Bluegrassian Questionnaire with Lisa Burns

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Whether Lisa Burns is performing onstage or teaching a workshop, you’ll notice that she is always in motion to the music. Performer, recording artist, five-time winner of the Northern California Bluegrass Society’s Bass Player of the Year award, and known aficionado of teddy bears, it’s easier to make a list of where Lisa hasn’t played or taught. A passionate supporter of bluegrass, Americana, blues, and swing music, Lisa generously donates her time and business acumen to various board, coordinator, and volunteer positions within the music community. You can find her in her element onstage with Sidesaddle & Co, recording with the Sherry Austin Band, and teaching at music camps. And yes, she has names for all of her instruments.

1. What’s your idea of perfect happiness?
I am pretty happy right now. I am very happy when I teach bluegrass bass and when I am onstage.

2. What’s your greatest fear?
Screwing up onstage!

3. What was your first instrument and when did you get it?
It was a Sears Silvertone guitar I got from the guy across the street. I was 12. It had terrible action, etc. I played it for several years until I got something better.

4. Which living bluegrass person do you most admire?
Missy Raines.

5. What is your greatest extravagance?
My housecleaners!

6. When and where were you the happiest?
Right now, with my boyfriend Mike Staninec. Yes, that’s Annie’s dad.

7. What’s your favorite cocktail recipe?
Gin and tonic.

8. Who would be sitting in your dream jam?
Rob Ickes, Mike Compton, Stuart Duncan, Bill Keith, and me. Or else it would be Sidesaddle!

9. Who are you listening to these days?
Laurie and Kathy’s new Vern and Ray album.

10. If you could hear any non-bluegrass tune done bluegrass, what would it be?
“I’ve Just Seen a Face.”

11. What song hits your heart every time?
The James King song “Echo Mountain.”

12. Please share one of your favorite/most embarrassing on-stage blunders.
Starting a song in the wrong key at Strawberry.

13. If you were reincarnated as a person or thing, who or what would you want to be?
Myself, right now.

14. What is your most treasured possession?
My “good” bass, Rachel, named after my grandmother. Built around 1850.

15. Is there one bluegrass player tip or secret you’d like to share?
Listen, listen, listen. Listen to your bandmates, listen to good recordings.

16. What was the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Playing live music is Important. I have seen this to be the case over and over. I was in San Diego for the Cedar Fires. I played a show there and people came! We thought no one would show up. I played Sam’s BBQ in San Jose the day after 9/11. Sidesaddle played and people came! It was important to be there, to offer some solace.

17. What do you regard as the lowest depth of bluegrass misery?
Four days of rain at Camp Mather.

18. If you had a superpower, what would it be?

19. Do you have a favorite music joke?
Q: Why are there no banjos on Star Trek?
A: It’s the future!

20. What is your motto?
Make the world better through music!

For more information about Lisa, check her website at, her Facebook page at, and

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