Thanks to Nicole and Danae at the Dwight D. Eisenhower VA Medical Center‘s CPAC where Terri Anderson Burnett works for inviting me to speak for one of their “Black History Month” events. I gave a talk and presentation centered on the topic “African Americans and the Vote“ and enjoyed learning lots while doing the research for this opportunity. A couple of years ago, I spoke at their “Martin Luther King Jr. Day” event.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH
I enjoy discovering new facts while doing research to give talks, presentations, and even music clinic. What I learn each year during Martin Luther King, Jr. and African American recognition periods is always enlightening.
Having lived long enough to be a “Papa” and “Nana” (grandfather and grandmother) now, we’ve actually lived lots of significant and interesting “history” ourselves.
Ultimately, we’ve found that despite the inherentissues and mythswithin human society, the fact is that there is only one race – the human race. We are one family.
According to a Harvard study, music is indeed the “universal language.”
This and other contemporary studies reinforce my beliefs in this regard as well.
No matter where we’ve visited or lived in the world, we were able to communicate with others through the common bond of music. That’s cool.
On January 24, 2020, I had the honor and privilege of sharing research and methods with my colleagues and peers at the annual Missouri Music Educators Association In-Service Workshop Conference. Sponsored by MMEA and Conn-Selmer, Inc.
T went with me and we had a pretty good time together as well.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There’s no manual for living life that guarantees ultimate outcomes because people have the will to choose. And the travels during a life can wound some beyond repair.
As parents, you just live each day with the intent of creating positive experiences and environments where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. And, always love one another. That’s the best you can likely do as human beings and parents.
We adopted the philosophy to err on the side of love. When our children need us collectively and individually, we are always there for them to the best of our ability.
We are only mortal and do have favorites as parents though.
They are our favorite son and favorite daughter respectively.
Our late mother, Vi Burnett used to say:
“You never know what type of person you are ultimately raising – you simply do your best by your children and the decisions they ultimately make will determine who they become as autonomous adults.”