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.

Culminations mark endings and also new beginnings

Armed Forces School of Music Faculty Lab Band

My absolutely favorite military music assignment from my entire career was at the US Army Element, School of Music as a member of the staff and faculty where I also performed with the Armed Forces School of Music Faculty Lab Band jazz ensemble under the direction of Maurice Williams, Jr.

This was the “tightest” jazz ensemble big band I have ever played with – still to date.

We rehearsed every day during noon hour, a tradition that I remembered during each of my times as a student attending one of the courses there.

I recall skipping lunch with friends and going to listen to the Faculty Lab Band rehearsals instead of eating lunch at the mess hall.

It was cool that I eventually became a member of that band.

And our director, Master Warrant Officer Maurice Williams, Jr. was the immediate former director of the Army Blues jazz ensemble in Washington DC.

He’s an historic figure and pioneer. I learned lots watching how he directed and programmed our outstanding band.

And the way he managed and led all of us as highly skilled artists was a master class each day. He always kept everything focused on the music.

We played great charts too – killing! I still model my own approach to directing large jazz ensembles after him in so many ways.

When I left the school assignment I asked Mr. Williams for a signed photo. He said certainly. I was expecting one of his official military photos.

Photo gift: Mr. Williams and his Army Blues

Instead, he gave me this photo from one of his last performances leading the Army Blues. It’s their 1991 concert at the international jazz festival in Montreux, Switzerland.

endings and beginnings
Part of our “Scrapbook” wall in our storage room.

My professional military music career began as soon as I graduated high school when I passed the auditions for both the Army and Air Force music programs. I chose the Army because its program started new musicians at a higher rank and pay grade, not to mention the Army was larger and had more band assignments around the world to choose from.

I had great teachers during my developmental years and that is largely the reason I was able to pass the audition at such a young and inexperienced age. Thanks to instruction from my school band director, Mr. Jim Fuchs and to my private lessons teacher, Mr. Charlie Molina I was able to qualify and enlist.

A 21st Century gathering with our kids.

Passing that audition resulted in my eventually staying with military music and going to the Army band in Germany where I ultimately met, fell in love with, and married Terri Anderson. We started our family together, raised two children into fine adults, and also finished a complete active duty military career as a family. Military families should be commended.

This Armed Forces School of Music assignment was literally the pinnacle of what is now objectively documented to be a stellar career for me in the Army serving as a professional musician. I was there on an unaccompanied tour. And it was a bittersweet situation where I was separated from Terri and our children. I have learned that is a typical rub in life. Good with bad.

A 20th Century visit with Mother Burnett

Our Commandant (Tom Davis) and Command Sergeant Major (Charlie Heintz) wanted me to bring Terri and our children out to live in Virginia where the Armed Forces School of Music was located and I could have stayed assigned there indefinitely. But, Terri and I knew that living in the Tidewater Area would not have been a good fit for our family. It was huge geographically and population was in the millions.

My bosses also knew that I had made the decision to retire as soon as I could after serving 20 years so that I could go back home. One day they called me into the Commandant’s office and asked if I liked serving at the Armed Forces School of Music, and if so, what would make me stay in the military longer. Of course I actually loved the job. It was the best one to that point.

Guest Suite framed photos of the Commandant and Command Sergeant Major who let me come home.

I simply told them our reasoning behind our family’s decision. And I didn’t expect any other consideration. I was a First Sergeant and senior soldier by then. There was a saying in my time, “if the Army wanted you to have a family, it would have issued you one.”

But Colonel Davis looked me in the eye and said we just happen to need a new enlisted bandleader where you want to go. It would be a perfect fit for your skill set considering what needs to be established there at this time. And he said that I would be paired with a senior warrant officer bandmaster to do that work.

So when that opening came up for the top enlisted job at the Army band in Missouri, I took it so that I could go home to be with my family. I stayed in another three years to complete my career.

And as they say, “the rest is history.”

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.