Music Faculty Spotlight: Erica Burton

Accomplished violist began teaching at Inver Hills fall semester 2021

Erica Burton, DMA, joined the Music department at Inver Hills Community College in fall semester 2021. Erica teaches private viola and violin lessons at Inver Hills. She also teaches violin at Minneapolis Community & Technical College.

Erica Burton, DMA

Erica is a solo violist and founding member of the Laurels String Quartet. She earned her Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.) in Viola Performance from the University of Minnesota. She studied under Korey Konkol, a distinguished professor of viola performance.

Before studying viola at the U of M, where she also earned her Master of Music (M.M.) in Viola Performance, Erica earned her Bachelor of Music (B.M.) in Viola Performance at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where she studied under renowned violist, Roland Vamos.

“Having been trained in Every Child Can!—the Suzuki beginners book—and having studied with some of the best viola professors in the world, I am able to bring a deep insight into the practice of playing the viola,” Erica said. “While at Northwestern University, I studied the beginners Suzuki method with Gilda Barston, the artistic director of the Chicago Suzuki Institute.”

Erica related that she has played the viola for more than three decades. Using the Suzuki repertoire and some chosen technical books, she has developed her own technique of teaching over the past 20 years.

“Having taught beginning to advanced violin and viola, I feel that every student—with practice fortified by kind and engaging guidance—has the ability to learn to make beautiful music on their instrument,” she said.

Erica’s experience as a teacher and performing/recording artist is remarkable. Her career has led her to work with a huge range of artists, including:

Violist philosophy

“As a violist, particularly in a string quartet, I take very seriously the role of filling out the center of the sound. My job is most often seen as bridging the gap between the lower and higher voices, but I think it’s so much more than just that. It’s the core of the sound—the center of the musical see-saw—holding everything together.
The viola itself is a very voice-like instrument in that it’s very sensitive and moody, subject to the whims of different environments and techniques. This is partially because it is an acoustically imperfect instrument, unlike cello and violin. But I think this human quality is one of the viola’s greatest strengths, and not a weakness at all.”
Erica Burton, DMA
Music Faculty
Inver Hills Community College

Erica Burton violist gallery

Erica has performed at numerous venues, including:

Three words that describe you as a music educator:

Erica has had the honor to perform in master classes for the following illustrious musicians:

More about Erica…

Originally from South Minneapolis, Erica graduated from Southwest High School in Minneapolis, Class of 2001.

Erica’s dad, John, is a lawyer, and her mom, Jane, is a pianist. Erica has two married siblings, JD and Emily, plus five nieces and nephews, Dylan, Tyler, Naomi, Lydia, and Chloe.

In her free time, Erica enjoys knitting, drawing, reading poetry, and chilling with her favorite animal, Roy G Biv, a 16-year-old, geriatric, orange tabby cat.

“We have several family pets, but in my house there’s only Roy G Biv, the aforementioned aged cat,” Erica said. “He owns the place.”

Erica resides with Roy G Biv in Minneapolis.

Learn more about Erica by visiting:

Erica Joy Burton
Erica Burton: Viola & Violin Lessons
Laurels String Quartet (LSQ)

Erica Burton   Q & A

What are your core convictions regarding your work as a professional musician?

I always have in mind a few things when asking people to play with me for a gig: punctuality, personality, and playing ability, in that order. If you’re not there on time, the gig can’t start. If you’re no fun to work with, well, that’s a drag. And then you’ve got to hold up your end of the playing bargain.

As for what determines whether I take a job, it’s the famous trio musicians like to speak of: good people, good music, good money. You must have at least two of the three to take the job.

What is your most memorable experience performing live?

I once played Gnarly Buttons with John Adams, the composer, conducting. The composition has a very prominent solo viola part and it was such a thrill to work on it with the writer himself.

Another memorable experience definitely was playing with jeremy messersmith on the final season of the Late Show with David Letterman. What a whirlwind that trip was.

What advice would you give students thinking about pursuing careers in music?

Spend time working on technique—don’t overlook it because it is less flashy. It can be equally satisfying to master a new technical skill as to master a new cadenza. Then show up, over and over again, be on time, and be friendly. These are skills as well and go a long way in building a successful career.

What do you love most about teaching viola and violin?

I love the moment a student really gets the fact that they can do this thing. That they can reach fourth finger without discomfort, or play a super-fast run with ease, or master the art of vibrato. You can just see their eyes light up with pleasant surprise.

Words that describe you as a violist:

What are the most important attributes of an aspiring musician?

Make sure to put in your time practicing. Every day, and with intention. Then go to the places where the musicians are and show up time and again. You’ll get your chance.

Who is your favorite composer and why?

Bach, and it’s personal.

What music teacher or musician has influenced your playing the most and why?

My teacher, Korey Konkol, influenced my playing the most by treating me like a professional when I was really still a kid. I needed this not only to learn to play more maturely, but to build independence and belief in my skills.

One word that best describes your experience as a music educator:


Erica Burton 12 Answers

  1. Favorite physical activity: Swimming
  2. Place you would most like to visit: London
  3. The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Spending two summers in Santa Barbara at Music Academy of the West
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Pay for college for all the kids in my family 2) Buy a really nice viola¹ 3) Invest
  5. Best book you’ve read lately: John Green’s The Anthropocene Reviewed
  6. Time period you would go if you could time travel: Early 20th century Paris arts quarter
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: Be a good pet mama
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: Flamingo
  9. Dream occupation: I’ve got it.
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Yo Yo Ma
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Painting
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Inequality of all kinds
Learn more about music courses and the A.F.A. in Music at Inver Hills by contacting:

Andrew Martin, PhD
Music Faculty

Admissions Team
College Center

¹ Erica Burton: I would buy the best viola ever—for me—that solves all my technique problems and sings like the greatest mezzo of all time. But the operative words are “for me.” What’s good for me may be terrible for you—you just never know what will speak to you.

More about the A.F.A. in Music…

Associate of Fine Arts (A.F.A.) in Music: 68 credits

The A.F.A. in Music gives you a strong foundation for transfer to a four-year school with junior-year status. The degree program also offers you opportunities for hands-on learning in the music industry, including an internship, while securing connections to industry experts and professionals that can lead to meaningful employment in the music field.

You will gain a holistic understanding of music by taking courses that explore all aspects of one of humankind’s greatest art forms, from history to theory to applied lessons and much more.

As a student in this A.F.A. program, you will complete the Music curriculum (20 credits), music electives (10 credits), Business and Economics coursework (8 credits), and general education coursework (30 credits) for a credit total of 68.

Program Planning Guide


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