Musicians seem to always be “seeking to understand,” not necessarily to be understood. And I think that’s healthy. We’re all at different stages of development and purpose. We’re often with people and yet we are essentially always alone. We come here alone and we will leave alone.
I am finishing up the arrangement of a new composition for my “originals” quartet, titled, “ALWAYS” and made a discovery that literally changed the entire work. This discovery was simply a chord that I substituted for the more common harmonic choice I’d originally written. The substitute chord says the same thing but with a lot more room for creative possibilities. It should be more fun for all of us to improvise over the progression too.
I couldn’t be more thankful for the work that I do at this stage of my career. I’m composing and arranging music for three very different ensembles. I’m doing some pretty cool work as an educator and clinician that’s valued by the community. Once a person finds their calling and purpose, the complexities of life remain, but are taken better in context. That’s the validated treasures of living to many decades of age and having quality life experiences.
Terri Anderson Burnett and I have been a family for many decades. She’s actually my “family.” We eventually learned that our spouse is our family and our children are really only loaned to us for a relatively short time. I call it life before and after kids in your home. It’s never the same as when they were growing up as little kids because it isn’t supposed to be. My family has worked very hard this entire time to be at every particular place in our life together we’ve ever been so far and it’s always fluid – never permanent. We raised our children to adulthood. We have grown from both good and not-so-good events. I still love and value her.
You are blessed if your children grow up to be productive members of society and good people. Anything more in the continuum of life is a true bonus. Fragmented families are common for various reasons like simple incompatibility and complex mental illness. But, if you and your spouse are truly best friends you can endure all of these changes and set an example of how it can be done positively. At least that is what we continue to learn. We’re blessed and thankful. We are living in a territory as a couple that nobody else who is still alive on either side of our family has experienced. We have never given up on each other and we never quit on our family. We accept that we cannot control the negative motivations or feelings of others and we also do not let such dysfunctional situations derail the overwhelmingly positive course of our life together. We are blessed and our faith tells us all things work together.
Those who also know these things from actually living them over the years can also attest to the fact that it’s a very complex yet very cool place to be in life. But we don’t expect many to understand until they get here. And that’s really not the point anyway. The point is to never give up. All of these realities are compositionally poured into this original music.
AN HUMBLE ARTICLE OF PRAYER SUBMITTED FOR THANKSGIVING
I grew up in a sibling family of leaders. We Burnett siblings were all taught by both of our parents to be independent in almost all things from a young age. And that was tangibly reinforced as each of us saw among the others of us the various stages of each one growing toward being the independent people our parents were hopefully training back then. Again, Mom Burnett used to say “you never know what type of person you are raising, you just do your best and hope.”
I had four brothers and four sisters whom I got to know personally while growing up. Yes, there were nine of us children who had lived beyond birth. Our sibling birth years range from 1943 to 1964 a span of over 20 years. I am a late Baby Boomer, the exact middle in that birth order with two older brothers and two older sisters, and two younger sisters and two younger brothers.
That means our mother literally had school-age children from the age of 19 until she was 59 years old. Think about being nearly 60 and attending your youngest child’s high school graduation ceremony. Wow. Different times and societal eras.
And although there are literally two generations contained within my sibling family cohort, our parents must have done a great job raising us because I don’t recall any of my siblings ever being purposefully divisive, troublemakers, or liars against one another in order to gain favor or approval. Sibling rivalries, yes. Dustups and scraps, yes. But maliciousness, or vengeful intentions, no.
We each maintained a level of character and decency as we had been purposely taught by our parents and elders that was based on the “Golden Rule” and other standard biblical principles. That doesn’t mean any of us were or are perfect.
I heard my mother say on numerous occasions that if “something” ever happened to her, we’d be able to successfully fend for ourselves competently. She succeeded in that goal and all of us were equipped to live lives of quality. But it was and has always been up to us and our own choices. That’s key.
During this process parents inherently piss off their children. Most people have heard such parental lamentations like: “this hurts me more than it does you” and “you may not understand now but you will later.”
As leaders, we were inherently taught how to deal with “bullies” of all types. We learned that bullies could be friends and strangers of course, but also among the people in your family and inclusive of other dear loved ones.
We learned all of this BEFORE we left our sibling home to make our own paths as autonomous adults in the world at large. I don’t recall ever hearing of someone taking advantage of (or deceiving) any one of my siblings by catching them unaware of such nonsense no matter how things often look in the short or mid-terms of development. And we didn’t get into many physical altercations.
We were all taught to play the “long game” as you do in chess.
Some lessons eventually stuck with us as base character traits. We were taught “right from wrong” and we didn’t act like it was someone else’s fault whichever of those we chose to do in a given situation or circumstance. At least we didn’t try to do that within our sibling family or in the company of close family friends because we knew someone or everyone would call it out.
Terri’s Anderson sibling family lived parallel to the Burnett sibling family ethos described here. I also observed how both of her parents interacted with her as an adult. T was groomed to be a refined lady and musical artist.
When she and I became our own branch of the family in 1979, we intentionally raised our two children to hopefully be confident leaders. And ethical people. However, we have learned that what they actually become is largely on them.
All of this “tough love talk” actually does take into account that we all get to a place in life where we’re beset by serious challenges that can hurt us to the literal point of permanent damage or actually kill us prematurely.
These are among the “old people lessons” that my mother Violet and Terri’s mother Sintha used to try to give us forewarning of before we became parents of adult children. At some point, you have to let your children stand on their own. And sometimes they won’t like it. Sometimes they will get over it and sometimes they won’t, or at least it might take some living with their own adult children to come to terms with how their own parents have been previously judged. We have already learned that one.
Even though we are successful adults and successful parents with a family of our own by most of those common metrics, and Google searches didn’t exist back then, I was still actually mature enough to know that I was not my parents’ friend or peer – no matter how old I got. It doesn’t work like that in Black culture. I know that showing elders such respect actually doesn’t diminish me in reality, it shows that I can be counseled and taught.
Sometimes we parents can overprotect to the point of spoiling certain aspects of the development of our children. We all do it no matter how much we try not to make the mistakes with our own children that our parents did with us.
But I do know that I have yet to see anyone who practices evil deeds succeed in this life over the long term. Likewise, reciprocity is simply meted out to balance such extremely warped souls who think that they have all of the answers until they don’t. Sometimes we need such checks and balances to provide a path toward healing.
I have learned that familial love isn’t about keeping score. And it is a sad perversion when that type of mentality enters into family dynamics on any level. Weaponizing the Internet to “troll” or “bully” one’s family is comical to someone of my generation because people my age don’t actually need technology as a definitive part of our daily lives like that.
And in an age when you can literally search the Internet on your device until you find something (and you will) that validates or justifies your position, regardless of the topic, the possibility of miscommunication among loved ones is amplified.
This simply shows a lack of character, or a moral lapse in the least, and the hilariously incompetent use of a potentially marvelous communication tool. It’s like the unintentionally malicious use of email to send stupid chain letters that you didn’t compose to all of your friends without using the Bcc feature to hide their email addresses. Except on purpose.
Starting fights with me or “ghosting” me from behind computer or smartphone screens is like someone cursing me out in a language I don’t understand or speak. You really told me off, but did you? So, using a “meme” as the basis of the title of this article is sort of ironic.
I think the reason that I truly don’t buy into the hype of all that is because I learned enough lessons while growing up and know the difference between doing what is “right and wrong” at the core of my being. I know that hate never wins. I will not practice hate regardless of the situation. I will choose to leave you alone rather than hate you. Hopefully, peace will win.
Having lived long enough now to have been with some fine people at the ends of their lives and witnessing that to a person each one stated in their own vernacular and words essentially that life isn’t about winning argumentsor one’s own selfish pursuits.
We can usually overcome being imperfect humans and mend family relationships even if mental illness, alcoholism, or substance abuse are part of the dynamics that we need to mend. However, we are not to let ourselves be abused by such wounded spirits no matter if they are embedded within people we love deeply.
LIFE: You either quit or keep going. They both hurt. Read that again.
BurnettFamilyUS.org 🏛 We started digitizing our VHS movies and film photography slides in 2007 through Walmart. These clips are from a DVD that was the result. +++
However, since DVD is a dead technology we are going to send all of these to iMemories (thanks Dr. Mary Jane Burnett) and have purely digital files created. Videos and photos will then be archived in the cloud and at our Ancestry portal for historical reference and posterity. +++
These clips are from a 1992 trip to Washington DC our family took together. I had just returned to the USA 🇺🇸 after my assignment with the NATO Band in Italy 🇮🇹 and was on the Staff and Faculty of the Armed Forces School of Music. Terri Anderson Burnett was a tenured elementary school teacher. +++
I was getting near the end of my active duty military career. So to keep from uprooting our family again I did both of these assignments by myself. T, our children (12 and 10 years old respectively) and my mother stayed at our home we’d built in Missouri. +++
They did a great job holding down the fort. I am still so proud of them to this day. Military families have no choice but to be a team. And, objectively speaking, we were a great team during those years. +++
Mom Burnett was excited about going to Washington DC. While sitting on the steps leading into the Lincoln Memorial she stated: “I never thought I would ever visit here in my lifetime!” But she did. That’s cool 😎 ❤️🇺🇸
Christopher and Terri (Anderson) Burnett established their branch of The Burnett Family in March of 1979 at Copenhagen, Denmark. They are professional musicians, educators, and entrepreneurs based in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area.
Many people have come in and out of our life together as The Burnett Family, est. 1979.
Including our parents, siblings, children, and extended family members such as aunts, uncles, and cousins – the number of family members T and I are connected with biologically is legitimately still a very large one. We love them all despite how close we may or may not be on a day to day basis at any given moment.
Likewise is the number of true friends we’ve made over these years a very large group of individuals. There are many paradoxical sayings about the life family you are born with and the life family you grow into along the journey, (with variations ad infinitum) … These friends are indeed our family too.
We’ve come to conclude at this point in our life continuum that both can be both. That’s been lots of work learning this lesson and finally arriving here is definitely cool.
Our living blood relatives have come in and out of our lives over the years for whatever the reasons. We have come to understand that this is a natural order in life. Relationships with siblings and children naturally change dynamically with individual growth and interests. Lifestyle choices and personal belief systems impact familial relationships and closeness.
18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
— Luke 15:18-20 (American Standard Bible)
We’ve learned there is no such thing as the static “perfect or dysfunctional” families that are too often depicted in popular media as cultural “norms.” All families are simultaneously dysfunctional and perfect. That’s cool too. We’ve also learned that in our desire to love our family as parents and grandparents of adult progeny that we must also care for our selves and our own empty nest family too. However, these are the types of lessons that most of us can’t truly learn until we actually reach this age.
MUSICIANS AND ARTIST CLASS
We have many lifelong and true friends made through the common bond of music. And many of those friendships have grown to be family-like in mutual commitment, being tested in strength over time, and genuine brotherly love for one another.
Musicians are our natural life community among fellow humans. Particularly those who play the types of instruments we do and the types of music we do were typically the “not cool” kids growing up. We’ve found that doesn’t change. That “not coolness” remains in adulthood, but we’ve been fortunate to find our “tribe” of like minds.
Military veterans are also our community to the extent of our mutual respect for voluntary service to the United States of America. We inherently share a common ethos and motivation to serve others. Considering how long we have been living autonomously, we’ve also found out that it’s “okay” if the people you share genetics and blood with, don’t like hanging out with you and doing the things you like to do.
We don’t always like what blood relatives like. We’ve often experienced this and it was uncomfortable to admit to ourselves at first. But, that doesn’t change the genuine love for them. Nor does it negate any love they may genuinely have for us as well. It’s life.
FAMILY + LIFE’S WORK
The Professional Musicians’ and Teaching Artists’ life is one of constant study, research, and growth that’s validated through public presentations and is preserved as permenant documents like printed publications and audio recordings. It’s a lifelong pursuit and lots of fun too. We have validated our long belief that professional musicians and teaching artists can engage family life in concert with being among the creative class. We continue to serve as living proof of this validated synergy at each stage of our journey.
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
— 1 Corinthians 13:11 (King James Bible)
We started with a plan as a family and despite inherent challenges, have not varied too far from our original promise and commitment to each other as husband and wife when we formed The Burnett Family, est. 1979. Our parents are all gone now and it is only our generation and those who follow who remain. Just as our elders have become better understood, more wise, and insightful to us over the years, so will we to our progeny. Only time validates us.
YOUR LIFE: IT’S BIGGER THAN YOU
Only fools live for themselves and the single day. We have met and known many fools over the years. We were among the foolish at various stages of our lives. Such is life.
We have found it essential for us personally to live a life that is mostly of service to others and to our various communities. This life of service is based upon our own developed personal beliefs and Christian principles from our childhood upbringing.
Serving others makes you better. Serving others completes your own goals to levels that you alone could not imagine or achieve.
We have lived to see the tangible validation of this philosophy and credo over two professional music careers (serving with military bands for 22+ years and currently serving the at-large music industry for 26+ years and counting).
BURNETT MUSIC FOUNDATION
Burnett Music Foundation purposely began in phases by creating four Jazz music centered businesses as its core programs over the last 15 years. At the heart of all BMF programming is the inherent synergy of building community, building educational opportunity, and building arts infrastructure in the Kansas City metropolitan area.
Tax Deductible Contributions: We are a Tax Exempt Organization under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 501 (c) (3). Donors can deduct contributions they make to us under IRC Section 170. We’re also qualified to receive tax deductible bequests, devises, transfers or gifts under Section 2055, 2106, or 2522.
Christopher and Terri (Anderson) Burnett established their branch of The Burnett Family in March of 1979 at Copenhagen, Denmark. They are professional musicians based in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area.
My absolutely favorite military music assignment from my entire career was at the US Army Element, School of Music as a member of the staff and faculty where I also performed with the Armed Forces School of Music Faculty Lab Band jazz ensemble under the direction of Maurice Williams, Jr.
This was the “tightest” jazz ensemble big band I have ever played with – still to date.
We rehearsed every day during noon hour, a tradition that I remembered during each of my times as a student attending one of the courses there.
I recall skipping lunch with friends and going to listen to the Faculty Lab Band rehearsals instead of eating lunch at the mess hall.
It was cool that I eventually became a member of that band.
And our director, Master Warrant Officer Maurice Williams, Jr. was the immediate former director of the Army Blues jazz ensemble in Washington DC.
He’s an historic figure and pioneer. I learned lots watching how he directed and programmed our outstanding band.
And the way he managed and led all of us as highly skilled artists was a master class each day. He always kept everything focused on the music.
We played great charts too – killing! I still model my own approach to directing large jazz ensembles after him in so many ways.
When I left the school assignment I asked Mr. Williams for a signed photo. He said certainly. I was expecting one of his official military photos.
Instead, he gave me this photo from one of his last performances leading the Army Blues. It’s their 1991 concert at the international jazz festival in Montreux, Switzerland.
endings and beginnings
My professional military music career began as soon as I graduated high school when I passed the auditions for both the Army and Air Force music programs. I chose the Army because its program started new musicians at a higher rank and pay grade, not to mention the Army was larger and had more band assignments around the world to choose from.
I had great teachers during my developmental years and that is largely the reason I was able to pass the audition at such a young and inexperienced age. Thanks to instruction from my school band director, Mr. Jim Fuchs and to my private lessons teacher, Mr. Charlie Molina I was able to qualify and enlist.
Passing that audition resulted in my eventually staying with military music and going to the Army band in Germany where I ultimately met, fell in love with, and married Terri Anderson. We started our family together, raised two children into fine adults, and also finished a complete active duty military career as a family. Military families should be commended.
This Armed Forces School of Music assignment was literally the pinnacle of what is now objectively documented to be a stellar career for me in the Army serving as a professional musician. I was there on an unaccompanied tour. And it was a bittersweet situation where I was separated from Terri and our children. I have learned that is a typical rub in life. Good with bad.
Our Commandant (Tom Davis) and Command Sergeant Major (Charlie Heintz) wanted me to bring Terri and our children out to live in Virginia where the Armed Forces School of Music was located and I could have stayed assigned there indefinitely. But, Terri and I knew that living in the Tidewater Area would not have been a good fit for our family. It was huge geographically and population was in the millions.
My bosses also knew that I had made the decision to retire as soon as I could after serving 20 years so that I could go back home. One day they called me into the Commandant’s office and asked if I liked serving at the Armed Forces School of Music, and if so, what would make me stay in the military longer. Of course I actually loved the job. It was the best one to that point.
I simply told them our reasoning behind our family’s decision. And I didn’t expect any other consideration. I was a First Sergeant and senior soldier by then. There was a saying in my time, “if the Army wanted you to have a family, it would have issued you one.”
But Colonel Davis looked me in the eye and said we just happen to need a new enlisted bandleader where you want to go. It would be a perfect fit for your skill set considering what needs to be established there at this time. And he said that I would be paired with a senior warrant officer bandmaster to do that work.
So when that opening came up for the top enlisted job at the Army band in Missouri, I took it so that I could go home to be with my family. I stayed in another three years to complete my career.
And as they say, “the rest is history.”
Christopher and Terri (Anderson) Burnett established their branch of The Burnett Family in March of 1979 at Copenhagen, Denmark. They are professional musicians based in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area.
Our stuff. You know, stuff – not the property or money you leave behind to heirs in a last will and testament. That’s another blog.
Stuff. After many years of consideration and looking at the current reality of our situation regarding heirs and assigns, we realized that our middle aged kids really don’t want our stuff to carry around with them (and their own stuff) after we are gone.
Especially when we also considered how much stuff we genuinely and inherently have accumulated that is not necessarily the typical junk one typically can and does accumulate during a life.
A few years ago, we purposely went through our stuff and got rid of lots of junk. We also totally reorganized those typical bastions of stuff, our storage room and garage. We were ruthless purgers, in that if it was junk, it was gone, regardless of sentiment.
Being selected from among our siblings by our parents to keep certain tangible historic family documents, and admittedly not having a problem with serving in that informal archivist role for our families, we have collected some items related to the greater history of both sides of our family too. We are honored to do it.
We are not famous people, nor celebrities, so we find it wonderful that the State Archives Division of the Kansas Historical Society is interested in taking our collection when we pass on to that next dimension. See https://www.kshs.org
It must also be noted that we are very happy that there is particular interest in historical collections from Black Kansans.
The everyday Black American’s family history is often lost to posterity or overlooked by Ivy League historians doing research.
The contemporary history related to our particular branches of the Burnett and Anderson families now has the opportunity to be tangible during the lives of multiple generations to come.
Thanks to the Kansas State Historical Society our archives can extend beyond all of those individuals who are living now in our family. I like that they may not know us personally but they will know better who they themselves are. Indeed.
These archived items will provide tangible family history that objectively speaks to events during our lifetimes.
This Christopher and Terri Burnett collection will be in the form of donated items reflecting both our personal and professional lives.
We are sharing this journal in a blog with others in hopes that those so inclined will do the same for their unknown heirs.