Graduate Profile - L.A. Barus

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Recalling her earliest memories of her mother singing and playing piano while the family sung in harmony alongside, Ara Music Arts graduate Lauren Barus, AKA LA Mitchell was destined for a career in music.

With her mother making piano lessons compulsory from the age of 6, Lauren recalls enjoying formulating chords but despising sight-reading.

“My grandmother had a small portable record player, my aunt had a collection of 45’s of Elvis and David Bowie under her old bed” she tells, “I remember being around 7 and spending hours playing Space Oddity over, and over again. I adored The Doors and spent a lot of my teens transcribing the organ solos”

Feeling that the curriculum was too restrictive, Barus refused to study music in High School in fear of judgment, instead confining herself to music in her spare time.

Picking up the guitar at age 15, Lauren starting writing songs in the vein of Pearl Jam, Beck, Pavement and Sebodoh, artists she was listening to at the time. She also cites Bic Runga’s debut as helping inspire her first forays into song writing.

“I was led to the belief in my teen years that you couldn’t make money out of music, (I was yet to learn that song-writing was a job) so I needed to justify the cost of study and how I was going to use music study to make a living and finance my wonton desires to pontificate my music. I researched all the institutions. I decided that although piano was my first instrument, I didn’t want to be a piano teacher. So I picked voice. I felt The Ara Music Arts course at the time, and still now, has the best Vocal tutors in the country. So I decided to come here for that tutelage.”

“I found my time at Ara to be academically really rewarding, creatively really challenging, personally transformative. I think the most important thing the Music Arts course gave me was time and space. You cannot underestimate the importance of having time to get really deep within your subject. Unrestrained time, in a space that is purpose built and designed to support the intention of becoming a master craftsperson. I took away from it all the tools I have ever needed, and some I didn’t know I needed, to be a successful session musician, writer, and professional performer.”

“My relationship with the tutors was inspiring, sometimes tumultuous, on my part, always tilted towards challenging me to be more than I thought I was capable of being. It inspired great care and respect for my instrument and for the world of professional musicianship.”

After graduating Lauren performed locally playing Jazz, as her profile grew she appeared in numerous Jazz and arts festivals across the country. Continuing to write and record independently, she released 2 album projects and 2 EP’s of original material. She was nominated in the top 20 Apra Silver Scroll award 2 years running for the songs Apple Heart and When It’s All Too Much.

“Since then I’ve worked with Christchurch Band, Dukes, achieving a platinum single with our song Vampires. I worked as a session musician for Dave Dobbyn, Bic Runga, Tim Finn, Anna Codington and Sola Rosa, Touring around NZ Multiple times as well as Australia, the UK, Singapore and Dubai. 

In 2009 she become a regular member of the collaborative touring ensemble ‘ Fly My Pretties, featuring on 3 albums and 4 Nation wide tours and 2 Australian tours. Barus currently splits her time between being a mother, managing a café and working on a variety of musical projects, one with her husband called Terrible Sons.

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