An Interview with Mike Rayburn


Q: What year did you graduate from JMU?

A: 1986

Q: What did you study at JMU and why?

A: Classical Guitar and Music Business. I wanted to perform for a living but I wanted to know the business side, how to really be successful. Most musicians are trying to out-earn their ignorance. Not me.

Q: What activities were you involved in while at JMU?

A: Music ensembles. But mostly I began playing live at local clubs, Massanutten Ski Resort, etc. to pay for school and to be really in the music business.

Q: Who inspired you while at JMU? Who has inspired you throughout your career?

A: Dr. Rich Barnet was my advisor and he was very helpful. Mostly I was inspired by my friends, other guitar players.

Q: At what age did you begin playing the guitar? (Your website says you “had a guitar habit on the side” growing up. At what point did you allow your musical self to be more exposed?)

A: I started at 8 and didn't tell anyone; it was just my thing. I played in a 6th grade talent show, but not all that well. Really, when I played a high school folk concert at Thomas Jefferson H.S. (when I was in 8th grade), that did it. I knew music was what I wanted to do.

Q: What role do you believe your fitness level and health habits play in your career? (Your website mentions you like to eat well and stay in shape.)

A: Being healthy is everything! I mean, if you’re a billionaire but can’t get out of bed, what kind of life is that? I hate being sick, and I like to look good, so I do what I have to do to make that happen.

Q: What do you enjoy about what you do? Why do you do what you do?

A: I love EVERYTHING about what I do - except changing strings. :-) I love the travel, the venues, sound check, the show, meeting people ... everything. Mostly, though, it’s the show. My gift is being able to connect with audiences, and I get to do that for a living. What’s better than that?

Q: What is your definition of success?

A: My mission statement in life is “I joyfully live to love and serve God, my family, and all humankind with my gifts of music, comedy and exhortation.” If I’m doing anything that’s congruent with that statement, I’m successful.

Q: What does it mean to return to your alma mater to perform?

A: It’s awesome! I mean first of all, they’re paying me, which means I’m getting some of my tuition money back. Who get’s THAT chance? But I love the school, I love Harrisonburg, and to come back and do what I do is beautiful. It’s returning to the source. My first solo gig ever was at a long defunct bar called Jo’s Restaurant on Water Street, so it’s like coming full circle.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you would give to college students?

A: Well, without more specifics I have to be general. Find something you love and you’re good at. When you combine those and then make the choice to become the absolute best in the world at it, good things will come your way.

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