Family and Friends: both can be both

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.

DIFFERENT TRIBES

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.

See our work:

o Artists Recording Collective – ARC Recording Label (https://ArtistsRecordingCollective.biz)

o Bird Boot Camp (https://BirdBootCamp.org)

o Jazz Artistry Now (https://JazzArtistryNow.com)

o Kansas City Area Youth Jazz (https://YouthJazz.us)

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.

Get involved! 

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. 

Visit BurnettMusic.biz for more information.

Family Archives and Kansas History

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.

That’s cool. That’s legacy. That’s closure.

“ON THIS DAY” (February 13, 2011)

? “ON THIS DAY” (February 13, 2011) ten years ago, we took our late mother Violet to lunch at Fort Leavenworth. Mom would have been 97 years old on February 24, 2021.

Here are a couple of photos of us that came up on my photos feed today:

PHOTO: Violet Lorraine Jackson Burnett – February 13, 2011 at Fort Leavenworth

(1) our mom Violet,

PHOTO: We took mom to lunch at Fort Leavenworth on February 13, 2011

and (2) me with our mom Violet.

She’s 87 years old in these photos and you can see lots of dark hair on her head.

I get my red/brown hair coloring and skin tone from her side of the family.

She never dyed her hair and neither do I.

I still have a full head of hair and not much gray.


SOME CANDID MOM PHOTOS OVER THE YEARS


Grandpa “Jack”
(George Jackson)

My maternal grandfather was not bald, so current science says that’s likely why neither am I. Similar findings point to facts regarding specific genes contributing to my not having much gray hair now in the same manner as my parents did not when they were 65. Just the way it goes, I guess.

COVER PHOTO BY OUR FRIEND DUANE HALLOCK

6 of 9 has gone ahead

The signs of mortality are around us at every moment of each day. I’m not sure exactly when, but at some point in life we find peace with that fact and are not as afraid of death. Perhaps this is a counter to that human hyperarousal instinct and thus, inherently inoculates us against our primal fear of being mortal. Whatever the reason, it keeps most of us from staying in bed all day with the covers pulled up over our heads while waiting to die. Despite the challenges ahead for humanity and our nation, we move forward with optimism and confidence that another productive year is before us. We don’t chose to forget the past. We learn from it. We don’t forget our family members either – because they remain with us always in some context. So, the first post of 2021 is a “Roll Call” of our Burnett siblings and it’s dedicated to those family members of our generation who have gone ahead to that next dimension or plane of existence.

PHOTO an impromptu snap shot I took of our family on vacation in North Carolina.

PHOTO Former bases of the United States Air Force in France. Part of the Cold War. Date 1951 – 1966. Location France. Result US Withdrawal in accordance with French withdrawal From NATO Military Command Structure

* Michelle Antoine did not live beyond a few days after being born premature and was buried in the US military cemetery near Toul-Rosières Air Base during our family’s military service tour in France. We never got to meet Michelle but love him. He would have made our sibling number 10 had he lived.

 — BurnettFamilyUS.org

ROLL CALL

PHOTO I took while with my brother-in-law John (who is still among the living) stopping to admire a Model-A Ford on the Lake Erie island of Put-In-Bay.

Nothing reminds us of our own mortality like losing a close relative or dear friend. Even the death of favorite celebrities can often be a sobering moment for most of us in this regard. Even when we do lose beloved family elders or when someone we have known personally for many years passes away after a long life and well-lived life, we are sad but generally able to find resolution at some point through our grief, if not total peace.

PHOTO by my late mother of me with my grandmother Bertha Johnson Burnett at age 2.5 years old in Olathe.

There seems to be another consideration for most of us and it’s after we have safely grown up into adulthood, established autonomous lives, and then begin losing our fellow adult siblings inevitably to death. For me personally, this consideration goes beyond a confrontation of one’s own mortality because that usually happens for people my age decades earlier. It seems to be more of a personally inescapable reckoning with one’s own life, in terms of what kind of person we have become, how many of our goals we’ve realized, and what type of legacy we will objectively leave behind. If we are still living we are still writing that history.

PHOTO taken a few years ago by Lorri of me with my boys. Sons and Grandsons.

Of my nine siblings who lived through birth, grew up to be adults, and lived more life as autonomous people than children in their parents’ home, there are six of us still living at this writing in 2021. That’s pretty cool, especially since we are all over 60 years old now.

PHOTO RichiePratt.net is the online public professional archives of our late brother, the noted jazz drummer Richie Pratt. We keep his site updated and plan to maintain it indefinitely.

We lost our eldest brother Dean, who seriously dated several women but never married, or had children of his own, and by all accounts was a great person with a kind heart to many people in his life. A world class professional musician, he was a great mentor and friend to me after we got to know each other as adults.

PHOTO I took of our late youngest brother Keith with me before starting our very last annual “The Brothers’ Father’s Day Golf Round” at Trails West Golf Course.

We also lost our youngest brother Keith to suicide. Nothing prepares you for losing someone that way. It has taken most of these years since he killed himself for me to grieve and find peace personally – or as much as is possible. The fact is that many people die from suicide and like my youngest brother, most of those people suffer from the common and very treatable mental illness of depression.

PHOTO of our late sister Penny supervising a golf tournament fundraiser while she was working as an executive with the Girl Scouts of NE Kansas & NW Missouri.

However, the first sibling we lost was our dear sister Penny due to the effects of stage 4 lung cancer. Her death was clinically not unexpected. In this life she was a rascal and a very thoughtful person. It is an extremely sad experience to consider not being able to interact with her everyday. I still love and miss my little sister Penny dearly. Penny was the 6th of the 9 living children of Violet Lorraine Jackson Burnett and Clifford LeRoy Burnett.

PHOTO selfie that I took fairly recently of T and me at home.

6 OF 9

PHOTO I took of Downtown Kansas City

Penny and I were among the middle children in birth order and come from a relatively large sibling family. I am the exact middle of the 9 living children who grew up together in our parents home. Penny was the eldest of the last 4 of the 9. All of our siblings have been validated at this point as highly intelligent and talented individuals. Penny was always among the most brilliant persons within this group.

PHOTO I took of our family’s two former NCAA Division I Athletes, brother Nathaniel with our late brother Richard at the University of Kansas football complex in Lawrence.

1 of 9 – Richard Dean (b Mar 11, 1943; d Feb 12, 2015)

2 of 9 – Nathaniel Anthony (b Mar 1947)

3 of 9 – Joyce Nadine (b Jul 1950)

4 of 9 – Bonnie Jean (b Feb 1953)

PHOTO taken by our late sister Penny of Mary Jane, Micah, Lorri, T, Mom Violet Burnett, Madison, and me while we were all visiting our mom at the same time in Paola.

5 of 9 – Christopher LeRoy (b Nov 1955)

PHOTO I took of Micah, Mary Jane, T and Lor, Mom Violet Burnett, and Penny Lynn during the same Paola visit.

6 of 9 – Penny Lynn (b Jul 1, 1957; d Feb 9, 2012)

7 of 9 – Mary Jane (b Apr 1958)

8 of 9 – Donnie Ray (b Sep 1959)

9 of 9 – Keith Duane (b May 12, 1964; d Mar 19, 2013)

Downtown Kansas City

We Are Family

From my perspective, Penny was the quintessential little sister who idolized me as her immediate big brother – unless I was around, of course. And, our childhood together included the typical adventures a big brother and little sister share while growing up together. Terri and I saw this type of dynamic between our own son and daughter during their sibling years with us at home.

PHOTO of our children Micah and Lorri standing outside of our home they grew up in as children in Missouri.

And, even when our parents divorced while we were both still high school students, Penny was back to back with me on the mission of keeping the family together while achieving that immediate goal of our younger siblings graduating. We became mini-parents by proxy, while still being just “kids” ourselves. We walked around as if nothing had changed in our family and took care of business. I helped out our single mother with two after school jobs to help buy food and Penny made sure that chores and homework were getting done.

Growing up together, we children were always taught to stand for something positive. Like many kids, we were vetted before we even left home. When I graduated and joined the Army two years later, our single parent home life was relatively stable. Penny and I stayed in touch during her senior year and beyond. I would send money home to help out the family and come home on leave whenever I could. Penny held it down, even after she went to Emporia State to school. Everyone graduated. We beat the odds. We had kicked ass indeed. We won.

PHOTO of our late mother and late father during their active duty Air Force career.

It’s CIRCLES

PHOTO of the newly planted “Maple In Memory of Penny” which is now huge and thriving in Leavenworth.

Penny continued to be the “glue” that kept all of us together. She knew what everyone was doing and what was going on in their respective lives. Penny knew what kind of characters we had all grown up to become, she knew our strengths and she tolerated our weaknesses. I always thought that was cool. She could have gone on with her own singular life after high school graduation, like many siblings choose to do. We weren’t our siblings’ parents after all. However, I came to appreciate the fact that Penny made a deliberate choice to keep in close touch with me, no matter where in the world I was over the subsequent years. Penny also made a deliberate choice to get to know my wife, Terri, and our children, Micah and Lorri, from the very beginnings of our branch of the Burnett Family through and up to the day that she left to go ahead of us.

PHOTO I took of Penny’s home after it was finished.

I was tempted to post a photograph of my sister with me. But, Penny gave of herself to me and so many people as well. So much so that we all felt the special love she had for each of us individually. So, I could not post a singular picture of she and I together alone and still accurately represent that enormous dynamic. However, I posted a picture of her house instead. It is a beautiful little carriage house to one of the historic mansions in Leavenworth. It was a mess when she and Bill first moved there. Penny worked on that house for the better part of the 10 years that she and her husband Bill were married. Inside and out. Hardwood floors to kitchen remodel. Lawn and landscape. She finally finished it and was ready to begin buying her furniture to fill the special lovely places that Penny’s imagination and dreams had created within that house. The only frustration or sign of complaint that I heard my sister utter was objective disgust at the facts that she had her house done and that she had become terminally ill. Not a negative comment, just matter of fact. Those who knew and loved Penny too, know that it would not have gone down any other way. The story of that house epitomizes the way Penny was in her relationships with most people. She could see the beauty and greatness in all of us, no matter what condition we were in at any given moment. Now, that is a big heart and is truly a great example of the essence of what love is about.

PHOTO of the fireplace at our “Healing House” home in Lansing that 7 of our siblings actually visited. Our outlook on family love is like this symbolism of an “Eternal Flame.”

COVER PHOTO

PHOTO that sister Mary Jane took of our late sister Penny with two of her nephews (Madison and Micah) at our mom’s apartment on West Ottawa Street in Paola.