This first photograph is from that year we hired dear late brother Keith as festival staff for the Rhythm and Ribs Jazz and Blues Festival in Kansas City. Pictured, left to right: Steve Baker, me, Keith, and Greg Carroll.
Happy May 12th Birthday Keith – we miss you.
THE LAST ANNUAL BURNETT BROTHERS “FATHER’S DAY GOLF CLASSIC”
Hey, Keith! I miss our annual “Father’s Day Golf” outings where we could always spend that time just hanging out together as brothers.
It’s been nearly ten years since you chose to leave your mortal life and it’s taken me nearly that long to simply not be as angry at you as I was sad over your choice. Yeah, that’s illogical for me, I know – hey, but I’m personally in a much better place over it all now and I sincerely do hope your spirit has found peace little brother.
PLAYING GOLF AGAIN
So I went and had my clubs re-gripped before the season. The pro in the clubhouse remembered me and tried to sell me new clubs. I said, “nah.” But I did tell him I hadn’t played since you left. He said you would be happy about that. I agreed…
We all process grief differently, and that’s okay…
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.
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.
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.
* 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
6 OF 9
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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
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.
Obviously, the start of a new year, but also the concluding of another decade.
The “roaring twenties” …
2020 also marks 5 years since our family trip to London, UK.
It was cool and we went on several day trips with our adult children.
Many photographs in this post are from that winter vacation.
We love them and are so proud of each of our children.
They have not only grown into adults to emulate, but each one is a truly brilliant person who contributes greatly to society.
And, most importantly, they are good resilient souls.
They don’t quit or give up.
OUR NEXT DECADE TOGETHER
2020 also marks the year we will turn 65.
We actually don’t know what turning 65 is supposed to feel like yet because this year is our first time doing it.
But we collectively know we’re blessed with good health, the love of our family + dear friends, we still have our chops, and still play our instruments at a professional-level – so we are very thankful.
Every year since we have been together, we have had a “winter vacation break project.”You know this type project. Yours probably could even be one like our office bookshelf and office storage space morphed into. It’s something that you plan to get around to doing, but never do during the course of the year because you can find what you need in the immediate and are able to get done what you need to get done despite there being no organized system in place to facilitate efficiency and accountability.
BUT . . . WE TRULY ARE ORGANIZED PEOPLE . . . REALLY WE ARE . . .
“The greatest sign of success for a teacher . . . is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist’ . . .”
– Maria Montessori
Nonetheless, it never fails that we find a better system or more logical process to use somewhere in our day-to-day living that helps out tremendously.
And it seems that during the course of simply living, while continuing to learn and grow, we will periodically find that old systems and methods are no longer functionally useful.
THE LIBRARY OF A COUPLE OF ACTIVE PROFESSIONAL WOODWIND MUSICIANS
“The principle goal of education is to create men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.”
– Jean Piaget
We use everything in our office bookshelf space as part of our business activities, woodwind studio teaching practices, and individual studies as professional musicians.
So, in our experiences, such resets are usually a good thing.
SOME HISTORIC ITEMS + JAMES R. FUCHS AND CHARLIE MOLINA
“It isn’t where you came from, it’s where you’re going that counts.”
– Ella Fitzgerald
I started playing a band instrument in the 9th grade, which is still late by most standards. In addition to the cursory learning to play some rudimentary form of the recorder, I studied the violin in the 4th grade growing up in Paola, Kansas. Yes, Paola, Kansas. However, I participated in private music programs at our church and had pretty good general music classes during grade school and junior high.
“Tell me, and I forget. Show me, and I remember. Involve me, and I understand.”
– Chinese proverb
Mr. Jim Fuchs taught me clarinet and saxophone. I played clarinet initially and then essentially played the saxophone from the 10th grade onward. Paola had its own music store in town back then too. That’s how I first met Charlie Molina, who was one of the owners and a Conn Clinician. I auditioned and successfully passed auditions to qualify for the military music programs of both, the Army and Air Force. I chose the Army.
“I’m still learning.”
*The main photograph of this post is from our family trip to England during Christmas time – exactly 5 years ago on this date. All other photographs are during the work.
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.