BY KAYLA RUTLEDGE
TRIBUNE Staff Writer
The city is hitting a new high note thanks to the help of Sarah Burke, who founded Chandler’s only adult choir.
After a conversation about the lack of an adult choir started on a Chandler community Facebook page, Burke knew she had to clear her throat and take action.
“Everyone was reaching out to me to get this thing off the ground like, ‘Sarah the universe is speaking to you. You have to do this,’ that sort of thing,” Burke said.
She was excited when reading the Facebook post, yet Burke’s history in music caused a hiccup in her confidence to start the group.
Today, she teaches music at Bright Beginnings in Chandler with confidence and conviction.
But years ago in college, self-doubts about her music and teaching ability withheld her from her dreams.
As her mother battled Huntington’s Disease while Burke was in high school, she quickly grew attached to her choir teacher, Ms. Patterson.
“Because of my mom’s health she became that maternal figure in my life,” Burke said, adding, “I went to school early, I stayed late, I went to her study hall. We just sang together because she knew my mom was really sick and that I needed somebody.”
Through choir and Patterson, Burke was able to discover a new passion that was wanted to transform into a career.
She went to college to be a music major with no professional experience or knowledge – other than she loved to sing.
“It’s what healed me, and I wanted to do that and be that person that could help heal others the way Ms. P helped heal me,” Burke said. “I wanted to have that impact on someone else.”
But with classmates more advanced than her, Burke couldn’t help feeling discouraged about her choice of majors.
“There are some things your good at, that you’re just born to do, and I couldn’t tell if I was really born for music or if I just liked it a lot. I couldn’t tell if I was reaching,” Burke said.
The singer and aspiring teacher hit her breaking point when she was told Patterson had died if breast cancer during her sophomore year of college.
“When she passed, I lost my direction and had no confidence in myself. I felt like people deserved to have someone that would make that impact on someone like what she had on me,” Burke said, “so I changed majors and got a degree in PR which I have yet to put to real use.”
Years ago, Burke emerged from life as a stay-at-home mom, determined to go back to work.
But it wasn’t until Patterson’s daughter reached out to Burke on Facebook that she knew what she wanted to do.
The two met up in Scottsdale. Hugs were shared and tears were shed when Patterson’s daughter told Burke, “she was so proud of you. She talked about you every single day, even after you graduated.”
“It’s like I needed a hug and a smack at the same time,” Burke laughed. “After that, I knew I needed to go back and do what I wanted all along.”
When interviewing at Bright Beginnings, Burke was told she needed a bachelor’s degree in an education specialty to be considered for the faculty, but to teach specials, like music, no specific certifications were required.
“I told the principal I was absolutely terrified, but I’m very musical and I’m very good with kids. I might not have the knowledge, but no one has the heart that I do,” said Burke.
Nine years since her interview, Burke has successfully run the school’s music program, two in-school choirs and an additional third choir that is run outside of the school.
Most recently, Burke has added a fourth singing group, Chandler CommUNITY Choir, to her running list of responsibilities.
Chandler CommUNITY Choir will start off as a women’s choir until more men have confirmed interest in joining the group.
At the group’s first meet and greet meeting on June 28, shower singers and professionals alike met to discuss the future for the choir.
The room was overtaken with emotion when reminiscing about, “how those were my people in high school. Those were my best friends. In college, those were the people I cried and partied with and I have desperately missed that ever since,” Burke said.
“Nowadays it’s so hard to maintain and create connections with each other. But it was such a cool, positive, warm, fuzzy feeling to be with everyone and just talk about why we love singing,” Burke added.
Though the choir will perform a couple of times a year, Burke said the point of the group is to not put pressure on performances and instead enjoy the company of other singers.
She added the music selection will be all over the map, and the overall mood of the rehearsals will be “super relaxed.”
The first rehearsal will be 7 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 6.
Those interested in joining the group can connect with others on the choir’s Facebook page: facebook.com/Chandler-Comm-UNITY-Choir-1098055273717987/, or email Burke at firstname.lastname@example.org.