Meet Executive Board Chair Sheyna Burt

Executive Board Chair Sheyna Burt

The Hylton Performing Arts Center is proud to welcome Sheyna Burt as its new Chair of the Executive Board, which was effective at the start of the 2022-2023 season. A passionate arts advocate and accomplished attorney, Burt also serves as President at the local Prince William County institutions Old Bridge Chamber Orchestra and Youth Orchestras of Prince William.

Enjoy our Q&A with Sheyna, and get to know our accomplished and passionate new leader:

Hylton Center (HC): You wear multiple professional hats on a daily basis, including that of lawyer, violinist, and President of Youth Orchestras of Prince William. How do you find time to focus on each of these roles, and what inspires you about each of them?

Sheyna Burt (SB): I am energized by the people and causes I care about, and I push my energy limits–along with the limits of time and space– just about every day. Whether the pursuits are legal, artistic, or philanthropic, I am inspired by efforts that empower people and lift the community. That sounds like an inspirational quote on a poster, but it sincerely drives me. Whether I am eliminating the legal obstacles to a nonprofit’s success or helping fill a concert hall, I cheerfully give up my time in support of those who are trying to do good.

HC: You’ve been involved with the Hylton Center for many years as both a Board and Committee member and as a performer. How did you come into these roles and how do they differ?

SB: In fifth grade, I learned to play the violin as part of Prince William County Public Schools' strings program. Almost immediately, I began to understand the impact that music could have on my life. I met people and traveled to places I otherwise would not have, had a creative outlet, and learned the discipline that comes from setting a goal and working with others to achieve it. By the time I was in eighth grade, I appeared at a meeting of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, armed with my violin, and played during Citizen’s Time as a way of objecting to a proposal to charge students a fee to participate in the school orchestra program. Decades later, I found myself back in front of the Supervisors, advocating in support of funding for the arts and other community service initiatives. Performing and advocating have always been intertwined for me, and my rabble-rousing in support of the arts as an adult led to an appointment on the Hylton Center’s Board by the Chair of the Board of County Supervisors.

HC: How do the arts inspire you, and what do you feel is the most important way the performing arts impacts our community?

SB: I love the way that the arts simultaneously allow us to feel connected to the past, explore our present-day realities, and imagine what will be in the future. I have the pleasure of embedding myself in some of the very same sheet music that occupied the hands and hearts of musicians hundreds of years ago. At the same time, as an African American musician moving in a space in which people of color are traditionally underrepresented, the arts allow me to challenge modern expectations of what it means to be a Black, classically trained musician. And perhaps most importantly, I get to create opportunities for young people to drive what comes next in the arts. The performing arts are a critical part of how a community tells its story. If you want to understand who and what a community values, and what it stands for, you should start by asking about its art.

HC: What are three Hylton Center performances that exemplify why you love the Hylton Performing Arts Center?

SB: Definitely the Leslie Odom, Jr. concert last spring. In addition to being a beautifully performed event featuring an internationally renowned superstar, this concert was the result of community investment in the arts. Had it not been for the Hylton Center’s donors, the concert would have been impossible, and I would have been denied the opportunity to watch a hall full of people of every age shout-sing songs from Hamilton.

Additionally, any and all concerts by Old Bridge Chamber Orchestra and Youth Orchestras of Prince William. Yes, this answer reflects unadulterated bias, but it also is rooted in the Hylton Center’s commitment to supporting local Arts Affiliates and Arts Partners. One of the magical things about the people of Prince William County is that we are not just consumers of art, we are producers of it, and the Hylton Center stands ready to provide us with a place to be fed and feed others.

HC: If you were to describe one special thing about the Hylton Center that you’d most like to convey to people, what would it be?

SB: I want everyone to know that as elegant and educational as the Hylton Center is, above all, it belongs to the people, and all are welcome here.

The Hylton Center is so grateful for countless advocates, volunteers, and board members, such as Burt, who strengthen the work on our stages and deeply enrich our community. Additional details about the Hylton Center Executive Board can be found on the Hylton Center website.