Raymond Burkhart biography


I was born in Ohio in 1961, and music was part of my home life from the start. My family moved to a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1963, and Mom started teaching me to play piano when I was three. I composed my first song when I was four.


In third grade, the band director introduced the band program to the students. I told my parents I wanted to play either trumpet or drums in band in fourth grade. I realized later that my parents encouraged me to play trumpet to keep me from taking up drums! They also didn't want to invest in a new trumpet if I couldn't pucker, so they first purchased a bugle. I learned a bunch of bugle calls in about two weeks for Cub Scouts, and when fourth grade came along, playing trumpet came easily.

In eighth grade I took trumpet lessons. My teacher had me memorize interval exercises first, which was one of the best musical things I ever did, then we worked in the Arban book. We did long tones, too. I worked up to holding a note without interruption for a minute and seven seconds. "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" aired in the afternoon when my lesson time started, and when the Tonight Show Band played a feature number, we'd stop to hear Doc Severinson play a solo.


I entered the advanced band right away and even won the first chair by audition. I played lead trumpet in the jazz band and played in the pep band and a German band and a brass quintet and for the choirs and in anything else that needed a trumpet. I made friends that I still have today. Music is like that. Maynard Ferguson was very popular, and we played lots of his charts. I got to play the solo parts. In my senior year, I frequently played Rafael Mendez's signature solo, "La Virgen de la Macarena." Later, when I was a freshman in college, Mendez would sit in with our concert band, but I was so shy I said very little to him. He passed on not long after, and I learned this lesson: to meet one's heroes is terrific, but to place them so high on a pedestal that you fear to get to know them is a mistake.

I didn't just play trumpet. I took piano lessons and guitar lessons and learned electric bass, but I did normal things, too, like playing football with my neighborhood friends and exploring nearby rural ranches and farmlands. I was on the local swim team for a season. I collected stamps. I mowed lawns and trimmed hedges for income and worked at McDonald's one summer. And I bought my first car - a big white Dodge Monaco with a black vinyl roof. Nice.

After high school, I went to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music. My work since then is related elsewhere in this website. I enjoy being a trumpeter, writing music, conducting, and teaching, and I love to travel, to learn, and to be creative. There's always something new and interesting around the corner.