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Meet the Burk Sisters: Music Majors, St. Olaf Choir members and a Rare Set of Ole Twins!

Maggie and Katie Burk ‘13 are used to being lumped together. They share the same major, an overlapping friend group, and identical DNA. “It’s sometimes hard to single yourself out,” Maggie said. “But people who know us understand that we are very different people.”

These differences are what make Maggie and Katie unique, both as individuals and as a set of twins. “Katie is a dork,” Maggie said. “If you’ve ever heard her tell the joke about the duck and plum, you’ll know what I mean!”

Maggie, on the other hand, has her own set of attributes. “She is about the most caring person you’ll ever meet,” Katie said. “She leaves more thank-you notes, have-a-good-Wednesday-cards, hostess gifts and personalized mix CDs than just about anyone I know.”

However, differences aside, the two connect over one strong shared love: music. Katie and Maggie grew up in Lawrence, Kansas, and began singing at an early age. Their father was an organist and a music teacher. “I started piano lessons at age four,” Maggie said, “and started singing in a church choir when I was seven. I knew I was going to be a church musician when I was ten.”

The girls didn’t have any other siblings, so being a twin was all they knew. “Our grandparents sent us matching Christmas and Easter dresses until we were 13,” Katie said.

Maggie adds, “It was nice to have a built-in best friend to play sports with, draw pictures with, sing songs, you know…”

At times, competition between the girls was fierce. “Once I won the 8th grade piano competition,” Maggie said. “Katie was not a happy camper.” Today, this competition continues. “I hold myself to very high standards,” Katie said. “Sometimes you can’t help but compare yourself to the other twin. It’s kind of a destructive behavior.” Maggie is quick to chime in. “If she does something great, I have to at least match it,” she said.

This competition, however, may have lead to the girl’s inevitable success here at St. Olaf. Both are double majoring in organ performance and vocal education, and are members of the prestigious St. Olaf Choir. “I remember visiting St. Olaf just after my junior year of high school,” Maggie said. “ I heard Ole Choir sing Arvo Pärt’s ‘Who Was the Son Of,’ a setting of the lineage of Jesus to music, and said, ‘Yup. I have to be a part of this some day.’”

The girls chose, independently, to come to same St. Olaf, and were pleasantly surprised to hear that the other had made the same decision for similar reasons. Having a sister at college can be nice, they say. “With the same two majors, we see a lot of each other,” Katie said. “But it also means that I have a built-in homework buddy, a running companion, a partner in crime. I don’t trust anyone else as much as Maggie, period.”

The girls agree that the best part of Ole Choir is the tour the group takes each year; the most recent one just returned from a tour on the East Coast. “More than anything else, I love performing with the choir,” Maggie said. “Singing everything from Bach to Clausen is a treat. However, when you see the 80-year-old man in Charlotte, North Carolina, mouthing along with every single word of Beautiful Savior, silently crying, then you really get it. Being part of a heritage that connects so many generations together is a pretty magical thing.”

So while they may not be hooked on the velvet purple robes – “They can get hot,” laments Katie – the girls agree that there isn’t any other place in the world they’d rather be, and there isn’t another person they would rather share their college experience with.

Jessica is a senior at St. Olaf College majoring in English with concentrations in media studies and Middle Eastern studies. As one of the Campus Correspondents for Her Campus St. Olaf, she enjoys writing and editing news stories, and encouraging younger Oles to express their skills and talents through writing. She also is an editor for the school's student newspaper, The Manitou Messenger, and a writer for the college's marketing and communications office. In her (limited) free time, she enjoys eating pita and hummus from the Cage, curling up in a Buntrock window seat with a good book, and checking things off her senior bucket list.
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