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.
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.
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.
PHOTO: A ‘selfie’ we took after finishing our musical performance with the special ensemble backing the Choir from Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts for Teach For America Kansas City at the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts.
The Latest Recording Project
Our latest recording project will be produced and released commercially on the ARC label. 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, 1979We 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.