In March of 1993 the Armed Forces School of Music presented “The Thirty-Seventh Annual All-Eastern Band and Instrumental Clinic” at the base theater on the US Naval Amphibious Base (Little Creek). Picture quality is crap but the sound is decent. This is the last concert I performed with the Armed Forces School of Music Faculty Lab Band jazz ensemble under the direction of Maurice Williams, Jr. This is the tightest jazz ensemble big band I have ever played with still to date. Click video title for music selection titles and personnel details.

Burnett Publishing Office


🇺🇸🎵 399th is largely written in the narrative voice and from the perspective of Christopher L. Burnett.

However, it must be noted that Terri Anderson Burnett also served honorably and with distinction for five years as a musician in the Army.

She was one of the last members of the Women’s Army Corps to transition into the integrated force that included men and women serving together as well.

It is ultimately more convenient to direct our friends, colleagues and associates to this page on our website for them to learn about our military music career and history than to continually describe small segments repeatedly to curious individuals out of context of the whole story. 

This essay with images and active hyperlinks includes a relatively brief overview of what our family’s life together was like during some of our 22-year military music career history. The sections on this page include:

We hope you enjoy reading about our adventures.

And, we hope our children and grandchildren enjoy learning about some of our family’s history. 

Sincerely, Cb

The Burnett Family, est. 1979


HISTORIC PERIOD: Our immediate branch of the Burnett Family served on Active Duty Regular Army status from July 1974 to October 1996. (22 years)

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 400 students at the time.

(L – R: Captain Bill Garlette, First Sergeant Christopher Burnett, Sergeant First Class Luis Branch, April 1993).

All of my military band assignments were very good musically. 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.

My favorite military band assignment was working for the US Navy Music Program at the Commander-In-Chief Allied Forces Southern Europe (NATO) Band, Naples, Italy. The best musical leaders I worked for in a career of great band assignments were Manuel Constancio (pictured here promoting me) and Al Monaro. They let me work to my abilities and capacity. My military career went to another level of success and after that assignment I went directly to a post as the First Sergeant of the Army’s Student Company on the Staff and Faculty at the Armed Forces School of Music, our career proponent school in Virginia.

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.

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Favorite Military Assignments Gallery

This photo was taken by Terri’s mom Sintha when they visited us in Germany before we returned home to the USA to be assigned with the First U.S. Army Band at Fort George G. Meade in the Military District of Washington.
This photograph by the division Public Affairs Office was taken during the rehearsal of our U.S. 1st Armored Division jazz band directed by my group leader, Sergeant First Class Charlie Heintz with the Hof Symphony in Germany. I was 23 and a soloist.
The only time I played the jazz tenor saxophone chair during my military career was with the First US Army Band. The jazz band was directed by my group leader, Sergeant First Class Jim Hickerson (baritone sax) and it was very good band that toured often.

“399th” 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 and Orchestra Clinic” that was once held there for many years. The military has since merged with the Midwest 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. And, I was able to use all of the training and skills I’d developed – conducting, performing, arranging, composing and leading musicians. When I went to the NATO Band (1990-1992) many years later, all of the experience gained at the 399th came in handy and resulted in my leading the major ensembles of that particular band.

The Burnett Music Company, Inc.
1996-2001, St. Robert, Missouri

Anyway, the 399th U.S. Army Band of this era 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 then immediately opening (and subsequently closing) a music store business in that community prior to finally leaving and returning to be based permanently 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 objectively say that was an example of poor leadership on the part of my command team then. I learned from it and have never forgotten how ironic it was to in effect be punished for doing a good job.

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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. I’m pictured here after a ceremony speaking with the Commandant of the Royal College of Defence StudiesGeneral Sir Antony Walker. Looking on is Admiral Jonathan T. Howe, who served simultaneously as Commander in Chief, Allied Forces Southern Europe and Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe. (1991, Italy)
I was the official Conductor of the NATO Ceremonial Band during all dignitary honors ceremonies held at Headquarters of Allied Forces Southern Europe.
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. (This photograph was taken by public affairs on my last tour during a street concert at Carnival in Nice, France.)
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. (This was the Armed Forces School of Music official seal during our era.)
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. The top photo is of the 1982 Army Enlisted Bandleader Course (COI# 450-02Z50) class. The bottom photo is a picture of me at the SOM used in an Army magazine.
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. This photo is of an intermediate course graduation.

“399th” continued …


“MMXX GRATITUDES – Musings In Cb” // This is a photograph of my NATO ID card from when I served with the Commander In Chief Allied Forces Southern Europe (NATO) Band at Naples Italy. Since it lived in my wallet and inside my pocket, this ID card was actually pristine when I finished that tour of duty in 1992, and as well as when I concluded my entire 22-year active duty military career in 1996.  The reason it became so tattered is that I gave it to our son, Micah to carry with him when he was deployed and served in combat. He carried it with him the entire time. In 2003, Micah deployed to Iraq with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. He received the Bronze Star Medal with Valor device for his exemplary heroic combat service. Yes, he was in the real stuff.
The Second Battle of Fallujah—code-named Operation Al-Fajr (Arabic: الفجر “the dawn”) and Operation Phantom Fury—was a joint American, Iraqi government, and British offensive in November and December 2004, considered the highest point of conflict in Fallujah during the Iraq War. It was led by the U.S. Marines and U.S. Army against the Iraqi insurgents in the city of Fallujah and was authorized by the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Interim Government. The U.S. military called it “some of the heaviest urban combat U.S. Marines and Soldiers have been involved in since the Battle of Huế City in Vietnam in 1968.”
Micah brought my NATO ID card back home to me as he promised he would. After his time in service he went back to college, finished a double major, and now serves in a job that helps vets. They tell me he’s a super star. I was a musician in the band my entire career and never came close to combat duty. My son is a true war hero. I love him very much and I’m very proud to be his father. We have lots to be thankful for as a family. All four of us are military veterans, our son a combat hero and our daughter was the very first commissioned officer in the history of our entire family. That’s cool.
We are grateful people, parents and grandparents. SALUTE!

– – –

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 who joined the Army with the simple goal of becoming a master musician and artist.

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 literally 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: Sergeant Major Ralph Jay Nelson, who was retired and still lived in that area at that time; and, the first Master Warrant Officer for Army Music, Maurice Williams, Jr., who was the immediate former leader of the Army Blues Jazz Ensemble in Washington DC when he directed our Armed Forces School of Music Faculty Lab Band I performed with during my assignment there.

I have ultimately modeled how I direct, develop and administrate the programming of a large jazz ensemble after both of these gentlemen.

“Sound Trek” was the name of the large jazz ensemble of the 399th U.S. Army Band and it was directed by Sergeant Major Ralph Jay Nelson. I played lead alto (Photo 1985).


399th Army (Engineer Center) Band. I’m in the center.

ESSAYONS, (Let Us Try), 1995 CD

(Let Us Try)

INFORMATION: “Essayons (Let Us Try)” was recorded and published on compact disc in 1995 by the 399th Army (Engineer Center) Band, Chief Warrant Officer Jeanne Pace, and First Sergeant Christopher Burnett – command team and producers. Essayons is French for “let us try” and the motto of U.S. Army Engineers.

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. Ms. Pace was a senior bandmaster at that time and went on to lead the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps in Washington DC after the 399th. She was also the first-ever female Army warrant officer bandmaster in history. We had first met as fellow enlisted students during the Enlisted Bandleader (COI# 450-02Z50) course at the Armed Forces School of Music in 1982. We worked well together as a command team at the 399th.

The 399th was our family’s very last active Regular Army post and military band assignment, I served as the unit First Sergeant and Enlisted Bandleader. I also directed the award-winning large jazz ensemble, practiced every day,  and played woodwinds in 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.

*My composition “Daedalus” was named the 1995 5-STAR AWARD OF MERIT WINNER
by the National Federation of Music Clubs.

*The Engineer Center Jazz Ensemble was named the 1995 4-STAR AWARD OF MERIT WINNER
by the National Federation of Music Clubs.

PROFESSIONAL RECOGNITION: Our edition of the 399th also received top marks during the Annual Technical Inspection during our command tenure.

These inspections assessed TRADOC bands on the quality of musical training; technical proficiency; adequacy of equipment, personnel manning, and facilities; effectiveness of command and control; and utilization of the band in tactical environments, in accordance with the Army Regulation for Army Bands, AR 220-90 (now obsolete).

And, elements of the 399th U.S. Army Band won the top two prizes in 1995 from the National Federation of Music Clubs in the Parade of American Music category for military bands. I won the top prize (5-star award of merit) and the Engineer Center Jazz Ensemble won the top performing group honors (4-star award of merit).

The “Essayons (Let Us Try)” recording is the very first modern-era digital recording produced in the history of the 399th Army Band and was the second overall.

Stream the CD





01|US National Anthem – F Key

CWO Pace, conductor

02|Essayons – J Johnston

CWO Pace, conductor


03|December 7, 1941 – J Ployhar

CWO Pace, conductor

SFC Hervieux, narration

SSG Dorris, FDR speech excerpt

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




First Sergeant Christopher L. Burnett from 1993-96.*


One day during my normal run at the end of the day with a couple of my senior sergeants, I just stopped running. Not because I was tired or injured – I was done.

I walked directly over to the Personnel Administration Center building next to the Band Hall, called to let Terri know what I was doing, and then submitted my Military Retirement Request on DA Form 4187.

I went to the Band Hall and told Ms. Pace of my decision.

It was time for me to move on as a musical artist and leave the “nest” of Army music.

I knew that if I stayed much longer, I would end up being primarily an administrator and lose the high-level of musicianship I’d worked so hard to achieve.

I had been all I could be as a musician in the Army.

First Sergeant Christopher L. Burnett being presented with an Army Meritorious Service Medal and his Army Retirement Certificate by the Army Engineer School Commandant Major General Clair F. Gill, who also served concurrently as the Commanding General of the US Army Engineer Center and Fort Leonard Wood.

So, I finished my military career in 1996 and subsequently established myself as a professional musician and recording artist in the general music industry.



Terri Anderson Burnett also served in the W.A.C.

US Army Bands Career Program

Served on Active Duty Regular Army as
a Professional Musician from July 1974 to October 1996

First Sergeant and Enlisted Bandleader

“Today’s Army Wants to Join You” (1971-1980)
and “Be All You Can Be” (1980-2001)
were the Army recruiting slogans of our era.**

CONTEXT: Our service began during the Post-Vietnam Era and concluded after the First Gulf War.

BASIC MUSIC COURSE 450-F1 Armed Forces School of Music (Virginia)
SAXOPHONE SECTION LEADER 1st Infantry Division Band (Kansas)
GROUP LEADER COURSE 450-F2 Armed Forces School of Music (Virginia)
SAXOPHONE SECTION LEADER 1st Armored Division Band (Germany)
ENLISTED BANDLEADER COURSE 450-O2Z Armed Forces School of Music (Virginia)
WARRANT OFFICER BANDMASTER COURSE 031A Armed Forces School of Music (Virginia)
WOODWIND GROUP LEADER 399th US Army Band (Missouri)
FIRST SERGEANT Armed Forces School of Music (Virginia)
ENLISTED BANDLEADER AND FIRST SERGEANT 399th US Army (Engineer Center) Band (Missouri)





Two of the five sons of Violet Lorraine Jackson Burnett, brothers Richie Pratt (drummer, composer) and Christopher Burnett (woodwinds, composer), are listed in the Encyclopedia of African American Music.




Christopher Burnett Quintet performing in Kansas City USA.




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