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Hitting the High Notes in Tinseltown

Monday, November 19, 2007

by Donna Parker

Renee Burkett is cruising down the California highway - the 405 to be specific. She's heading over to 20th Century Fox Studios to record either a movie score or video game track for Steven...Spielberg, that is.

"This is their idea of bringing classical music to students," says Renee who goes on to explain that Spielberg came up with the novel idea after realizing his own Game Boy- captivated children would never hear that kind of music otherwise.

"We're so lucky to be in LA," asserts this operatic-trained singer who walks the red carpet at film premieres with her husband, Robert, a musician and prominent soundtrack performer.

Renee credits her Trinity voice teacher and mentor John Seagle for helping her succeed in this ultra-competitive industry. As a young teen, she'd attended his summer music camp in New York.

"He was like a father figure to me and that was the reason I had a huge desire to go to Trinity."

She graduated with a bachelor of arts in music and earned a master's degree from North Texas State, after which she headed to New York City to seek fame and fortune. By day, she worked as a secretary to the general manager of the New York Metropolitan Opera and by night, she sang cabaret.

In 1985, she and her actor boyfriend moved to Hollywood. The relationship didn't last, but her career as a singer soared to astral heights - specifically, Sky High, her latest hit movie starring Kurt Russell.

When not in the studio, Renee performs with the Los Angeles Master Chorale and sings back-up for such performers as Placido Domingo and Tommy Tune. Rather modestly, she explains her accomplishments.

"You dabble your fingers in a lot of pies. A career in music takes on different shapes and I'm just grateful that I'm able to sing and make a living that way. It doesn't mean you'll be a big star."

Still, Renee is a bit star-struck when she laughingly tells the story about approaching the unapproachable Jack Nicholson on a working film set. They talked golf - a shared passion - and you get the feeling that brief moment really struck a chord in the charmed life of this talented singer!