When Jeff Burris decided to give up a secure job at a musuem to enter the music field full-time, he knew it wouldn't be easy. But it was a choice he had to make.
"Originally, my goal was to keep music as a hobby, but finally I realized that I really wanted to do it for a living. It was a tough decision," Jeff explains: "solid income, or the music business. But music was always on my mind, so I had to give it a shot."
The recording side of the business had always fascinated him, so he starting looking into schools, and ran across an article about Entertainment Connection's Recording Program.
"It sounded like a really cool opportunity," he recalls. "I knew the value of 'field work' from my career in anthropology, so I appreciated that the best way to learn recording was to extern in an actual studio."
He met and clicked with J.D., owner of 35th St. Studios in Chicago, and entered the Entertainment Connection program there. He also applied for a position at Guitar Center.
"The job at Guitar Center allowed me to keep my focus on music 24/7," Jeff points out. "But it turned out well for other reasons, too. I got very familiar with a wide range of gear, and sharpened my customer service skills."
It worked both ways: being at the studio made Jeff more knowledgeable about studio gear, which made him more valuable at Guitar Center. Soon he rose to an assistant store manager position.
Even in the very beginning, Burris was around a wide variety of artists at 35th St. Studios.
"My very first gig consisted of helping Jerry McAllister re-mix a Backstreet Boys album," he enthuses. "Later I worked with him on re-mixes for Michael Jackson and Madonna."
Eventually he gave up the Guitar Center job to be in the recording business full-time, both at 35th St. Studios and elsewhere. And he is certainly not lacking for work!
"At 35th St., I wear a lot of hats," he says. "I bring clients in, engineer their projects, run their billing, and more. Finally, I produce their final products. I've had the privilege of working with Blues Traveler, Meshell Ndegeocello, R. Kelly, CeCe Peniston, Nelson Rangel, Jackie Allen, and a host of others.
"I've also learned that actors and athletes want to be musicians, just like everyone else!" he laughs. "We've had Keanu Reeves in here with his band Dogstar, and bass player Wayman Tisdale (an NBA player for the Suns basketball team) has been in, too."
At Mitran Mitran (another studio in town), Jeff has done radio station jingles, sound design, TV commercials (for Ford and McDonald's, to name a couple), and DVD authoring.
"Sometimes I fly out to L.A. to record at Glenwood Place Studios — the west coast facility of Chicago Sound," he says. "I got that gig through projects I worked on for a friend at Virgin Records. I've even hired out as a guitar and bass tech for touring bands when they come through town.
"One of the most valuable lessons I learned from the Entertainment Connection program was how to succeed," he claims. "If you want to make it happen, you've got to go after it — especially in this industry!"
His hard work has paid off, in more ways than one. "Though it's required a lot of dedication and sacrifice, I wouldn't want to be doing anything else," Jeff asserts. "And I'm grateful to Entertainment Connection for giving me the opportunity to do what I love."