Busking Out: A Conversation with Busker, Sarah Little Drum
$12.83. That’s how much Sarah Tamburelli made in tips the first time she broke out her ukulele to strum and sing on the street. Since then she’s adopted the solo performance moniker Sarah Little Drum and her repertoire has expanded from singing and the ukulele to include burlesque and a parrot accordion-accompanied Hula-Hooping routine. Tamburelli’s path, however, to busking is a bit surprising, but one she says is rooted in the simplicity of shared experience. “Support and love is the currency I live on,” she says. I recently chatted with Sarah Little Drum about why she’s a busker, her favorite places in THE BLOCKs to perform and how she’s continuing her craft during the pandemic.
Q: What first sparked your interest in busking?
A: When I was younger I had a boyfriend whose family were these beautiful, inspiring vagabond artists and I learned about busking from them. And then, while an undergrad, I studied theater as my minor which taught me about performing, but also made me realize that the traditional rules and agendas of theater don’t appeal to me. I’m from a small town in Pennsylvania and I did a lot of research before the first time I went out to perform in this restaurant area of Pittsburgh near where I was going to school. I would busk pretty sporadically after that, doing it mostly when I needed some cash. Then when I moved to Boston for graduate school (Sarah has an MA in marketing from Emerson College), I began busking several times a week. And then, after I graduated, I followed a boyfriend to Utah—which I could not have picked out on map before I got here—and took a job at an agency. But then David Bowie died. And when I saw the world react so strongly to the death of this artist, who I actually wasn’t that big of a fan of before, I was invigorated and inspired to quit my day job and busk fulltime.
Q: What has surprised you the most about being a busker?
A: The perspective I’ve gained on humanity. I started doing it because it was fun and just felt right. But then I saw how happy it makes people to watch someone else taking a risk and doing what they love to do. Performing in the streets is very vulnerable and people feed off that vulnerability. I’m so inspired when people dance or Hula-Hoop with me.
Q: Do you perform outside of busking?
A: Yes, I do private gigs and performed during the last two SLC Busker Fests. I’m also working on two albums right now. One is more of a rock album and the other is more folksy lullabies. Both are all original music.
Q: How has busking changed in the pandemic?
A: Both positively and negatively. Almost all booked gigs have been canceled, which is creating a not-very-healthy competition among the artists community. Things were very slow there for a while but now people are starting to come back out. I’m still not getting as many tips as I did pre-COVID, but now the tips are bigger. And some have come from people weeks after they’ve seen me perform. I really appreciate how many people have become patrons for the arts. It’s not healthy to have a world without art or music.
Q: Where can people find you?
A: I really like performing in the 300 East 300 South area and where the bars are along Main Street. I usually post where I’ll be on Instagram and Facebook @sarahlittledrum. I’d like to get up to Ogden sometime soon. I’ve heard the busking is really good up there.
Written by Melissa Fields