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.

“Black History” is everyday

Here’s an historic professional studio photograph of our late mother Violet Lorraine (b. 1924, d. 2012). It’s on permanent display with several other family photographs in a prominent place in our home.

Mom Burnett graduated from Olathe High School with her racially integrated class of 1941.

Our paternal aunt Aida Burnett was among her classmates and the only other Black student.

At 17, mom entered Pittsburg State Teacher’s College where she attended for two years until returning home to live in Olathe and work at the Sunflower Munitions Plant in service of the national ethos supporting the allied efforts to ensure a victorious resolution of World War II.

She subsequently married our father Clifford LeRoy when he returned home to Olathe after his World War II service as a Navy “Sea Bee.”

Several years after they had started a family together, my father re-enlisted in the active duty military, this time to serve in the Air Force.

I was almost two years old at the time we began these travels and also the youngest child of the family. I remember our military service years as among our happiest.

We had lived in Colorado and France, where three of my four younger siblings were born.

And then we lived in Michigan before settling in our maternal hometown city of Paola in the 1960s where our last brother was born.

Our parents divorced between my freshman and sophomore years of high school. Looking back from a more mature perspective, the established foundation we had been given by both of our parents, (along with the strong community paradigm we grew up within during those times,) enabled each of us as fellow school age siblings to successfully meet our challenges with overall resiliency. That’s cool.

Mom would ultimately live the remaining decades of her life as a happy resident and fine citizen of the greater Paola community.

She was also an active member of our church where she even played the piano as part of the music ministry – for services and for the choir.

She worked her way up in her professional career to ultimately serve as a state certified alcohol and drug abuse counselor for the (now defunct) Osawatomie State Hospital. We still have some of her business cards and awards.

Mom was the very first Black person (male or female) to do this type of work there and she even had a very nice “corner office” in her department’s building on the hospital campus.

She helped successfully raise very positively productive children (who were spread over three decades in ages) mostly during the period known as the American Civil Rights Era.

Each of us became adults who were equipped.

This is Black History.

It’s like the history of most any family, really.

And this story could likely be told with similar details by most Black families in America, and in almost any era, or from the perspective of most any generation.

What I would like to emphasize here in telling about our mother isn’t explicit in the preceding inspiring narrative.

But it’s likely the most important thing she’d want told and if not just simply remembered.

Mom never quit. No matter how good or how bad the particular circumstances, her faith remained very steady.

Hers was also a life that I witnessed as being tangible to my own and others, not simply a professional resume or good life obituary.

What’s not mentioned between the above heroic lines is the real heroism of continuing on after her mother died in a car accident when she was only six.

Mom and her baby sister went on to be raised by her aunt and uncle because our relatives didn’t allow their men to raise little girls all alone and by themselves back in those days.

What’s not mentioned between the above heroic lines is the real heroism of continuing on even after her widowed father died one day unexpectedly when his home’s heating stove literally burned his house down in the early morning hours before he was to leave for work.

What’s not mentioned between the above heroic lines is the real heroism of continuing on often positively and often only by her faith.

The importance of those historic lines above is what real good can happen in our own lives and those of other people when we don’t quit.

# # #

Us on the bus.

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.

Jackson The Plunger …

“Jackson The Plunger” is a nickname we took from one of the articles about our maternal grandfather, Edward George Jackson, who was mostly known by his middle name GEORGE since he shared the same first name with his father. Born in February 1903 and died in January of 1945, he didn’t quite reach his 43rd birthday.

1922 PAOLA HIGH SCHOOL YEAR BOOK – THE ORIOLE
1922 PAOLA HIGH SCHOOL YEAR BOOK – THE ORIOLE

FROM OUR FAMILY TREE AT ANCESTRY . COM



Our formal family trees are located within our private account through Ancestry.com. Our family website is not intended to be any type of genealogical record.



It serves primarily as our contemporary blog. We do sometimes include commentary related to our family genealogy here from time to time though. This post is one of those.


HISTORIC PHOTOGRAPH: A candid photo opportunity with our second eldest grandson, OWEN, who is one of GEORGE JACKSON’s 2nd great grandsons.

Our mother Violet Jackson Burnett and other relatives often told me that I “favored” GEORGE JACKSON. As was common of elders from those generations, they didn’t speak about him or anyone else in our ancestry with any specificity. Upon discovering these old yearbook photos at our family tree website, I actually had no idea what he looked like until now.


1922 PAOLA HIGH SCHOOL YEAR BOOK – THE ORIOLE

Edward “GEORGE” Jackson of Paola, Kansas (1903-1945) was my maternal grandfather. He attended and graduated from the same city school system that I graduated from with the PHS Class of 1923. As you can see by the above school yearbook page, GEORGE attended an integrated school system.


1880 United States Federal Census for Edward Jackson

GEORGE was the son of EDWARD Jackson, and EDWARD was the son of SOLOMON Jackson – see the names highlighted in green and yellow in the image of the 1880 United States Federal Census for Edward Jackson above.



Further observation of this census document shows the ethnicity or race of both Edward Jackson (my maternal great grandfather) and his father Solomon (my 2nd maternal great grandfather) listed as “Mulatto” a term of which most dictionaries define as a (dated or offensive) noun referring to a person of mixed white and black ancestry, especially a person with one white and one black parent. Interesting.



ALSO FROM OUR FAMILY TREE AT ANCESTRY . COM


That’s just only a glimpse of my maternal Jackson family tree. My paternal Burnett family tree is just as interesting. I discovered as the eldest son of Clifford Burnett (b. 1925), I am also the grandson of Charles Burnett (b. 1846), I am also the great grandson of Peter Burnett (b. 1798), and I am also the 2nd great grandson of Doe Burnett (b. 1750).



Much of the textbook history I was taught in school growing up doesn’t match with the history I have found in the historic records, deeds, and census documents which reveal that most of my ancestors were farmers, property owners and not enslaved in the late 1700s. Discovered other interesting history too. It seems that life is always full of drama – good and otherwise. Go figure, huh? This information doesn’t change who I am as a human being, a man, a husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, nephew, or son. However, it does give me a positive connection with the continuum of my heritage in the most objective context possible. My children and grandchildren don’t have to wonder who came before them in this sense. That’s pretty cool…


COVER PHOTO

BURNETT FAMILY TRADITIONAL THANKSGIVING DINNER (2012 – LANSING, KS)

John Henry was a man … was a real man

“Often we can find all of the #motivation and #answers we really need from the #history within our own #family” … 

John Henry Pratt was married to my great aunt Willa Beecham Pratt. Aunt Willa was the sister of my maternal grandmother Mary Jane Beecham Jackson. John and Willa Pratt were leading citizens and well respected among both the black and white communities of Olathe, Kansas.

John Henry worked for the railroad and Willa took in laundry along with cooking for various people and functions around town. By most standards they were considered “well off.” They had no biological children of their own. And I got to know them both pretty well during a good part of my childhood of the 1960s and 1970s after we came back to Kansas when my father’s active duty Air Force service was finished. I loved and respected them very much.



PRATT CONNECTION

When our mother’s mother was killed in an automobile accident in 1930, our mother was only 6 years old and her sister (our aunt) was a toddler.

HISTORIC NOTE: The Oriole – 1922 Paola High School Year Book. I graduated from Paola High School in 1974 as the Panthers. Our maternal grandfather George Jackson is featured prominently throughout the pages of this publication. And, as you see the Paola, Kansas school district was integrated 32 YEARS BEFORE the 1954 landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka school desegregation case.


ALL HER CHILDREN ROLL CALL

Our family folklore tells that it wasn’t proper for a widowed man to raise two young girls. Thus the reasoning Willa and John Pratt took our mother and her baby sister in to live with them. And our maternal grandfather George Jackson would subsequently die in a house fire several years later, truly leaving the Jackson sisters orphaned. Our mother, Violet, as a very young girl, would naturally remain inconsolable for many years but would ultimately overcome and have a great life in her own right. That’s another story …

HISTORIC PHOTOGRAPH: “Our NCAA Division 1 Athletes” – Richard (d) and Nathaniel at Kivisto Field, University of Kansas where Richard was a music education major, varsity football star, and remains an all-time letterman. He went on to greatness as a successful musician in New York City. Nathaniel was an education major, multi-event varsity track star, and walk-on varsity basketball player at Wichita State University. They were adopted by Willa and John Pratt after our mother divorced their father.

SIBLINGS ROLL CALL: Richard Dean (d); Nathaniel Anthony; Joyce Nadine; Bonnie Jean; Christopher LeRoy; Penny Lynn (d); Mary Jane; Donnie Ray; Michelle Antoine (d); Keith Duane (d).


JOHN HENRY PRATT FAMILY FOLKLORE

John Henry Pratt is a legend in our family and I want to make sure that our children and grandchildren know how significant he is to them too. I hope they tell their assigns about John Henry Pratt for generations to come.

Growing up, we called him “Dilloy” or “Deak.” I still don’t know why or what these nicknames even mean to this day and I’m in my sixties now. My lasting memory of John Henry will be his unpretentious modesty and humbleness. It was clear, even from my perspective as a boy, that the man had his priorities together.

They told me that John Henry was a World War I veteran and he fought in Europe and saw combat duty in Germany. So I asked him about it once and he told me that when his segregated unit encountered the Germans they would not fight the black soldiers. John Henry said a German soldier told him face-to-face that they didn’t have anything against the blacks who were actually politically oppressed peoples like most Germans were then. I was surprised by this but he insisted it was truth.

John Henry built his life around his family, rather than building a family around his life. I liked that. Every successful man I have been in contact with has had their own version of this ethos. At this point in my life, it’s objectively safe to say I have successfully modeled this in my own way. John Henry was a man you could look up to and admire.

They told me he adopted my two older brothers and I asked him why. John Henry told me that it was the right thing to do at the time so he did it. And that was the extent of what he had to say about that topic. John Henry was not at all mean or angry for my asking, but so matter-of-fact about it that my childish curiosity was satisfied and I left it alone.

I recall one terrible argument between my parents and the Pratts were visiting our home. My dad and John Henry used to talk outside by their vehicles. They’d talk about their cars and any other subjects of the day. My dad was frustrated with my mother and was talking lots about their issues to John Henry. John Henry listened and didn’t say anything or interject during my dad’s passionate oration.

When my dad finished, John Henry told him that all of those things were part of being a husband to a woman and a grown ass man. He told my dad that he understood his frustrations as best he could knowing the two of them and their relationship at a distance. John Henry also told my dad that my mom and us children would be taken care of if he were to leave us. That ended the conversation on that topic and they moved on amicably to discussing the football prospects of the Chiefs.


FEATURED PHOTO

“PLAY IT WHERE IT LIES” Father’s Day golf with my youngest brother Keith Duane used to be an annual tradition. He was actually a more than pretty decent golfer. Me not so much. Average at best. Golf is one thing that I actually simply do for “fun.” We simply made a point to do it so we would spend time with each other. That’s cool. I’m almost certain he’d be happy knowing I had my clubs re-gripped and am golfing again.

Parenthood is forever …

Our mother, Vi Burnett said something to me once about her family and us children that I continue to find to be subtly insightful.

“You don’t know what type of people you are raising. You just do your best and hope life doesn’t hurt them too badly that it dampens their spirit.”

— Mom Burnett

She also often quoted the adage that our children are only “on loan to us for a few years.”

But the thing that really stuck most of all is when she said that “you will never forget the times when all of your children were still living in your home.”

I understand her context much better now that I am the exact age she was when she said that to me in the 1990s. And, it’s true.

It’s not that you want to smother your children and keep them from engaging their own lives. It’s that you miss the times and when you finally figure out what you are doing, your kiddos are gone. It’s both beautiful and melancholy at once.

The goal of parenthood – bringing people into the world who didn’t ask to be here – is to nurture positive contributors to this world.

In hindsight, I can say we have done that in parenting both our son and daughter.

We’re equally proud of both of them as kick-ass adults and just as in love with them today as we were on those days we respectively met each of them in their delivery hospitals.

Spring Break Projects

spring = rebirth + renewal


PROJECT #1 – STUFF: PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE

My professional recording debut was in 1979 as a soloist with the Hof Symphony Orchestra in Germany.


Hof Symphoniker

Our Army band jazz ensemble performed Concerto for Jazzband and Symphony Orchestra, the 12-tone serial work by Rolf Liebermann, and I played the alto solo. I was still just 22 years old.


Hof Symphony Orchestra Rehearsal – US Army Public Affairs Office Photograph (1979)

In 1984 the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command put together an audio sampler for recruiting musicians. Our young family of four had moved back nearer to my home and lived in Missouri by then. So, I was playing lead alto and touring 8-states in the midwest USA with the 399th Army Band jazz ensemble. It was a very good band. Two of our “live recorded concert” selections were chosen to be included in “An Army Bands Sampler.”



We are in the beginning stages of some major spring cleaning and I came across the latter cassette in relatively pristine condition.


#familymuseum #cassette #analog


PROJECT #2 – DINO MASSA 2020 KC TOUR

Italian Jazz Pianist and Composer, Dino Massa

I met Dino Massa during my tour of duty with the NATO Band based at Naples, Italy. Dino was a masters student at the Naples Conservatory at the time and we used to play jazz gigs during my off-duty hours when the NATO Band was not touring. We reconnected via social media several years ago and resumed our musical collaboration with Dino traveling to Kansas City to perform concerts, master classes and record.



We released “Echoes of Europe” worldwide on the ARC label in 2017 to great reviews. It’s a very nice recording and special in that me and Terri (flute) are performing together again on most of the selections with Dino and several of my closest musical friends and colleagues on the KC scene. This year Dino is coming to perform a concert in Kansas City, teach a couple of master classes at a high school and college, then we’ll record another album for the ARC label.



We are recording original music and the theme for this recording project is inspired by the work of various impressionist artists


DINO MASSA 2020 KC TOUR GALLERY

MARCH 2020 IS WOMEN IN JAZZ MONTH IN KC

The 2020 Dino Massa KC Tour was a wonderful success. Maestro Dino conducted two master classes. Thanks to the Music Departments of USD 453 and KCKCC for having him interact with your students. Dino performed at Westport Coffeehouse Theatre with a quintet of KC artists and thanks to everyone who made it. And the recording session at BRC Audio Productions in Kansas City was very nice as well. We have another very fine album of original compositions for release on the ARC recording label.


LHS MASTER CLASS


KCKCC MASTER CLASS


WESTPORT KC CONCERT


BRC AUDIO PRODUCTIONS RECORDING


The featured photo is the Castel Nuovo, a.k.a. Maschio Angioino, a seat of medieval kings of Naples, Aragon and Spain

One Family + One Tribe


#BlackHistoryMonth 


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


One Family

I enjoy discovering new facts while doing research to give talks, presentations, and even music clinics. What I learn each year during Martin Luther King, Jr. and African American recognition periods is always enlightening.

Having added “Papa” and “Nana” (grandfather and grandmother) to our monikers, we’ve now actually lived lots of significant and interesting “history” ourselves.

Ultimately, we’ve found that despite the inherent issues and myths within human society, the fact is that there is only one race – the human race. We are one family.


One Tribe

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.


VISION 20/20


#MissouriMusicEducatorsAssociation #Clinician


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.