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Portrait of an Artist: Courtney Burnett ’26

February 2, 2024

Courtesy of Courtney Burnett
DRUMROLL PLEASE: Courtney Burnett '26 during a recent performance. Burnett said she counts Paramore drummer Zac Farro's progression across musical genres as an inspiration for her own career.

Three tom drums, a hi-hat, a snare, a bass drum, a few cymbals and a stool. This is Courtney Burnett ’26’s orchestra, and its maestro is in charge. Burnett, a Brooklyn native, is the drummer for Far From Juno and Night Hawk, two student bands that performed at Nomad in Brunswick last weekend.

Burnett has spent the last six years honing her craft, and got her start in drumming at summer camp. Burnett describes her drum instructor from the camp, Tanya, as “ketchup in her tea” weird, adding that Tanya introduced her to Paramore, the band that would become both Burnett’s favorite to listen to and her inspiration for her drumming career.

“[Tanya] would just throw Paramore on and just play, and I would attempt to play,” Burnett said. “That’s how I started.”

Burnett added that Paramore’s drummer, Zac Farro, has been a longstanding influence on her drumming.

“[Paramore has] gone through pop punk, kind of funky, to alternative, and I’ve listened to his drum style change so much over the years to adapt to that. I want to have that kind of adaptability, and I really like his playing,” Burnett said.

Burnett spent her high school years in bands and focused on drumming during her gap year before coming to Bowdoin. She described her gap year as an important year for growth, and a time when she was able to find her way artistically and connect to the New York City music scene in front of bigger audiences.

“We did performances [in high school], but my high school was really small,” Burnett said. “Being able to perform in front of new people all the time [during my gap year] made me build my competence onstage.”

In her first year at Bowdoin, Burnett traveled back and forth between Maine and New York to perform in a band, Katzin. Nowadays, Burnett’s presence in her hometown’s music scene is more of a solo act: While she works with friends and even started a punk band called Girls Can’t Skate, her music in New York revolves more around gig work.

While Night Hawk will release its debut EP on February 16 and tour the East Coast this summer, Burnett sees the coming year as a time to develop more individually, since several members of Far From Juno and Night Hawk are either graduating or going abroad next year.

“This summer I’m going to save money to make a studio in the basement in my house and get all these mics so I can record and get myself out there to track drums for other people. It’s very DIY,” Burnett said. “That’s where I see myself in the future.”

Although Burnett is blazing her own trail, she cares deeply about her bands at Bowdoin. Last year, she and Reynaldo Fuentez ’26 built Far From Juno out of their floor’s common room, spending hours writing and playing music together.

“Far From Juno was like my child. It just feels like my start,” Burnett said. “And Night Hawk feels like a continuation. It’s really fun to be able to do that band as well, especially since we’re recording in studios and might go on a tour. It feels like I’m having the best of both worlds.”

What Burnett finds most valuable about making music at Bowdoin, though, is the time her bandmates are willing to put into their passion projects.

“It’s so important to know that people are really busy,” she said. “People are really dedicated to academics, but they’re also making time to do creative things.…You can feel that [music] is important to people because you know that they have other stuff to do, and they’re worried about their futures, but music is a passion they have enough to set [academics] aside for a couple of hours.”

Burnett’s bandmates see that same passion in her. Both Fuentez and Night Hawk guitarist Colter Adams ’24 noted the energy she brings both on and off the stage is infectious.

“When you’re rehearsing as much as our band is, and we’re performing sometimes two shows every weekend, it can definitely start to feel like ‘Oh my gosh, this is a grind,’” Adams said, “and Courtney is always funny, and she brings a lot of great energy, and she kind of makes you feel like you’re on stage, even when you’re just performing by yourselves.”


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