If you haven't heard of Sylvester Burks, then that will soon change. I like to call him the "Distinguished Gentlemen", but don't let his delightfully relaxed speech and poise fool you, because Sylvester is "mean" on the piano. Sylvester Burks has had a long, fulfilling career as a Keyboardist and has contributed greatly to a variety of Grammy Award winning artists, showcasing his ear for melody. Keyboardist, isn't his only God given talent, he is a songwriter and producer, with a resume that inexplicably speaks for itself, working with musical icons as Donnie McClurkin, Yolanda Adams, Pattie Labelle, Tremaine Hawkins and a host of others. Sylvester Burke's is making his mark in the world, and delivering a highly anticipated debut single for the masses to savor.
Yazmar: Dr. Yvonne Cole spoke very highly of your talents. How does it feel bing the first artist on C&W Records, and making the transition into an artist?
Sylvester:It feels wonderful. She's wonderul to work for. She's in a very unique position with her daughter being who she is. Eventhough, they are different generes I respect both abilities.
Yazmar:How long have you been in the music business?
Sylvester: Professionally about 25-30 years.
Yazmar: I hear at the age of 18, you were asked to travel with Rev. James Cleveland, but ultimately you declined. Do you regret your decision or are you content with the choice you made?
Sylvester: I'm content with my decision. I was able to further my development musically. Also I went to school to be a court stenographer. I got up to 175wpm on a Stenograph machine. Then I got a call from Tremaine Hawkins and we ended up going on tour. I played the Apollo Theater, and did an excerpt for BET, and went to the island of Bermuda all in the same tour. I'm glad I stayed behind, because it broadened my horizons a little more.
Yazmar: Are there any other genre's of music you would like to tap into?
Sylvester: At this point, gospel is definitely my main genre, but I've always been fascinated by Jazz musicians, piano particularly.
Yazmar: What is the title of your new single, and when can we expect to hear it?
Sylvester: It's called "It's Time to Pray" and will probably be out on the market in 2-3 weeks. We just finished mixing and mastering, so its about ready to hit the airwaves.
Yazmar: Do you offer one on one lessons to those who are willing to learn to play piano? How can you be contacted?
Sylvester: Yes, I have a website called www.sylvesterburks.net. and I will be offering instructional keyboard services, and i will certainly do vocal DVD as well. I will offer different techniques from having worked with a variety of different singers like Yolanda Adams and Patti Labelle and being able to sit with them personally, I saw a lot of techniques and will be happy to convey them.
Yazmar: Is there any specific technique one would need to know in order to play the piano.
Sylvester: Just being able to develop your ear and hear melodies. I started playing around 10 years old, totally self taught. My mom bought me this little plastic organ, and my aunt was a piano teacher and I would watch her teach students. I found that I could just memorize, and I stopped taking lessons formally and taught myself. So just find a melody and expand from there.
Yazmar:I know you are a songwriter, so who have your written for in the gospel genre?
Sylvester: I was doing so much concentration on playing for them, I didn't do to much writing. I was heavily influenced by Edwin and Walter Hawkins. I grew up in there church, and I was right there when they presented "Oh Happy Day".
Yazmar: Prince and Frankie Beverly wanted you to go on tour with them, but what was the decision process to stray away from secular music?
Sylvester:A friend of mine wanted to bring me along to play the keyboard for Prince.They basically had my plane fare and I was ready to go, but I really wanted to stay true to my gospel roots. So at the last minute I declined. After thinking about it, it probably would have been a great experience just to see the operations. With Frankie Beverly I was playing for his guitarist that was getting married, so I was hired to be the keyboardist for the wedding, and Frankie was there, and he approached me about working with him. I told him I admired him and appreciate the offer, but I chose to remain in the gospel genre.
Yazmar: Who would you like to work with?
Sylvester: Gospel wise, probably would have been Andre Crouch, because he's such an innovator. He took the traditional and made a more contemporary sound of gospel and really opened the doors for a lot of mainstream artists. As of today I would love to work with Kirk Franklin. That's one artist that I haven't crossed paths with.
Yazmar: Did you think so many people would be interested in your instructional keyboarding videos on Youtube?
Sylvester: That was a suprising situation. A friend of mine, which is one of my students said I'm going to get a website and network musicians which is called Gospel Chops, and he asked me to do an excerpt and the next thing I knew it just started blowing up all over the world, with over 100,000 downloads. Then on Youtube its about 20,000 downloads so almost on a fluke I was exposed to about 120,000 which is great for the recognition and record sales.
Yazmar: So many people love your work…Do you have any instructional DVD's coming down the pipeline?
Sylvester: Actually, I have just finished a series of DVD's which will be on the market next year.
Yazmar: Are you a fan of Gospel in it's current state?
Sylvester: Yes I'm very diversified, and I like all different styles old and new. I really like the new and am impressed where gospel is going. There was a time when production was very poor. Even now gospel is in competition with secular music in terms of instumentation and total overall production of projects. The uprise financially of how lucrative gospel is now. There was time when secular artists wouldn't consider doing a gospel song, but because its jumped so high on the monetary scale you see a lot of secular artist doing gospel projects.
Yazmar: I have to ask, what is your stance on this year's Presidential Election?
Sylvester: I'm glad you said that, maybe I can get some clarity. I always try to make my lyrics very insightful and meaningful, and on one of my verses in my songs, and this was before Obama, and I'm certainly pro Obama. On one of my songs I was saying "A lot of politicians are in it for political gain, but dont look to man, but put your trust in Jesus name". I definitely don't want it to be misconshrewd that im bashing any politicians. That excerpt was just to say don't put your total trust in any candidate, but trust in Jesus.
Yazmar: Are you doing any songwriting on Dr. Yvonne Cole's album?
Sylvester: Yes, I'm doing quite a bit of the writing and I wrote her first single as well as mine. We still have quite a bit to do for her album, but we will be back in the studio and looking for great things to come from her. My single should be circulating across the country in a few weeks. The album will come shortly after the new year in which I think the young people will like.
Yazmar: Is there anything you would like to add?
Sylvester: Well, my wife Charmaine Penn-Burkes, helps me with my lyrics sometime so I have to throw that in there. (Laughs) I can be in the studio for 2 days, and she says "Just stay in the studio and do what you have to do". So she's perfect for a musicans wife and very supportive.
Yazmar: That's great…Well you definitely do remarkable work and we look forward to hearing your upcoming project and your many endeavors….
Sylvester: Thank you and I certainly appreciate you.
More Info On Sylvester Burks Contact C&W Records
New Single Available on ITunes