Opus 3 Jazz Trio
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Opus 3 Jazz Trio

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"NHS graduate returns to island Friday with jazz trio"

By Joshua B. Gray
I&M Staff Writer

Seth Burkhart’s musical journey began on Nantucket more than 30 years ago. 
Born in New York City and raised on-island from the age of 9, Burkhart first sat down behind a set of drums as a young teenager. He remembers the very moment he decided to commit himself to the craft.

Courtesy of Opus 3 Jazz Trio
Nantucket High School graduate Seth Burkhart developed his love of music on the island and parlayed it into a career behind the drums. His current band, the Opus 3 Jazz Trio, also includes his wife Jane on piano.

“I just woke up one morning, sat up in bed and said to my brother, ‘I want to play the drums’.”

Now 46, Burkhart has made a living in music and his latest group, the Opus 3 Jazz Trio, which also includes his wife, will return to the island Friday for a concert at the Coffin School.

Burkhart is the son of long-time (now retired) Nantucket High School art teacher John Burkhart and Barbara Burkhart. His brother and sister, Jonathan and Jill Burkhart, founded the Nantucket Film Festival. Coming from a family with such an artistic sensibility, he said he could remember in middle school walking past the band room to go to lunch each day and hearing the drummers through the walls. He thought, “I can do this,” and he did.

He was helped along the way, getting his first set of drums from Felix Pappalardi and Corky Lang, members of 1970s rock band Mountain, who also lived on Nantucket. Another family friend, who Burkhart said has become like family over the years, is Gary Trainor, the long-time music director at Nantucket High School and now owner of Jewel of the Isle on Straight Wharf, who became a mentor for the young musician.

“We had this instant bond,” said Burkhart. “He took me under his wing and became my mentor and best friend from that very first day.”

As a young teacher, Trainor recalled working with the fledgling musician.

“Seth was one of my first students and he had a tremendous talent and love for music and that was all he wanted to do when he got out of school,” said Trainor. He said he is looking forward to Opus 3’s performance this week, adding he knows Burkhart enjoys coming to the island and performing whenever he can in order to share his music with his many friends in the community.

Only a few short weeks after sitting down at the drums, sticks in hand, Burkhart said he was playing a house gig on-island several nights a week alongside Trainor.

He said his early musical influences were mostly found in his father’s extensive collection of jazz records, and it was not until his senior year in high school that he really discovered popular music in the form of the Rolling Stones and The Who.

Going on to study at the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston after receiving a scholarship, Burkhart said he recalled something that Trainor had taught him long before.
“One thing that Gary told me when I started playing with him was, if I wanted to play music and make a living at it, I had to learn how to play all styles,” he said. This point was driven home when he arrived at Berklee and saw the level of talent that he would have to compete against to make it professionally.

Burkhart said he heeded that advice from the older musician and soon was becoming proficient in performing jazz, rock, bossa nova, Latin, waltzes and more.

He went where the work was. Leaving Boston after two years at Berklee, he said he landed his first major tour and has been a working musician ever since.

The formation of Opus 3 occurred when Burkhart was performing with a funk band on a cruise ship. There he met a pianist named Jane Dean who was playing with another band on board. From there, he said, they hit it off both musically and personally as they soon began a relationship and are now husband and wife.

The third member of the trio, Nelson Cruz, plays bass for the group and is a celebrated musician in his home country of Puerto Rico, said Burkhart.

The trio has been hard at work for the past few years, he added, as they are coming to Nantucket having just returned from an eight-month tour of Europe, and earlier this week recorded their second studio album.

Their first CD entitled “Journeys” is a compilation of jazz standards with their own arrangements anchored by Dean-Burkhart’s piano. The album is available at most major online music stores and has provided the group with some of their first measurable success. Burkhart said that many of the house gigs in the United States have dried up in recent years for small jazz groups such as theirs, but they are seeing a strong interest in Europe and have even begun to see a small following of their work in Japan where they plan to tour in the coming year.

“The piano is the focal point of the trio,” said Burkhart. “Nelson has some bass solos as well, but it is a piano-based - I&M


The band’s first CD “Journeys” not only displays the trio’s version of a range of standards, but includes a unique arrangement of Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”. Their second album “This Time Around” is enhanced by the inclusion of a number of original compositions.

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Opus 3 Jazz Trio

Drawing on years of experience of playing a wide range of music styles, the Opus 3 Jazz Trio have succeeded in creating the perfect balance of talent and temperament (with a refreshing lack of ego!). Each component part works seamlessly with the others to deliver perfectly conceived arrangements of songs ranging from Jazz and Swing standards to striking versions of Rock classics.

The overall “rich” sound of the trio is complemented by breathtaking solos from each instrument, which make their live shows a wonderful experience for everyone from seasoned Jazz “Heads” to the first time listener. The trio are adept at quickly establishing a rapport with their audience and ensure that no-one goes home disappointed. It is refreshing to hear such talented musicians gladly support each other’s solo contributions, ensuring that the whole sound delivered can be greater than the sum of its parts.

The band’s first CD “Journeys” not only displays the trio’s version of a range of standards, but includes a unique arrangement of Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”. Their second album “This Time Around” is enhanced by the inclusion of a number of original compositions.