Born and raised in Lakeland and based out of Orlando, violinist Jared Burnett made it to the Broadway stage at the age of 26 in Cirque Dreams "Jungle Fantasy." Few people make it to the Great White Way and even fewer do it at such a young age, but Burnett, who was born into a musical family and mastered the violin as a small child, knew he was destined for greatness.
Now, nearly seven years after his Broadway debut, he continues to work in the Cirque Dreams family and has also branched out by performing violin solos to crowds in Florida and across the country. Some of you may have seen him at the Headdress Ball in September and at The Center's Black and White Gala last month, playing Lady Gaga and Guns 'n' Roses on his electric violin.
In his off time, he donates his time and talents to further LGBT causes. Yes, he is straight, and no, he doesn't mind that you might appreciate his good looks. "I come from a musical theater background... I'm more worried about knowing what my cues are than if someone's looking at my a-," he told us. And people definitely are: The Miami Herald labeled him "Broadway's Hunkiest Violinist."
Currently Burnett can be seen touring the country in Cirque Dreams Holidaze, and now he is getting more and more chances to play the electric violin as a solo artist as well. I got a chance to talk to Burnett for this Hotspots exclusive interview while he was on a break touring in southwest Florida.
Since you're based in Orlando, what is your favorite music venue and what do you like about it?
Do you mean music venues where I've attended shows, or where I've performed?
Why not both?
For performing, I really enjoyed Hard Rock Live. It's a special place to me because it's the first big stage I got to perform on, back when I was 18 or 19 years old. When I was on that stage, I really thought that I had "made it." It's an intimate kind of venue and I love all the rock memorabilia on the walls.
Now in terms of venues I enjoy going to as a concertgoer, I used to love seeing shows and performances at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre, but now there is the new Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center. I can't wait to see Broadway shows there, and of course I'm excited to see the symphony there as well.
You've performed at the Headdress Ball and the Black and White Gala. What do people say to you when they hear you play contemporary music on the violin?
A lot of people aren't expecting it. When they first see me, and they see the instrument... they don't really know what it is. It looks more like a guitar, so they're wondering at first, "Is it a violin? Is it a guitar? What's he going to do?" But when I start playing, I think that's when I can grab an audience. A lot of the reactions I get have been very positive.
How did you get the chance to move from Orlando to Broadway?
I was fortunate enough to perform in a show at Universal Orlando, and at that show there was a talent scout there from Cirque Productions, and after the show was over he approached me and asked me if I was interested in going on tour. At first I actually told them "no." But then my show at Universal was canceled, so I went down to Fort Lauderdale and auditioned for Cirque. They offered me the chance again to tour with them, and this time I took it. That was back in February 2006.
In 2008, that's when Cirque announced that they were going to present "Jungle Fantasy" on Broadway. It was the first show of its kind to ever appear on Broadway, and they were going to present it for sixteen weeks. I moved to New York and I played in the production the entire sixteen weeks.
You teach master classes in your spare time to kids in junior orchestras, and you've visited with kids at performing arts schools and talked to them about your career. Why is mentoring important to you?
When I was growing up, my teacher was a 72-year-old woman. As a boy playing the violin, I never felt like I related that much to this older lady. Now that I've had the chance to visit schools and show kids what I do, I feel like I can relate to them and give them a more realistic view of what their lives can be like if they continue pursuing their dreams.