When Apple Valley guitarist/music teacher Jeff Burak picked up the instrument at the age of 12 and began taking lessons, he admits he had no idea how far his love for music would take him.
Now, at 64, Burak is basking in the glow of a career that has not only earned him critical acclaim but also a sizable, worldwide fan base.
He said he believes his drive to excel is what has led him to success beyond what he ever imagined.
“I always wanted to be the best I could be, which is why I took lessons and continued my education,” said Burak, who relocated to Apple Valley one year ago from Dumont, Iowa.
“Over the years, I have worked very hard on my technique and have spent a lot of time doing scales and exercises, which are the building blocks for becoming a great guitar player. I also instill this approach in my students because there really is no substitute for excellent technique.”
According to Burak, he and his family moved from Milwaukee to California when he was 6 and settled in Ontario. By the time he turned 12, he was deeply immersed in learning how to play the guitar that his uncle purchased for him in Mexico.
In his early teens, Burak joined a local rock band. He said at that point, he knew that music would always take center stage in his life.
“I remember being about 18 or 19 and I was playing in a rock band and writing songs,” said Burak. “We wanted to make it to the big time and even played the Troubadour once. But I got sidetracked for a short time and went to Cal Poly Pomona to study architecture for one semester. I’d be up in the middle of night drafting and my guitar would be calling to me.
“I’d frequently break away from what I was doing and start playing. I finally realized that I had to do music, so I switched gears and wound up studying guitar at Cal State Fullerton.”
While Burak is proficient in playing all styles of music, he said his education in classical guitar is at the foundation of his artistry. He holds a master’s degree in guitar performance from Cal State Fullerton and cites his influences as Australian virtuoso John Williams, as well as the late classical guitarist from Spain, Andres Segovia.
“Segovia played with so much emotion,” said Burak. “And the way John Williams plays so fast and clean has always been amazing to me. I wanted to learn to play like that when I was starting out.”
Outside of his guitar skills, Burak also is a songwriter and has released three CDs, including his 2001 release, “Unexpected.” He said the project features an eclectic mix of songs about everything from love to separation to faith.
These days, Burak has been writing music for a project he hopes to get underway in the near future.
“My music is always evolving,” said Burak, whose debut CD, “Change of Pace,” was released on Gallery Records and heralded by music critics around the world. “I’m always excited to see what I’m going to come up with next.”
At 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 9, Burak will appear in a production at Apple Valley’s Church of the Valley titled “Let Us Look for Love: A Theatrical Reflection on the Music and Life of John Denver.”
The musical features narrated letters to Denver, along with performances of some of his biggest hits. Tickets to “Let Us Look for Love” are $25 per person and can be purchased by calling 760-684-9622 or by visiting johndenvermusical.eventbrite.com.
To inquire about guitar lessons from Burak, call 641-857-6637.