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  • Burton, Sean

Sean Burton

Associate Professor of Music; The Gilchrist Foundation Director of Choral Activities; Division Chair of Arts and Humanities;

Music Department

Heelan 178

Started at Briar Cliff:



  • B.M. The Hartt School – University of Hartford;
  • M.M. Boston University;
  • D.M.A. University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Dr. Burton's leadership responsibilities include overseeing the departments of Art, Mass Media, Modern Languages, Music, Theatre, and Theology/Philosophy and his teaching activities include conducting the Cliff Singers and Chamber Choir, courses in conducting and secondary choral methods, as well as conducting musical productions and serving as Artistic Director of Briar Cliff’s Christmas at the Orpheum, a multi-organization extravaganza for which he annually conducts Members of the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra.

Dr. Burton began his tenure at Briar Cliff in 2007 and received the Emerging Faculty Scholar Award, the University’s highest possible honor for pre-tenured faculty, in 2009. Credited with thoroughly revitalizing the choral program at Briar Cliff University, he has been personally responsible for leading joint-concerts, collaborations and/or projects with more than twenty different performing organizations.

Under Dr. Burton’s direction, the Briar Cliff Singers were the first choir ever to be invited to sing the National Anthem on the site of the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor in 2010. In 2012, he led a BCU concert tour throughout Italy, including a prestigious solo performance at the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi and singing for Pentecost Sunday Mass at St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. Deeply engaged in the Sioux City musical community, he concurrently serves as Director of Music at Grace United Methodist Church and Founding Artistic Director of the Siouxland Choral Artists, the region’s only auditioned adult chamber choir.

Known for his unique level of versatility, Dr. Burton's annual schedule of circa sixty events as conductor, clinician and adjudicator ranges from guest conducting the opening symphonic Pops segment for a concert featuring Dionne Warwick with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra in Massachusetts to the Alaska All-State Treble Choir.

He is formerly Artistic Director of the Boston Orpheus Ensemble, Music Director of the Boston University Choral Society, Chorus Master of Connecticut Concert Opera, and Assistant Conductor of The Masterworks Chorale (Boston); has guest conducted the Omaha Area Youth Symphony, Waltham Philharmonic Orchestra, and Wellesley Choral Society; was administrator of the Boston Urban Voices initiative for the Metropolitan Opera Guild (a program which offers vocal music instruction to underserved populations); and spent the earliest years of his career in public school music education, as the Choral and Orchestra Director at Weston High School in southern Connecticut.

Dr. Burton was a faculty member at New England Music Camp for several summers and has held faculty appointments at the Connecticut Conservatory of the Performing Arts, Hartwick College Summer Music Festival & Institute, and Nutmeg Conservatory of the Performing Arts. A champion of new music, he has been directly involved with commissioning contemporary choral works by David Brunner, Paul Carey, Howard Helvey, Leonardo Lebas, György Orbán, Joshua Shank, David von Kampen, and Jens Wendelboe.

An active scholar, Dr. Burton is the author of The Unaccompanied Choral Music of Pierre Villette: A Conductor’s Analysis (The Edwin Mellen Press, 2008) and has published some forty articles, reviews and editions of choral music. His presentation credits as conductor or lecturer include state, regional, and national conferences of the American Choral Directors Association, College Music Society, and NAfME: the National Association for Music Education.

Dr. Burton was Conductor of the internationally acclaimed Nebraska Children’s Chorus Bel Canto, the premier youth touring choir of the Nebraska Choral Arts Society, from 2006-2010. Under his direction, Bel Canto was selected for performance at conventions of the Nebraska Music Educators Association (2007) and Nebraska Choral Directors Association (2009), the 61st National MENC Biennial In-Service Conference in Milwaukee (2008), the North Central MENC Division Conference in Indianapolis (2009), the Pacific International Children’s Choir Festival (2009), and the Oregon Bach Festival (2009).

Further, he led Bel Canto on tours throughout France, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany (2007), Mexico (2008), the Pacific Northwest U.S. (2009), and Italy (2010) singing in major venues on the level of Notre Dame in Paris, Munich's Frauenkirche and Michaelskirche, Salzburg Cathedral, and for Mass at the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City, St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, and St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.

As Bel Canto Conductor, he facilitated performances with the Coro Polofonico Multietnico “Daniele Manin” di Roma, Indianapolis Children’s Choir, Instituto Superior de Música del Estado de Veracruz, International School of Zug and Luzern, Lincoln Boys Choir, Lincoln Civic Choir, Los Niños y Jóvenes Cantores de la Escuela Nacional de Música de Mexico, Northfield Youth Choirs, Northwest Boychoir, Omaha Area Youth Orchestras, Omaha Performing Arts, Omaha Symphony, Opera Omaha, University of Nebraska Medical Center, and others.

Dr. Burton strongly values the outstanding instruction he received from Edward Bolkovac, Paul Oakley and the late Fredric Moses at The Hartt School; Ann Howard Jones, David Hoose and the late Craig Smith at Boston University; and Peter Eklund and Therees Hibbard at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He has furthered his education through private study with Duain Wolfe (Chorus Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) and master classes with Rodney Eichenberger, Weston Noble and Mack Wilberg (Director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir).

Additional studies include the Eastman Choral Institute, René Clausen Choral School and a conducting fellowship at the 2005 Chorus America Choral-Orchestral Conducting Workshop in Cincinnati. In 2010, Dr. Burton was one of five people selected worldwide for the Vancouver Chamber Choir’s National Conductors’ Symposium, where he enjoyed a week-long residency in Vancouver guest conducting the Vancouver Chamber Choir under the tutelage of Jon Washburn.