Burden sings for Obama, Oprah


Over the course of decades, millions of people have grown to love the arts and all it has to offer. JMU student and 2015 HHS graduate Isabelle Burden is one of them.

Throughout Burden’s life, her passion for the arts has only grown, especially when it comes to acting and performing.

“When I was like four, I was sent to a lot of acting camps and then I realized that I was good at it in high school. Before that, I [thought], ‘I just like doing this, but I’m probably really bad at it and no one’s telling me.’ But then in high school, I started realizing I was getting bigger parts and leads and I was like, ‘Oh, I’m okay at this,’” Burden said.

Influenced by her mother, Burden found that going after what you’re passionate about trumps the amount of money you earn any day. Taking this into account, Burden decided to follow her passion in pursuing the arts.

“My mom was a real estate agent for around ten years, but before that she was an art history teacher for JMU. She kind of decided after ten years of doing real estate that she didn’t like it anymore, so she applied for this non-profit organization called the Arts Council of the Valley and she applied for the executive director,” Burden said. “I think that [by] seeing her follow the path that didn’t make her the most money, but she was passionate about, made me feel like I could do that with my career,” Burden said.

For the duration of being a high school student, Burden and her passion for the arts were impacted by the help from Stanley Swartz, who helped Burden see her full potential.

“[Mr. Swartz] was the theatre teacher and had a big impact on me. He just showed me that I was good. He kind of fostered creativity around the board,” Burden said.

With the advice of many others, Burden gives her own advice to students still experiencing high school.

“I’d say that junior year academics really do matter. Let them matter and try to do as well as you can for at least that year, [because] a lot of colleges look at that year. Then senior year, don’t overload yourself. [Don’t try] to be friends with people who you shouldn’t be friends with, or [don’t try] to be cool or popular. I think that, that shouldn’t be your focus at all. I think that you should find your group of friends and you should stick with them and explore them more than trying to be in any sort of crowd overall,” Burden said.

The arts have given Burden so many opportunities, some of which she will forever cherish. One of these experiences was her role as one of the aerials in the Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest.”

“It’s kind of like a mini mythical creature, and that was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done in the theatre program at JMU,” Burden said.

On top of her acting career at JMU, Burden is also involved in an acapella group called Note-oriety.

“We performed for Obama last summer and that was really cool. We [were performing] at the United States of Women conference, it was kind of like a feminist conference with hundreds of women from all around the world in D.C., and our group was chosen to perform there. So I got to solo in front of Obama, we got to meet Obama and Oprah, so that was my favorite,” Burden said.

Like most careers there comes a challenge, and for Burden, there’s no exception.

“I’d say being in acting, the most challenging thing is dealing with rejection and knowing that you’re not always going to get the part that you want or be in the show that you want. [You just have to try] and just trying to keep a level head and just go about your day knowing that you are not just the parts that you don’t get, and you are not the parts that you do get. You are you and nothing is going to change that. Keeping your confidence up in the world of acting is probably the hardest thing,” Burden said.


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