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Gamer and clarinetist shows commitment to service and sisterhood

Charlotte Burton

Charlotte Burton

April 25, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.

The term “sisterhood” holds special meaning to Arizona State University School of Music and Barrett, The Honors College graduate Charlotte Burton, who graduates in May with a Bachelor of Music Education, a Bachelor of Music in clarinet performance and a PreK-12 music education teaching certificate.

When Burton first arrived at the ASU School of Music in 2014, she joined Sigma Alpha Iota, an international music fraternity that supports, encourages and nurtures women musicians of all ages, races and nationalities who share a commitment to music.

“Our local chapter, Gamma Mu, had just begun the process to re-charter,” Burton said. “It was a long, comprehensive process that took a dedicated team of 14 women and additional partners over two years to complete. Since our re-charter, we have assisted many local music organizations such as Rosie’s House, the Phoenix Symphony and the School of Music with our service and sisterhood.”

Also an avid video gamer, Burton encourages other women to join the competitive gaming scene through an organization called Smash Sisters.

She started playing the videogame Super Smash Bros. Melee competitively in 2015 and joined the ASU Esports Association. She was elected president of the Super Smash Bros. division and the main organizer for weekly tournaments with 60 to 150 attendees. While competing, she joined Smash Sisters.

“I have traveled all over the country running women-only events, encouraging women gamers to compete in a male-dominated community,” she said.

She also is a member of the Barrett Leadership and Service Team, is fluent in German and has been on the Dean’s List for all eight semesters.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I went to a lesson with my mom who was accompanying a clarinetist from University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. The clarinetist played the Hindemith Sonata and by the third movement, I had decided that I would play the clarinet and someday make the same beautiful low sounds. I joined band in 5th grade and played clarinet through high school. I took lessons with Kinsey Fournier, a fantastic clarinetist from Lawrence University, and discovered I wanted to study both clarinet performance and music education in college. After taking lessons at various music schools across the country, I realized that Arizona State University was the best fit for me.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A. When I first joined the clarinet studio at ASU I wanted to become “the best” clarinetist in the entire school and practiced an inordinate amount of time every day. In my second year, I overused my hands with clarinet, color guard, gaming, computer work and biking, and developed tendonitis and could not play for a few months. During that time, I came to appreciate my peers’ clarinet skills and realized that each one of us had different strengths and weaknesses and that no one is “the best.” When I was able to play again, I focused on fixing mistakes and bad habits instead. That was one of the greatest perspective shifts I had while studying at ASU.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I auditioned all over the country and was accepted to some very good music conservatories. Of all the clarinet studios, Drs. (Robert) Spring and (Joshua) Gardner’s studio felt like home. There was no harmful sense of competition in the ASU clarinet studio as I had witnessed in other schools and conservatories. Along with a great scholarship, fantastic color guard, the Barrett Honors College and sunny weather, I knew ASU was the best choice for me.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A. Clarinet professors Dr. Spring and Dr. Gardner both taught me the most important lesson I learned at ASU — support your fellow artists or they will not support you. They told a story about a student who never attended any of his peer’s recitals. When it came time for his recital, there were only three audience members — the two professors and his mom.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A. Make your own path at your own tempo. It is too easy to compare your success to others and want to be someone else. Take a moment and write down what you believe in and what you want to do in life. Then do everything in your power to accomplish those things. It’s easy to feel like you are “falling behind,” but you are just going your own speed.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A. My favorite study spot is the little outdoor patio above Charlie’s Café at the College of Design. It is always very quiet with a nice breeze. I love getting tea and pastries at Charlie’s and going upstairs to study outside.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A. I have been offered a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Award to teach English in Germany. I don’t know yet where I will be specifically, but I am very excited. In addition to teaching English, I will be working on a not-yet-determined musical community project and hopefully learning how to play the German system clarinet. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A. If I received $40 million to solve a problem, I would try to diminish human starvation.

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