Obviously, the start of a new year, but also the concluding of another decade.
The “roaring twenties” …
2020 also marks 5 years since our family trip to London, UK.
It was cool and we went on several day trips with our adult children.
Many photographs in this post are from that winter vacation.
We love them and are so proud of each of our children.
They have not only grown into adults to emulate, but each one is a truly brilliant person who contributes greatly to society.
And, most importantly, they are good resilient souls.
They don’t quit or give up.
OUR NEXT DECADE TOGETHER
2020 also marks the year we will turn 65.
We actually don’t know what turning 65 is supposed to feel like yet because this year is our first time doing it.
But we collectively know we’re blessed with good health, the love of our family + dear friends, we still have our chops, and still play our instruments at a professional-level – so we are very thankful.
Every year since we have been together, we have had a “winter vacation break project.”You know this type project. Yours probably could even be one like our office bookshelf and office storage space morphed into. It’s something that you plan to get around to doing, but never do during the course of the year because you can find what you need in the immediate and are able to get done what you need to get done despite there being no organized system in place to facilitate efficiency and accountability.
BUT . . . WE TRULY ARE ORGANIZED PEOPLE . . . REALLY WE ARE . . .
“The greatest sign of success for a teacher . . . is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist’ . . .”
– Maria Montessori
Nonetheless, it never fails that we find a better system or more logical process to use somewhere in our day-to-day living that helps out tremendously.
And it seems that during the course of simply living, while continuing to learn and grow, we will periodically find that old systems and methods are no longer functionally useful.
THE LIBRARY OF A COUPLE OF ACTIVE PROFESSIONAL WOODWIND MUSICIANS
“The principle goal of education is to create men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.”
– Jean Piaget
We use everything in our office bookshelf space as part of our business activities, woodwind studio teaching practices, and individual studies as professional musicians.
So, in our experiences, such resets are usually a good thing.
SOME HISTORIC ITEMS + JAMES R. FUCHS AND CHARLIE MOLINA
“It isn’t where you came from, it’s where you’re going that counts.”
– Ella Fitzgerald
I started playing a band instrument in the 9th grade, which is still late by most standards. In addition to the cursory learning to play some rudimentary form of the recorder, I studied the violin in the 4th grade growing up in Paola, Kansas. Yes, Paola, Kansas. However, I participated in private music programs at our church and had pretty good general music classes during grade school and junior high.
“Tell me, and I forget. Show me, and I remember. Involve me, and I understand.”
– Chinese proverb
Mr. Jim Fuchs taught me clarinet and saxophone. I played clarinet initially and then essentially played the saxophone from the 10th grade onward. Paola had its own music store in town back then too. That’s how I first met Charlie Molina, who was one of the owners and a Conn Clinician. I auditioned and successfully passed auditions to qualify for the military music programs of both, the Army and Air Force. I chose the Army.
“I’m still learning.”
*The main photograph of this post is from our family trip to England during Christmas time – exactly 5 years ago on this date. All other photographs are during the work.
Our late motherVi Burnett was a major inspirational force to me, my siblings, and many others as well. I often think of the things she used to say at times when a situation brings her voice forward in my thoughts. Thus, she is quoted often in our family blog.
Mom Burnett was a renaissance woman – even before using the word ‘renaissance’ to refer to someone who had figured out most of the handles of their life was cool.
In the latter years of her working life, mom went back to playing the piano. Having had private piano lessons as a child, picking it up again was not an issue for her.
Mom eventually held the position as church pianist at St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church where we attended during the years after our family had settled back in her paternal hometown of Paola, Kansas. A minister of music.
That church no longer exists and most of the living descendants of that wonderful church community from our youth no longer reside in that city. But it remains significant to me because it is where I got my start in music singing in the youth choir. I eventually added woodwind instruments at school and mom encouraged me.
Our family attended Sunday school and church every week growing up, went to summer Vacation Bible School classes, participated in seasonal programs produced by the church, etc. We continued these type traditions with our own children too.
Admittedly, we have learned over the years that such faith is ultimately a personal choice, – but we sincerely believe in and live by Christian principles, pray in good times and bad, and over the years have learned that family is not always limited to people who are related to you by blood.
We have a great foundation.
Living it is not just about going to a church on Sunday.
It’s about Love.
Loving one another.
The Burnett Familybranches made up of our children and grandchildren add another dimension to all of this.
We are blessed to have so much love in our lives …
L – O – V – E
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
A former colleague of ours from our days in Germany in the late 1970s sent these recordings of our Army band back then performing in several contexts.
This colleague, Bruce Shockley is a fantastic musician and still performs professionally.
The included photographs in this post that are not taken by me or T are primarily from the personal archives of two other former colleagues, Bob Levitsky and Dan Flake.
GERMANY TOUR YEARS: 1976-1980
What is interesting for us today is to now look back at those days and realize 1977 was only 32 years after the end of World War II, the Cold War was still a thing, and our job with the military was to go around playing music to spread goodwill.
To get a contextual idea of what contemporary life for us in Germany during those years was like visit the House of the History of the Federal Republic of Germany website at https://www.hdg.de/
We thought our children and grandchildren might find it interesting to listen to us performing music when we first met (and before we were married in 1979).
We were also just 21-year-old performing artists and gaining experience.
Although we were playing 250 to 300+ concerts and ceremonies each year by then, we were still new professionals.
Working that much builds chops and perspective.
The first two recordings are from a partnership concert and are representative of what the concert band sounded like. In addition to ceremonial music, it also demonstrates the type of music we most often played for German civilian audiences or important functions. T plays flute and I play alto saxophone on these recordings.
We played everywhere from historical concert halls to outdoor concerts for combat arms specialty troops on maneuver training out in the woods. And events that included most everything in between those two…
The song titled “Corazon” is from the Woody Herman band’s library.
It also documents the first ever improvised jazz solo that I took with the jazz band in Germany.
The second song is an adaptation by the famous arranger, composer and former military musician Sammy Nestico titled “Dvorak’s Theme.”
The little guy at the piano in the featured image of this post is our youngest grandson.
Like all of our children and grandchildren, he’s very “musical.”
But, there’s something special about him that makes me think he’s our next musician among our progeny and could likely help carry music into future generations.
He sings and hums to himself while doing most any task.
He moves to music when it’s being played on television or in real-time by someone on a musical instrument.
Whereas most people don’t hear the music that is going on around them like the underscore of movies, I’ve noticed that this little guy genuinely notices all musical notes – even those found in everyday things like the sound of a glass “clinking.”
He also actually matches pitch pretty well too!
It seems music is a natural consideration for him. I think he’s “our next musician.”
Both, T and I remember being like that too…
Letting them choose…
When our children were born we decided that they both would be required to learn a musical instrument. First the piano and then a band instrument which they would be required to play throughout middle and high school.
Our reasoning was sound because learning a musical instrument develops the brain in ways other subjects and activities do not. That was our primary agenda.
And people who know music in an applied context always seem to be more well-rounded than those who do not. I think it’s because they learned how to create art.
Both, our son and daughter were brilliant young musicians.
They were always among the best musicians of their generation and neither really worked too hard at it beyond playing at school or occasionally playing with us at home.
We really hoped they’d ultimately choose music like we did, and take it further.
Neither did. It wasn’t their “thing.” Although I believe either our son or daughter could have been successful as working professional performing artists and musicians.
Another true story…
Our daughter hadn’t played her flute for at least 10 years when we were visiting her at her family’s home one year and brought our flutes with us.
We pulled out some flute trio music and asked her to play.
She literally had to dig around the long-term storage spaces of her house for about thirty minutes before she finally found her flute.
When she found it we spent the next couple of hours playing trios and our daughter made less mistakes than I did. Brilliant!
I guess it really is “like riding a bike” …
I have told both of our children half-jokingly that we could have “made” them into musicians if we had wanted to do so and they would not have been aware we did it.
It’s sort of like the sports parents who get their kid a personal trainer in preschool.
We could have literally turned them into phenomenal musicians without their consent.
And we could have steered them into a career in the music industry as well.
We didn’t want to do that because we think being an artist is largely a choice.
Instead we took the path of teaching them applied music to a high level and then letting them choose whether to pursue it further from an informed perspective.
Neither chose music in that context.
But, that little guy in the first picture just might.
The main photograph of this post is of the Jay McShann tribute big band saxophone section which included (left to right):
Gerald Dunn, Christopher Burnett (yes, with the large Afro hairstyle), Dennis Winslett, Bobby Watson, Ahmed Alaadeen and Kerry Strayer (not shown).
I had actually met the great Jay McShannand interacted with him several times.
This tribute event was held in early 2007 at the historic Gem Theater in the jazz district of Kansas City.
Alaadeen, who first introduced me to Jay, invited me to play in this tribute – but, I don’t think he was formerly authorized to do so because the cats initially acted somewhat surprised to see me there with my horn.
Even though nobody said anything to me, I figured it out when there were three alto players during the first set. Awkward. Normally I would have left under such circumstances and not even played but I listened to my inner voice and stayed.
And since I had actually met Jay and interacted with him several times enough to have gotten to know him somewhat, I wanted to simply add my musical voice to this tribute.
It turned out to be a very nice event honoring a true master of jazz and blues.
Jay McShann was also the first professional bandleader to hire Charlie Parker.
We played two sets. Bobby had to leave after the first and let me play lead the next set.
All of the players were pretty nice to me since I could play the parts and was there unawares and sincerely by invitation of a KC jazz master.
This was my introduction to the realities of life in the music outside of military bands.
Sometimes you just have to make a place for yourself in life and the music industry because others won’t do it for you. What a great opportunity and honor this was.
Those are the types of substantive lessons I learned from the late Ahmed Alaadeen along with the technical aspects of music we studied. He was my last great teacher.
I’m still going strong and have artistically established myself teaching music in addition to performing and composing.
I began my career by serving 22-years with the professional military bands system.
And 2018 marked another career milestone of being professionally active on the at-large music industry scene for 22-years after military service. That’s pretty cool.
2019 marks entry into new territory of sorts…
As my late brother who was truly a world class musician once told me:
We started a tradition in our family several years ago called Thanksgiving-Christmas where we select a timeframe during the season that allows everyone to come together at the Burnett Grandparents’ home to celebrate both of these holidays at the same time with one another.
Thanksgiving-Christmas is a convenient practice when you have adult children with families and lives of their own.
You really only have one family.
You always gain new family members – related by blood and related by bond.
You always lose family members along the way through death and drama.
Family members come and go in and out of your life for whatever reasons.
All of the music I write is motivated by life – a person, place or thing.
THE STORY BEHIND THE SONG
Being a child of the US Civil Rights Era (literally, I was born in 1955), I watched my parents work twice as hard to just be even, vote for the first time in their forties and never teach hate or negativity to us children.
I also saw the stresses of life as a black family after they left military service society contribute to their ultimate divorce.
The last conversation I had with my father before he left for good was one where I saw a tear in his eye.
Until then, I had never before seen him even come close to crying.
He saw that I noticed and told me that crying isn’t a weakness but a strength.
“When we cry it is our purest form of sincerity and it’s a form of communication that is beyond language.
And when we cry angels sing.”
I never forgot that wisdom.
Anytime I confront issues of social justice I remember how important it is to provide sanctuary for those in our charge like our spouse and children.
I’ve had to start over a few times over the years dealing with life matters compounded by the fact of who I am as a man.
We have a thing in our family that is a commitment to never leave anyone behind because we all are going to be wounded by society and life at some point.
I’m committed to living a positive life, with love and one of meritorious self-determination.
Sometimes you run into people who hurt you for that, but I always remember – “when we cry, angels sing” …
And we grow stronger too.
I’m not a poet by any means. But all of my music also has lyrics although I perform and record my music instrumentally.
“WHENEVER WE CRY”
May not be en vogue To be so open and sincere Being in love finds a way To expose every weakness and fear To reveal all of your sunshine and good cheer
So don’t be put off by the moisture in my
Eyes can only see Some things and how they need to be In life’s rude games sometimes played Or those times when we forget to use our best selves
As your own child takes those first steps Hold your breath
We were professional musicians before we met each other in the middle 1970s while working overseas for the U.S. Army’s music program.
Our children and grandchildren likely associate music being created and instruments being played in our home as just a part of life while growing up and over the subsequent years.
We are now ARC recording artists with several releases on the market. We document our music on recordings as part of the inherent legacy representing some of our respective musical works created during the course of the journey of our lives.
The Latest Recording Project
Our latest recording project will be produced and released commercially on the ARC label in 2020. A recent post thoroughly describes “The Standards Project.”
But, our very first recording session was produced during our off-duty hours while we were members of the Army Band at Ansbach, Germany.
The Very First Recording Session
We have always believed in creating the type of life we want to live and that includes where our musical careers are concerned as well.
We don’t wait for things to happen to us. We work to make the things we want to happen. This first recording session illustrates this fact in a very cool way. It was thoroughly planned as well.
By 1979 I was just about finished with the composition and arranging course I was enrolled in and taking from the Berklee College of Music in Boston by mailed correspondence. It took 3 years to compete.
I was writing lots of “tunes” by then and had officially joined the arranging staff of the Army band. Several of my charts were being played in concerts, shows or tours.
We hadn’t a clue of what we were doing as record producers beyond basic knowledge in terms of understanding the music and how to operate the equipment we were using to record.
We didn’t even consider post-production concerns or commercial distribution of the music we recorded.
We were simply learning and creating something musically positive for all of us to do rather than just sit around between the Army band gigs.
Our very first recording session date was December 18, 1979
We produced the recording with fellow Army musicians we worked with at that time.
? The images posted here are of my decades old hand-written notes, LOL!
We recorded one of my originals and my arrangement of Sonny Rollins’ “Pent-Up House.” Following are the credits:
Bob Henry, engineer;
Larry Bennett and James McNeal, trumpet;
Christopher Burnett, alto saxophone;
R. Stephen Gilbert, tenor and soprano saxophones;
Gene Smith, trombone;
Leon Johnson, Fender Rhodes;
Bruce Shockley, bass;
and Dennis Butler, drums.
Terri Anderson Burnett and Christopher Burnett, producers.
For some reason, it all worked out.
Forty Years Later
We are still practicing, performing, teaching, writing and recording music.