- Paperback: 290 pages
- Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (March 7, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1530268044
- ISBN-13: 978-1530268047
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,465,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Life of Charlie Burrell: Breaking the Color Barrier in Classical Music Paperback – March 7, 2016
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Ali Julia review
Charlie grew up in a quasi-ghetto in Detroit and lacked the early musical education that most White musicians had. Charlie showed grit (dedication and perseverance) in following his love of music. He practiced thousands of hours, got “day jobs” that allowed him to play in jazz bands, and talked and taught music in whatever spare time he found. Where did this dedication and commitment come from? Charlie says, “It all comes from my dear mother” (p. 291) who preached “ED-U-CA-TION” (p. 29).
His life reflects the realities of the time. He describes Negroes who had crossed the color line; being denied occupancy in a hotel which was booked to house the Denver symphony, being exposed to virulent segregation in his trip to the South, describing of the unwritten laws governing the behaviors of African-Americans, and being picked up by the police because “you look like somebody we been looking for” (p. 184).
At many times, a mistake could have derailed his life. As a teenager he was caught stealing from a white employer. Instead of turning him into the police, the employer told him to go to back to high school and get good grades “and when I did graduate from high school, he was there!”(p. 82). In the late 1930s musician Saul Caston had offered a position in the All-American Youth Orchestra to a friend of Charlie’s, but later rescinded the offer because the friend was Black. Nonetheless 10 years later, while the conductor for the Denver orchestra, Caston was willing to break the color line and offered Charlie a position on the orchestra. Times kept changing. About 15 years later when Charlie was introduced as the first Black member of the San Francisco orchestra, he received a rousing ovation.
His niece, the four time Grammy winner Dianne Reeves wrote in the forward that “Charlie’s life is relevant for all kinds of people, because it is a story of triumph. It is the story of someone who made a way out of no way” (from the Forward, p. 14).
After Charlie started playing the bass, in seventh grade, he told his mother, Denverado, that he would like to perform with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. His mother replied: "Well Son, you can do anything you want to do. Just be honest to your cause and do it every day of your life. Let nothing get in your way." The book contains a picture of Charlie's late mother, which conveys her commanding presence, warmth, strength of character and purpose.