Anthony Burbidge shares his love of music
Anthony Burbidge is an award-winning singer and songwriter who has been teaching in Airdrie since 2010.
“I have been teaching on and off since the early 2000s,” says Burbidge. “I’m hoping to give the music education that I never got and the experiences I always longed for.”
His students are fortunate indeed. The musical trailblazer, who originally hails from Nova Scotia, first began making music as an 11-year-old in his small town band program. At the time, not everyone was impressed by his musicality.
“I played for one year in band, and at the end of that year my music teacher had my mother and I come in for a sit-down in his office.”
“He said, ‘Mrs. Burbidge and Anthony, I have been watching you play over the past year, and I think, to be honest, music isn’t your thing.’”
“In my 11-year-old mind, I heard this adult saying you’re not good enough and you can’t do this,” he says.
“And nobody was going to tell me I couldn’t.”
Burbidge continued with a variety of classical music lessons, but it was in his teenage years that he discovered his love for popular music, and learning to play by ear, rather than reading music from the page.
Burbidge attended Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B., where he found his talent in the recording studio. By the time 1993 rolled around, he had recorded his first CD.
Among his distinctions, Burbidge received an honourable mention in the 17th Annual Billboard World Song Contest, is a 2009 Indie International Songwriting Contest winner, and a Positive Music Award nominee.
In February of this year, he became a Positive Music Award Music Video of the Year winner for his song Us and Them.
These days, Burbidge’s focus is on teaching, hoping to inspire the next generation of musicians. “In the beginning, I thought I would run [Airdrie Music Lessons] part time, but when my daughter was born my focus changed.”
“When I said yes to teaching, one thing led to another, and my small group has been growing,” he says. “I didn’t want to turn it into a business, but it turned out to be my thing.”
Airdrie Music Lessons is located at Burbidge’s home music studio.
“I’ve had a recording studio in one form or another since 2005. Two-and-a-half years ago we moved to our current home in Baysprings, and I built a new studio.”
Before Burbidge starts with his formal lessons, which run from September through to June, he hosts ‘meet and greet’ sessions.
“It’s a chance for the parents to see ‘what is his teaching style,’ ‘how is he relating to my kid,’ and ‘how is my child relating to him.’”
“It’s also my chance to observe the child and see if this is something that they want to do.”
Once the students pick between singing, guitar, piano and rock band classes, that’s when the fun begins.
In the fall each of Burbidge’s students receives a binder, and through the months sheet music is added to their repertoire.
Each lesson is taught in a small group, with students ranging from age six to 70. Two concerts are put on, one in January and one in June, for the parents to see their child’s progress.
“They play with me, they play on their own and they play together,” he says. “There is this whole circle of creativity going on, and I find students’ progress much faster in a group than when I used to teach one on one, or even during my education.”
Another way Burbidge’s methods differ is in the way he teaches music.
“When I teach piano, for instance, I don’t teach just learning how to play the notes on the page.
“The kids are learning how to play chords and how to make up an accompaniment to go with the melody.”
One thing Burbidge notices of his repeat students is that once they are confident in their particular musical field, they tend to branch out to other things.
“It’s interesting to watch these kids over the months and years develop into wanting to take different classes.
“What I love is when kids have the commitment and passion to gather the skills and do rock band classes,” he says.
“It’s a dream for a lot of teenagers to be in a band.”
The classes themselves typically run for about an hour and at the end of each class a practice video is created for the following week.
The video is ‘produced’ by the student who shows the most progression from the week before.
Then, the videos are put on YouTube for the students to use during their 15 minutes of practice a day.
“Music can teach them so much in terms of goal setting, work ethic and persistence,” says Burbidge.
“I’m teaching music, but I am also hoping I am teaching the kids to be better people.”
As for those who think they could never make it as a musician, Burbidge has some advice.
“I don’t think anybody is hopeless.”
“There is technically something called being tone deaf, but a lot of it is psychological and once they get over it nine out of 10 people can hit that note,” he explains.
“The one thing that has the power to make us better at anything in life is practice.”