Local Songwriter Creates Personalized Music for Special Occasions

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Chris Burke at the piano. Among the Chappaqua resident’s many pursuits is a writing original songs for someone’s anniversary or birthday.

Chris Burke has found a way to make a living in the music business and continue to find a way to indulge in all the engineering and recording equipment he loves to use in his downstairs studio at his Chappaqua home.

For the past seven years, Burke has worked for the audio and song production company Tunedly, where he is one of three composers on staff for the outfit’s Bring My Song to Life program. He works with clients to develop a song for a special birthday or anniversary for a special someone that would fit their musical tastes and the sentiments they are trying to convey.

Since coming aboard with Tunedly in 2014, Burke has been made a project manager. He stays busy teaching private music lessons locally in guitar, piano and voice and is part of an Allman Brothers tribute band, Soulshine, that will play at the Tarrytown Music Hall next Wednesday evening.

“I was looking for a way to make that stuff pay, basically, so I could justify buying more cool stuff to the rest of my family, having it make me some money,” Burke said.

A fascinating part of writing songs for clients is that advancements in technology allow Burke to compose a song, record his portion of it and send the partially completed recording to musicians around the world for them to fill in their part. Burke might play the piano and provide the vocals, then send the audio file to a cello player in Germany and a background singer in Canada.

Very often a client will furnish their own lyrics, and Burke will work with that. Other times, he’ll write the lyrics and the music. In either situation, he speaks with the person to get a feel for what their loved one is like and what they might enjoy.

Burke estimates that he completes four to six musical productions a week for clients. There is pressure to come up with a good finished product in a short amount of time. He typical works on that at night after his two young children go to sleep.

“So by doing it that much I have a better idea whether I’m going down a wrong path or just scrap it, like this song’s terrible and I would start again,” said Burke, a 1997 Pleasantville High School graduate.

Most of the time the client is happy with the creation after one or two additional meetings, he said.

When Burke isn’t creating special songs for clients, the main part of his job as project manager is to take lyrics from writers to turn it into a song, or songwriters who have demos but don’t have access to a studio or live musicians.

“That’s the most common thing we do, is provide a finished product, a demo with actual musicians and actual studios but you don’t have to go to one, which obviously became a pretty big deal after the pandemic because you couldn’t go to studios,” he explained.

Burke has impressive training in the music and recording field. After high school, he studied tuba, piano and music theory at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music. He then graduated from the Ontario Institute for Audio Recording Technology in 2003 with a degree in recording technology.

But like any musician, there is nothing like performing in front of a live audience. In 2017, he was one member of a group of area musicians that formed Soulshine. They formed just before the May 2017 passing of Gregg Allman.

“We had a night were where had a tribute to Gregg and then it was no longer possible to see the actual Allman Brothers, and in no way, don’t get me wrong, does what we do replaces being able to see the actual Allman Brothers because you can’t,” Burke said.

They started booking shows before the pandemic, then had to take time off when events were universally canceled.

Burke said for a lot of people being able to recreate the sound of an iconic band triggers a memory, transporting the audience back to their youth.

“So we try and just play the stuff as close to the original as we can to give them the feel of seeing a real show,” he said.

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