With two significant military leaders and musical mentors – O’tress L. Tandy (far left) and Ralph J. Nelson (far right).


My favorite overall assignment was the Armed Forces School of Music where I served four times as a student and once on the Faculty and Staff as the First Sergeant of the Army Element’s Student Company which included 300 students at the time. My favorite band assignments were (1) the NATO Band at Naples, Italy, (2) the First US Army Band in the Military District of Washington at Fort Meade, Maryland, and (3) the 399th US Army Band in Missouri. We also loved living in Germany where we met while touring Europe with the Army band based at Ansbach at the time. There’s nothing like the experience gained from actually living and working overseas as a musician. We had very good assignments. I became a qualified professional musician, businessman, and leader due to the opportunities afforded by military service.

(commentary continues…)

Favorite Military Assignments Gallery

This photo was taken by Terri’s mom Sintha when they came to Germany to visit us just before we returned home to the USA to be assigned with the First U.S. Army Band at Fort Meade in the MDW.
This photograph was taken by the 1st Armored Division PAO during the rehearsal of jazz band performing with the Hof Symphony in Germany. I was 23 and a featured soloist.
The only time I played the jazz tenor saxophone chair during my Army career was with the FUSA band. This band was very good and toured lots of places on the East Coast.


399th commentary continued …

We were officially assigned with the 399th U.S. Army Band at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri from 1983 until 1990 and then from 1993 until 1996. However, the three-year break was when I went on unaccompanied assignments to the NATO Band in Italy and the Armed Forces School of Music Staff and Faculty concurrently before returning to the 399th as the Enlisted Bandleader. I say “we” because military families are a “we” when it comes to careers – you can’t be successful in anything without the support of your family. Mine was great!

Based upon the above assignment dates, you can see that we spent ten of my 22 years of service with the 399th. I met Mr. Tandy and Sergeant Major Nelson at the Armed Forces School of Music during the annual All-Eastern Band Clinic that was once held there for many years. The military has since merged with the Mid-West Clinic and no longer holds its own independent event. I was there to attend the advanced courses and had been accepted and enrolled in the warrant officer bandmaster course.

I didn’t complete the course to become a warrant officer bandmaster so I was available to return to duty as a musician in a band. I was scheduled to go to the nearby US Army Training and Doctrine Command Band which was one of the special bands then and posted at Fort Monroe. However, Tandy and Nelson approached me about coming to work with them at the 399th. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life and career.

That band toured an 8-state region of the midwest United States with our concert wind ensemble, large jazz ensemble, and rock band groups. Our family lived in the Missouri Ozarks for nearly 18 years – including finishing our military career there prior to returning to be based in my native home of the Kansas City metropolitan area, post-military career.

Tandy and Nelson left the 399th in 1985 and we almost left as well. I had been accepted to go to the U.S. Military Academy Band at West Point, New York because I had been selected to play in their large jazz ensemble, the Jazz Knights. It was a great potential opportunity – former members include musicians like alto saxophonist, Vincent Herring.

But, I didn’t get released by the new commander to go to that assignment because he and the enlisted bandleader wanted to keep me at the 399th – which really suuuucked. Looking back I can say that was an example of poor leadership on the part of my command team then. I have never forgotten how ironic it was to in effect be punished for doing a good job.

(commentary continues…)

Favorite Military Assignments Gallery

I was the official Conductor of the NATO Ceremonial Band during all dignitary honors ceremonies held at Headquarters of Allied Forces Southern Europe in Naples, Italy.


I was the official Conductor of the NATO Ceremonial Band during all dignitary honors ceremonies held at Headquarters of Allied Forces Southern Europe in Naples, Italy.


I was the official Conductor and Leader of the NATO Big Band and Show Band “Alliance” that conducted concerts and tours across Europe and the Mediterranean area.


I attended all of the courses offered at the Armed Forces School of Music during my career and also served on the Staff and Faculty as well.


I attended all of the courses offered at the Armed Forces School of Music during my career and also served on the Staff and Faculty as well.


I was a First Sergeant assigned to the Armed Forces School of Music where I also played in the Faculty Lab Band jazz ensemble and the Faculty Concert Band wind ensemble. I also played in recitals too.

399th commentary continued …

I have experienced that such things as this only make you a better person and artist. You need both good and bad for balance in life. I also learned to be a better military leader, mentor, and company manager because of poor leaders and negative situations like that one. What goes around usually comes around…

Considering everything good and bad, I made the senior enlisted rank of Sergeant First Class (E7) with only 8 years in service and ultimately retired in one of the most senior positions as a First Sergeant (E8). So, I served 14 of my total of 22 years in military service as a senior leader and boss. Not bad for a sax player from Paola, Kansas.

When I returned to the 399th for my final assignment in 1993, we were able to build a top-notch organization with superior musical products and quality personnel. We recruited great musicians, many who went on to lead military music at the highest levels from the Washington DC bands to the proponent agencies that create doctrine. So, it was very successful.

We also made the first actual compact disc digital recording by the 399th in 1995, which was actually the second recording ever made by that band. The band had recorded a vinyl LP under a previous command team and has likely made other recordings in the decades since.

The music posted here is available for free streaming and is from that first CD, “Essayons – Let Us Try.”

I dedicated the jazz ensemble selections on the recording to a couple of my mentors Ralph Jay Nelson, who still lived in that area at that time and Maurice Williams, Jr. who directed the Armed Forces School of Music Faculty Lab Band during my assignment there and was a former leader of the Army Blues Jazz Ensemble in Washington DC.

“Sound Trek” jazz ensemble directed by Sergeant Major Ralph Jay Nelson circa 1985.


399th Army (Engineer Center) Band

ESSAYONS, (Let Us Try), 1995

(Let Us Try)

INFORMATION: “Essayons (Let Us Try)” was recorded and published on compact disc in 1995 by the 399th Army (Engineer Center) Band, CWO Jeanne Pace and 1SG Christopher Burnett – command team and producers.

HISTORICAL NOTE: US Army General, Joe N. Ballard, was executive producer and the Commanding General of the US Army Engineer Center and Fort Leonard Wood in 1995. CWO Jeanne Y. Pace was our band commander and principal conductor. She was also the first ever female Army warrant officer bandmaster. My last active Regular Army post, I served as the unit First Sergeant and Enlisted Bandleader. I also directed the jazz ensemble and played woodwinds in the band. This is the very first modern-era digital recording produced in the history of the 399th Army Band and was the second overall recording by the band. The 399th Army Band is part of the Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th and 10th Cavalry units lineage, further validation of the fact can be found in the following research dissertation – The Organizational and Unit History of the 399th Army Band by Dana Douglas Harris. Listen. Enjoy.


  • 01|US National Anthem – F Key
    • CWO Pace, conductor

  • 02|Essayons – J Johnston
    • CWO Pace, conductor


  • 03|December 7, 1941 – J Ployhar

  • 04|The Cowboys – J Williams
    • CWO Pace, conductor


  • 05|I Could Write a Book – Rogers and Hart
    • SFC Parks, conductor
    • SSG Kippola, piano
    • SSG Shanks, guitar
    • SSG Rhoads, vox, bass
    • SPC Sadler, drums


  • 06|The Pink Panther – H Mancini


  • 07|WW Quintet Mvt 1 – A Deslanderes
    • SPC Rhoads – flute
    • SSG Wagaman – oboe
    • SGT Safely – clarinet
    • SGT Labonov – horn
    • SFC Baldwin – bassoon

  • 08|WW Quintet Mvt 2 – A Deslanderes
    • SPC Rhoads – flute
    • SSG Wagaman – oboe
    • SGT Safely – clarinet
    • SGT Labonov – horn
    • SFC Baldwin – bassoon


  • 09|Music aus Italien – F Barscenti
    • SSG Ferris – flute
    • SSG Shanks – guitar

  • 10|Tango – I Albeniz
    • SSG Ferris – flute
    • SSG Shanks – guitar


  • 11|St Thomas – S Rollins
    • 1SG Burnett, conductor
    • SFC Parks, trombone

  • 12|The Heart of the Matter – B Mintzer
    • SFC Ellis, conductor
    • SGT Risk, tenor sax
    • 1SG Burnett, alto sax

  • 13|Daedalus – C Burnett
    • 1SG Burnett, conductor/composer/arranger
    • SSG Dorris, piano
    • SSG Rhoads, bass

  • 14|Groovin Hard – D Menza
    • 1SG Burnett, conductor
    • SGT Schrantz, trombone
    • Saxophone Section, soli:
      • 1SG Burnett, lead
      • SSG Heron, alto
      • SGT Risk, jazz
      • SPC Loken, tenor
      • SSG Luther, bari


  • 15|Duty, Honor, Country – MacArthur, Cook and Walters
    • CWO Pace, conductor
    • SFC Hervieux, narration

  • 16|The Army Goes Rolling Along – Gruber, Bryden and Danford
    • CWO Pace, conductor
ENGINEER CENTER JAZZ ENSEMBLE directed by First Sergeant Christopher L. Burnett circa 1996.

US Army Bands Career Program | First Sergeant & Enlisted Bandleader

Visit: BurnettMusic.com