know what is good, right, and best, and have the courage to do it.

Commuting Habit

My commute is boring because my work isn’t very far. Just talk radio.

Night Routine

Put the kids to bed. Sit with them, hear about their day, pray with them, and go to bed.

Productivity Tools

Lists, lists, and more lists. I also think looking ahead and keeping the five-year plan ahead of me at all times helps me orient what I’m accomplishing with that in mind. 

Best Habit

My distrust of the obvious. That the way things appear aren’t always what they are, so that always leads me to want to dig deeper.

Productivity Philosophy

Our will is one of the most important aspects of ourselves, and the best gift we can give others, so be aware of it, take care of it, and use it. 

If you had to describe something that is definitely "you" that is present in anything you've done, or created, or anything you're particularly proud of, what would that be?

I would hope that I got to the essence of what the music represents. If we’re living with a piece of music for a month or two, I want to make certain we actually get to the essence of it. We don’t just get the surface of it. If I’m working with the students, I’m hoping that they are bringing their true selves to the situation. They’re not faking, or trying to act like something else. That they’re bringing themselves in that process and that we all grow. 

And then working with colleagues who are genuine and pressing on together with the utmost sincerity.


Dr. John Burdett

John Burdett, Ed.D, is the Director of Instrumental Studies and Director of Bands in APU's School of Music. In this role, Dr. Burdett facilitates the Instrumental Studies program, leads the band division, and teaches undergraduate and graduate students. Prior to joining APU, Dr. Burdett held tenure track and adjunct appointments teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in conducting, music education, and ensemble direction at several institutions including Mt. San Antonio College, California Polytechnic University, Pomona, California State University, Fullerton, and California State University, Los Angeles. In addition to his dissertation research into the experiences of students with hearing loss in instrumental music, Dr. Burdett's research interests include the performance practice of symphonic compositions with Spanish and Latin American stylistic influences, the psycho-social components of conducting, the democratization of decision making in large concert ensembles, and increasing accessibility to music education for marginalized student populations. 

Dr. Burdett has been invited to clinic and consult with instrumental music programs throughout the state, conduct honor ensembles in Texas and California, and adjudicate performance competitions including the Music Center of Los Angeles Spotlight Awards. In addition to numerous posts with youth orchestras, he was the founding music director and conductor of the Southern California Philharmonic from 2001-05.

Learn from Dr. Burdett and many more at the Arcadia Symposium.