Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Douglas College grad becomes full-time musician

Nadya Kwandibens photo
 By Tamara Letkeman, doug Editor

Jason Burnstick may have a diploma in Criminology, but you won’t find him anywhere near the cop shop or law courts – the Douglas grad is much more likely to be playing guitar and singing his heart out on stages across North America and around the world.

A singer-songwriter and member of the Cree First Nation, Jason’s been singing blues and soul and playing lap slide guitar for more than 20 years. After graduating from Douglas nearly a decade ago, he spent five years working as youth coordinator for Vancouver Aboriginal Transformative Justice Services.

Four years ago, he quit his job to do music full time. It was the best decision he ever made.

“I have the greatest job in the world,” he says. “I love what I do. I’ve been to Australia, Japan, all over Canada and the States. It’s really crazy – you get paid to do what you love doing and you can support yourself doing it.”

He’s won his share of accolades, too. Last year he took home the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Award for Best Album Cover Design, for Where the Blood Mixes. In 2009 he was nominated for a Jessie Richardson Theatre Award, was nominated for a Juno in 2007 and won a Canadian Aboriginal Music Award for Best Instrumental Album in 2005.

For those budding musicians out there who are thinking of making the leap from 9-5 to living the dream, Jason has a few words of wisdom.

“Have a plan, establish yourself and work hard,” he advises. “You will only get out of it what you put in.”

And, of course, the old adage – but one that rings true: Believe in yourself.

“I had a lot of doubters when I first came out. They’re all over the place. But if you feel like you have it in you to do something, go for it. Don’t let anybody else tell you anything different.”

Find out more about Jason on his Facebook page.