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LR man to compete in national drum contest in Hollywood

By Christina Huynh

This article was published December 16, 2013 at 10:17 a.m.


Little Rock resident Jonathan Burks, 26, has qualified as a one of five semi-finalists in the Guitar Center's Drum-Off competition. The music contest will take place at Club Nokia in Los Angeles, Calif.

LR man to go to Hollywood for drum contest

Little Rock resident Jonathan Burks, 26, is going to Hollywood, Calif. in January to compete in the Guitar Center's drum-off competition, whose past winners have played for Usher and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Burks explains how he got started in drumming and what his journey in the tournament has been like.
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Little Rock resident Jonathan Burks is going to Hollywood.

Burks, 26, has qualified as one of five semifinalists in the Guitar Center's 25th annual Drum-Off competition, a national tournament whose past winners have played for artists including Usher, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters and Blink-182.

At the grand finals at Club Nokia in Los Angeles, Burks will perform a set on a five-piece acoustic drum kit in front of a live audience and a judging panel that will rank him on the basis of his skills and technique, groove, originality, stage presence and overall performance, according to the competition's website.

If Burks wins the competition, he will receive prizes valued more than $45,000, including $25,000 in cash, a Roland TD-30 electronic drum kit and a feature in Modern Drummer Magazine.

When Burks was chosen in Houston as a grand finalist for the competition, he said that he "couldn't believe it."

"There was another guy named Jonathan, [and] I've been in a position before where they say my first name and the second name be different and then I'm like, 'Ah, that's not me," he said. "So, when I was in Houston [and] they said 'Jonathan Burks,' I stopped and I was really thanking God for the opportunity to make it to the finals."

Burks said he entered the competition last year and didn't progress further than the first round. His friend had encouraged him to enter this year, telling Burks that he had the talent to win the tournament.

But when he tried to the enter, Burks said, there were no audition slots open for him. An official with the drum-off competition told Burks that he would have to wait and hope that there would be an opening that he could slide into.

"Well, I waited, and there ended up being a spot open," he said. "The rest is history."

Burks, who has been playing drums since he was 2 years old, said that as he advanced in the music tournament, he didn't know what to expect.

"Each round, it does get better and better, competition-wise," he said. "Before each performance, I would actually be a little nervous, but once I sit down and start playing, all the nervousness goes away."

The hardest part of the competition is not worrying what other contestants are going to play, he said.

"I look at it like, no matter what they are going to do, I'm going to do what I do anyway," he said.

Burks has increased his time practicing on the drums as he continued to advance in the drum-off, he said.

"When I was a kid, I would practice every day without even thinking about it," he said. "And of course, as you get older, as you start having a family and working, that takes away a lot of your time. But it's funny how when you're in a competition, all of the sudden, you find time to put that extra time in, to be where you want to be."

Burks, who also works with special education students as a paraprofessional in the Little Rock School District, plays for Rodney Block and the Real Music Lovers. He is married to Briana, 24, and has two children — J'Anthony, 4, and Jayden, who will turn 2 later this month.

Burks said that if he wins the competition, he will spend the grand prize money on a vehicle.

"Me and my older son have this little joke," he said. "He says, 'Dad, you got to win.' And I said, 'Why?' and he said, 'So you can get the truck with the TVs in it."

The Guitar Center's drum-off competition is Jan. 18th.

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