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Singer fires up Groovin’ Grounds


Photo by Cheyenne Makinia/Fourth Estate

Singer/songwriter Joanna Burns shows off her musical talents at the Common Grounds Coffeehouse at her Nov. 2 Groovin’ Grounds performance.

Shelby Larson , Entertainment Writer
November 7, 2013
Filed under Entertainment, Top Stories

Lit candles, poured coffee and a crowd of people set the mood for Joanna Burns, a New Jersey native, to take the stage Nov. 2 at the Common Grounds Coffeehouse as part of the Groovin’ Grounds concert series.

Burns opened the performance with an upbeat number, drawing in the audience.

While the audience was initially small to begin, it grew by mid-performance. The Alumni Reunion Days and Family Weekend attendees filtered in to see what Burns had to offer.

Horst Stemke, 1974 alumnus, attended the performance after the day’s festivities.

“Since it was the alumni weekend, it was really nice to have good music,” Stemke said.

Between songs, Burns welcomed interaction with the audience.  From testing out her comedic ability to making funny noises, she was always doing something to keep the audience engaged.

Before a few songs, Burns taught the audience lyrics and actions to the songs so they could participate in them.

Dale Goodner, 1974 alumnus, also enjoyed the performance.

“The show was very fine,” Goodner said. “I liked the rapport with the audience.”

At one point, the microphone kept sagging in the stand and Burns, instead of stopping, proceeded to follow and sing into the slipping mic.

Throughout the performance, Burns played a mixture of new and old, slow and upbeat songs.  Some of these songs came as requests from the audience.  Able to play by ear, Burns took requests saying, “If I can sing it, I can play it.”

While taking requests, Burns switched from playing the piano to playing the guitar and singing to accommodate the song chosen.

“She is a very talented artist,” Goodner said. “Good keyboard, guitar, and voice. It was excellent.”

Closer to the end of the night, Burns issued a contest to all attendees.  She played a medley of songs by various ‘90s divas. If someone could name all nine songs by the end of the show, they would receive a free CD.

Kelly Mischler, 2013 alumna, appreciated this portion of the concert.

“I really enjoyed the medley she did,” Mischler said. “I thought she was great and very lively.”

As the show closed, the audience sang “Happy Birthday” to Burns. Earlier in the show, she announced the following day was her birthday.

The crowd applauded as she walked off the stage and began meeting and talking with the audience members.

“I love going to Groovin’ Grounds,” Mischler said. “They always bring in good people.”

As of Nov. 1, Burns has been on tour for a week with songs from both her EP entitled “Music from and Inspired By” and her first full-length album “The Green Year.”

Her first EP came out in 2007, and her first full-length album came out in 2011. She has currently been working on another album that she hopes will be released next year.

Recently, Burns has worked for a musical by Justin Anthony Long and Jonathan Lee titled “Welcome to Shoofly.” It is still in the production phase, but Burns has done additional music writing and arrangement for it.

She also wrote music for a web series called “City of Dreams.”

Working with a production team is new for Burns, but also something she enjoys very much.

“The behind-the-scenes thing was new and I liked that,” Burns said. “If I could have it be 50/50, it would be a perfect world.”

She started playing piano at age 5 and struggled at reading the music. At age 12, she stopped taking lessons and began playing by ear.

It was at age 15 that Burns sang for the first time in front of an audience.   Singing was not a new thing for her.

“I used to sing secretly on my own,” Burns said.

Since then, she has played with Marc Broussard, a New Orleans rock singer and a personal inspiration of Burns. She has also played for a crowd of 2,000 people as an opener for Hanson.

In the future, Burns would like to produce an EP focusing on raw and stripped music with just vocals and piano alone.  She would also like to produce a musical in which she stars.

For more information about the artist, visit