LIFE: You either quit or keep going. They both hurt.

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.”

Music is among the most objectively honest things a person can do in life.
You can either do it or you can’t do it yet.
And neither condition is a permanent state of being.

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.

Our two eldest brothers were NCAA DIV 1 varsity scholarship athletes.

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 grew up attending St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church in Paola, Kansas.

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.”

Every year my high school class still gets together for a reunion in the town where we all grew up.

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.

A pre-growth spurt picture with my 8th-grade basketball team. I was 5′ 2″ tall and started at point guard.

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.

Morning coffees with T 💕

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.

Professional photo shoot in T’s Office Studio

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.

Thanksgiving and Homecoming with our eldest. 💕
Visiting our youngest and her family in England. 💕

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.

We were fortunate to find out we were musicians.

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 come from a noble line of people and am proud to carry on my family’s heritage.

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.

We’ve done pretty well for two professional musicians who also became a family in our twenties.

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 arguments or one’s own selfish pursuits.

THANKSGIVING: We always have more to be thankful for than not. We all need the help of others.
Each day is a new opportunity to do something positive and use your talents for good. You might have the opportunity to help someone else help themselves to get through one more day and not give up.

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.

And it’s ultimately just about lifelong learning

The “artist side of me” thinks that the paradigms of our social and economic systems are inherently set around capitalizing on things we do to perpetuate our species (like childbearing and child-rearing).

MIDI AUDIO MOCK-UP DEMO OF “INTERSTITIUM” BY CHRISTOPHER BURNETT (BMI)

We make industries out of “becoming” and many of us can lose sight that the goal is to actually arrive and “be.”

MIDI AUDIO MOCK-UP DEMO OF “DEFRANZO LOOP” BY CHRISTOPHER BURNETT (BMI)

And as musicians, we all eventually learn that it actually takes many many years after completing a degree program or course to truly master most of the information and materials that were studied and taught.

MIDI AUDIO MOCK-UP DEMO OF “SONG FOR MICAH” BY CHRISTOPHER BURNETT (BMI)

It also truly almost takes just as long to simply recognize that fact because most people are too busy living day to day to pay attention to such nuances and details.

THE STANDARDS, VOL 2, LIVE AT THE DRUM ROOM IN KANSAS CITY: “INVITATION” BY CbQ

But, that’s all part of the process of living and reinforces it’s ultimately about lifelong learning.

“FIREBIRD” BY CHRISTOPHER BURNETT (BMI)

As successful musicians, artists, and people we ultimately learned to first be of service to others and our community rather than simply using every encounter for shallow selfish purposes.

“NOTOS (THE SOUTH WIND)” BY CHRISTOPHER BURNETT (BMI)

# # #

Christopher and Terri (Anderson) Burnett established their branch of The Burnett Family in March of 1979 in Copenhagen, Denmark. They are professional musicians, educators, and entrepreneurs based in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area. 

Shoes Older Than You …

PHOTO: “First Haircut” – Me at age 2, our Barber, and our Dad taken by our Mom

One of the first mentoring sessions that I can remember having from my father included his deliberate efforts to “teach” me how to mow our lawn – certainly a basic and practical skill set that he knew would be useful to me in life. Along with most of the lessons inherently learned from both of my parents, I have subsequently used Cliff Burnett’s method of cutting grass at the various stages throughout my entire life. And with most always excellent results too, I must admit here in hindsight.

These skill set lessons were applicable to learning most anything and largely taught based upon his already having established prior successful experience accomplishing a particular task.

Often he would not say anything verbally to me. He would do the task as I watched, then I would repeat the task the same way that he had done it successfully. I later found out that this process was and still is common, and many people today still learn to do many things this way – particularly within my own Black American culture.

He and my mother divorced not long after I’d completed 9th grade so those lessons ended after that. I have often wished that my own progeny could have interacted with him too. Perhaps they would understand me better in addition to being better themselves from having the experience.

Clifford LeRoy Burnett was born on Sunday, July 5th in 1925 and was a World War II veteran (Navy Sea Bees) who later served in the US Air Force – Greatest Generation. He served just over 19 years on active duty and had reserve time between when his Navy service ended in 1945 and he reenlisted in the Air Force in the late 1950s. Dad used to proudly exclaim that he was “the seventh son of a seventh son.” Subsequently with the advent of Ancestry.com, our family tree validates that indeed he was “the seventh son of a seventh son.”

Dad was also genuinely enthusiastic about life despite growing up through the Great Depression, segregation, and military service during a world war. Although he was a man of relatively few words, he still was a positive person and encouraging most of the time that I can recall. He was a great athlete in his youth and although he was over 30 by the time I was born, Dad was still a fine athlete when I came of age to appreciate such things although he was in his 40s by then.

He only lost his temper with me once that I recall. I was a teenager. I wasn’t listening to his advice as much as I once did because I had begun to have my own ideas and experiences.

PHOTO: T and me at the VA CPAC after a presentation.

Dad was also coaching me to be a baseball pitcher during that period of our life together. I just knew that I was not a baseball pitcher. Dad was a great baseball pitcher in his youth.

I was a fast runner and better suited to be a baseball outfielder. I could throw pretty hard but never had the control to be a baseball pitcher. My younger brother Donnie was the baseball pitcher among us. I liked playing centerfield.

I was also a saxophone player and wanted to do that with my time more than anything else by then. And although Dad was proud of my musical pursuits and appreciated my dedication, he felt I should still be well rounded and developed in other areas too. He was right, of course.

PHOTO: The last wearing of my 20 year old Sketchers today.

I recall from one occasion that I questioned him as to why I had to stand a certain way and go through the specific motions he was teaching me in order to successfully throw the baseball into the old tire used as a target on the back of the old garage.

Dad said to trust him because he already knew doing it that way was most efficient. I debated the fact that I could already throw the ball all of the way from centerfield to home plate and hit the catcher’s mitt – high or low, wherever it was placed. Dad said that was a different skill.

He must have seen the doubt in my eyes. For the first time in my life I had debated something my father was teaching me. That’s not a bad thing, it’s a growing up thing. He just cocked his head.

PHOTO: My most comfortable and favorite pair of shoes for two decades.

Dad said, “okay do it your way and hit the strike zone target, then.” I threw from my normal stance and was not able to consistently throw strikes. I would have walked in a run, or two, or three, or four had I been pitching in a real game.

He must have seen the puzzled look on my teenaged face and yet, I still verbally protested the validity of my own way of throwing the ball out of ego and ignorance. Just like most kids would.

Dad silently shook his head in what seemed to be disgust, picked up the baseball and proceeded to throw strike after strike into the exact middle of the tire target. He threw the ball so hard that it bounced directly back to his mitt for the repeated throws. And I had never seen anyone in real life throw a baseball with the velocity with which he threw the ball. He always hit dead center.

PHOTO: My replacement loafers. Here’s to another 20 years, boys.

Dad could see that I was a bit shaken by such a display of power that I had never witnessed from him before in my life. He calmed me with his big grin and said to trust what he shared with me.

I learned a big lesson that day, as I usually did during my interactions with Dad. I told him as much and how impressed I was with what he had just done. He said for me not to be impressed.

He simply said, “Son, I have thrown lots of baseballs before just now. You have only thrown a few by comparison. I should be this good at it. You will get the same type of experience and practice at something. Just like I have shoes twice as old as you are that I still wear. Old is often good.”

He said if we keep trying, we all usually keep getting better with time.

PHOTO: Lake Erie Duets

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. 

BurnettFamilyUS.org 🦊

🦊 One of our cameras caught the neighborhood fox out at 3:23 am this morning making his rounds. He must vary his route and routine because the last time we saw him on camera was after the last snow fall a couple of months ago. Pretty cool to see him again so soon. We thought he had left (or had been killed) until that previous sighting.

NOTE: We are using “he/him/his” as gender attributes for this fox because we read that this time of year it is the male who goes out to gather food while the females stay with the kitts in the den.

Adulting (“Grace, Strength, and Dignity”)

GRACE

If you’re over 60, it’s a fact that regular exercise is one of the most important ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

We’ve resolved to get up every morning to do aerobic exercises of some sort for a couple of hours beyond practicing musical instruments of course.

STRENGTH

The beautiful weather this morning allowed us to get outside and walk along with actually hitting some golf balls too.

At this age, most people have paid some real life dues.

DIGNITY

It’s okay to take care of yourself. It’s okay to enjoy the life you have envisioned and worked hard for decades to create.

WHAT IS ADULTING?

Adulting is a neologism for growing up that became popular on English-speaking social media in the second half of the 2010s. American writer Kelly Williams Brown has been credited with coining the term. The term is commonly used to refer to the context of tasks and activities that are necessary to carry out in order to live and function within mainstream civilized society, but are typically only done by adults due to pragmatic, financial, physical, or legal restrictions rooted in age. (Source: Wikipedia)


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.

“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.

Remembrance + Renewal + Resolutions

This is our traditional end-of-year post. The conclusion of 2020 also marks the end of the second decade of the first century of this millennium according to The Farmers’ Almanac (and the US Naval Observatory). Here’s to Remembrance + Renewal + Resolutions.

MMXX Remembrance

We completely purged and reorganized our home and life together in 2020 to match the phase of life we are now living. That’s pretty cool. As most of you likely know, doing this type of self-healing work has a renewing effect on the soul. Looking at one’s own history can be difficult. But it’s rewarding if you can. For us it was like having these 4+ decades of our life together put more firmly into proper perspective and giving us an objective balance moving forward within ourselves as individuals too. Remembrance + Renewal + Resolutions.


It’s great to be done with 2020 in lots of ways. The global COVID-19 pandemic. It was also a US presidential election year that fostered an objective appreciation for governmental officials who are public servants, but most especially for those who are truly civic leaders. The election reflected our paradoxical US population. More people in history voted for and even more voted against the incumbent. It looks like democracy will win again. Remembrance + Renewal + Resolutions.

Graphic Headlines are courtesy of US Elections 2020 | The Guardian

The 2020 Elections revealed that the same 50/50 divide of the Civil War Era still remains to this day in our nation. What I think is ridiculous, many others think to be reality. Social media became a major distortion field in 2020. So much so that I had to disconnect from some people who I have known for thirty years or more because seeing their posts kept resulting in me thinking less of them. And, seeing someone’s posts shouldn’t do that. I decided to leave them with their own thoughts and musings, as we are all entitled to have and remember the collegial times we shared in our youth. I had a caricature of some people who I didn’t really know at their core and that’s not fair to either of us. Have a great rest of your life old friends. It’s too short at best. Hence why I rarely post about politics . Remembrance + Renewal + Resolutions.


MMXX Renewal

As with every year, there were good things too.This year also marked both of our official retirements, the drawing of our respective social security pensions, and the launching of our family’s jazz music centered nonprofit organization, Burnett Music Foundation. We were able to safely produce three of our programs (ARC Student Jazz Jam Sessions, KC Area Youth Jazz, and Bird Boot Camp) utilizing the protocols used by US Army bands to mitigate coronavirus risk. Remembrance + Renewal + Resolutions.


MMXX Resolutions

We resolve to be thankful for each day and each opportunity to interact with the people we love, to do the work that we love, and to have our health to enjoy each day together. Here’s to Remembrance + Renewal + Resolutions.


We sincerely agree with these
sentiments of our 44th POTUS.
..

COVER PHOTO

Feb. 17, 2009 – Aboard Air Force One, a close-up of the Presidents signature on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which he had just signed in Denver.
(Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

AUTHORIZED USES: The official White House photograph are made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

Thanksgiving … is a daily condition

Most family people who also have children and grandchildren can relate to the state of being thankful. It’s actually pretty easy to be thankful if your life is good and your kids are doing well also.

T and I watched our parents at this age live with grace and dignity. I often tell my siblings who missed seeing our mom grow through her 40s, 50s, and 60s that they missed the best of her in many ways. I’m thankful that our children and grandchildren met her there too.

But most successful people also learn to be thankful for the balance that comes with the inherent challenges of living. Jazz musicians often call this the blues. These blues help us grow toward realizing those good times. We have found that good times simply result from many years of positive effort being rewarded in some cool tangible context. We’ve seen this in our children’s and grandchildren’s lives as well as in our own.


Our Children and Grandchildren help give us perspective.

During a conversation the other day, T and I decided that one of the coolest aspects of this stage and life is that we’ve lived long enough to have already had a significantly positive impact upon the lives of other people. Our children. Our grandchildren. Our friends. Our colleagues. As well as the general people of those communities where we have been fortunate to make our home over the years as a family.

A relatively recent photograph of me with my sons and grandsons

Micah is now the age I was when I retired from my active duty military career after 22-years of continuous service. Lorri is now the age I was when I was selected for the special assignment as the First Sergeant of the Student Company at the Armed Forces School of Music in Norfolk, Virginia. Seth is now the age I was when I was selected for the special musical assignment with the NATO Band in Naples, Italy. Ethan is now the age I was when I chose to go to the Army band at Ansbach, Germany where Terri and I first met. Ariana is now the age I was when I was accepted to the Army Band Group Leader Course at the Armed Forces School of Music. Owen is now the age I was when I got serious about music and practicing the saxophone. Avery is now the age I was when my father was still active duty Air Force and we still lived at Kincheloe Air Force Base in the Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan Air Defense Sector. Hayden is now the age I was when I got my first “big boy” hair cut.


As Parents and Grandparents we still learn from our kids.

When our children first left home as young adults our instinct was to protect them as we did when they were children. We didn’t know any better and had to learn how to be parents of adults. Over the years we’ve (or rather I have) learned to trust what they were taught and trust they have practical common sense. Over protective to a fault sometimes.

Our daughter Lor, our son Seth, and our two youngest grandchildren

I will add to this parental transition and growth was my own personal distrust of most people in our society and nation as a black man. Yes, that sounds really awful considering everything positive and wonderful that I have been part of and have done throughout my life and career. But, since everyone has something to confront, this issue has been part of the deal of me becoming who I am in a more mature form. Reconciling contradictions is the essence of life after all. And it’s often a challenge for others to understand we are all works in progress no matter how old or experienced.

Our daughter Lor, our son Seth, and our two youngest grandchildren

The cool thing about being a grandparent is that you can look at your children and grandchildren and they will show you that you won life. You ran the table. They help you realize that you already have everything you need. Yes, our children and grandchildren taught us that. Even that littlest guy who seems to have lost total patience with the photo shoot.

We are truly thankful everyday.

promises, promises …

always a better jazz mousetrap

Kansas City Area Youth Jazz (YouthJazz.us) recently finished our 2020 season. This was our second season, and like the 2019 debut season, it was again very successful – despite 2020 being contracted from our normal 4-months to 2-months, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic safety restrictions and protocols that continue at this writing.

2019 Kansas City Area Youth Jazz season recording
session set at BRC Audio Productions, Inc.
2019 Kansas City Area Youth Jazz season recording
session set at BRC Audio Productions, Inc.

Kansas City Area Youth Jazz (KCAYJ) is a private jazz education program that was conceived in 2010 to fill a void that existed in this arena back then, but for various reasons it was not formally launched until 2019. It’s a unique program in that KCAYJ is designed to be a “youth jazz artist experience” rather than a variation on the summer jazz camp model. See our story at this link, it’s pretty interesting how things came together.


lifelong jazz artist + jazz educator

Historic Photograph: The 2009 Kansas Bandmasters
Association Convention (Wichita) with Mr. Leon A. Brady.

Upon returning home to the Kansas City area to live, I connected with people on the scene here who became friends and mentors. Particularly, Ahmad Alaadeen as my last great applied jazz saxophone teacher and the legendary Leon A. Brady who invited me into his youth jazz program as the woodwind faculty in 2007. Mr. Brady founded Kansas City Youth Jazz in 2000 and it grew into five big bands comprised of over 100 students in grades 6th through 12th. His was a unique model in that we faculty would conduct sectional clinics before the bands rehearsed the music together as a full ensemble. Needless to say, doing this made for really tight ensemble work and the band directors could work at a more refined level than simply “fixing notes.”

Historic Photograph: 2011 shaking hands with Mr. Brady after
his final concert and retirement from his program.

I immediately noticed that the students could not improvise very well. It was likely so glaring because the ensemble work was so tight and sounded so good. I asked Mr. Brady for permission to start a combo lab after the Saturday morning rehearsals were finished at 11:30 and he approved. I started with one combo and that quickly grew into two combo labs – the 11:30 and 12:30 combos. A fellow faculty member, Jason Goudeau joined me and we taught the students basic song forms and how to deal theoretically with common chord progressions found in jazz music.

12:30 Combo performing at the Madrid Theater in Kansas City

The students began playing coherent improvised solos and the program thrived. So much so that I was invited to present the Kansas City Youth Jazz 12:30 Combo and give a clinic at the Kansas Bandmasters Association Convention (Wichita) with Mr. Brady in 2009.

11:30 Combo during a performance in Kansas City

This was a promising generation ago now. These young musicians are now adults. Several have gone on to graduate from top music schools and conservatories, become music educators, professional military musicians as well as scientists and business people. I have been successfully and effectively teaching music since the 1980s. In addition to my private studio practice, I have actually taught jazz at the college-level. I enjoy working with middle-level and secondary school music educators, but have never been a public school band director myself. They are indeed my musical heroes.

Jay McShann Musical Memorial February 2007 – Gem Theater KANSAS CITY | Playing lead with 18th & Vine Big Band after Bobby Watson left – I actually got to meet Mr. McShann and interacted with him several times before he left us. That’s my last great applied jazz saxophone teacher, the late, great Ahmad Alaadeen on tenor.

art is about doing good business

2020 FELLOWS (ARC) – digital album

In addition to all of the things the combo program taught youth jazz artists, Kansas City Area Youth Jazz teaches that art is about doing good business. Most of the act of doing good business happens away from your musical instrument and the stage. It is arts administration. It’s planning and developing programming. It’s customer service. It’s keeping promises to your art, your fans, your band members, and the people who believe in your ideas and dreams. Promises. Keep them.

2019 FELLOWS (ARC) – digital album and limited edition heavy vinyl LP album
2019 Kansas City Area Youth Jazz Fellows after their recording session in August 2019.

promises, promises …

We kept a big promise today to those wonderful people who supported the Kansas City Area Youth Jazz program during its very first season. Yes, even before we were an established entity with the successful track record we have established in two great seasons. Your vinyl LP albums are in the mail to you. They sound superb and Bill Crain took the time needed to ensure that the music on this album will genuinely merit repeated listens. You’ve got a “collectors’ item.” Thanks again! All the best, Mr. B