Colorado Mesa University student-athlete Izzy Burns released her latest song, Guessing Game, this month on Spotify and Apple Music. The singer/songwriter/guitarist is in her sophomore year of CMU’s Commercial Music program and played a key role in CMU’s beach volleyball national championship victory last year.
“What drew me to CMU were the opportunities to play beach volleyball and to study contemporary music,” Burns said. “I wanted to move away from home, but not too far away and most music schools in the west are classical. Here I get to focus on my modern-folk-pop style and play sports. It is the best of both worlds!”
Her “artsy and supportive” hometown of Moscow, Idaho, was a great community to nurture her creative style and her natural energetic, can-do spirit is a perfect fit for the Maverick ethos.
“I have always had to work hard at things, starting with breathing,” said Burns, who was born with airway abnormalities and has undergone more than 20 airway surgeries. “I think about how I used to not be able to play sports without turning blue, and how my mom says that I could not control the volume of my voice when my tracheostomy was removed. But now I am on a collegiate national champion team and singing and recording original music. It gave me a good work ethic and real appreciation for everything I have and everyone who has helped me get here.”
At age four, Burns received her first guitar as a gift from her mother, Dawn Burns. Dawn has always been Burns’ biggest fan and supporter. When Burns was seven, she got more serious about learning the guitar and Dawn enrolled her in lessons. After a couple of years of playing guitar, Burns started writing songs and she was frustrated about not being able to get enough air to sing them. So Dawn found someone who could help — University of Idaho Voice Professor Claudia Krone.
“She didn’t think that I was going to be able to sing at first. She has a background in speech pathology and thought it was just going to be speech therapy and breathing techniques. But I wasn’t giving up on singing,” Burns said. “She’s like family now. We keep in touch and talk about my music projects.”
Growing up in Moscow, Burns reveled in eclectic inspiration, attending concerts, jam sessions and workshops at bluegrass and jazz festivals. She is also inspired by her favorite musicians: Norah Jones, Brandi Carlisle and The Lumineers.
Burns met her producer, another important music mentor, on a flight to a club volleyball tournament when she was a teenager.
“I was seated next to this guy with a guitar case on the plane. We started talking about music. He gave me a theory lesson. And that summer, we started recording,” Burns said, about Mellad Abeid, guitar professor at Gonzaga University. “I didn’t really have any technique for writing my songs then, it was just sort of like writing in my diary. He taught me how to arrange my songs and brought in Gonzaga grads to record with me in the studio at Amplified Wax.”
“I just couldn’t imagine where I’d be if I didn’t meet him that day. He sees my ideas and helps me bring them to life,” Burns said. Abeid and Burns meet over Zoom once a week for theory lessons and to work on songs. When she has new material ready, she’ll take a trip to Spokane, Washington, to record another album.
Burns says she loves being busy with music, school and sports.
“Sometimes I get caught up in it though and I have to slow down and remind myself just how far I’ve come and that I’m lucky to be here. I am grateful for everything I’ve been offered here at CMU and I want to continue to use this opportunity to get better.”
Burns wants to use her talents and education to help others break into the music world. Her goal after college is to start her own record label and continue to write, record and perform.
With her Commercial Ensemble classmates, Burns will play at Warehouse 2565, October 5 from 7:30-9:30pm.
© // Colorado Mesa University
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