Clark Douglas BurrisClark Douglas Burris was born in Paterson, New Jersey, March 21, 1942. He grew up in Monroe, New York where he attended the Monroe-Woodbury Central School system. There, in elementary school, he learned to play the trumpet. In high school, he switched to the baritone horn in concert band and stayed with the trumpet in jazz band. Mr. Burris also sang in the high school chorus, the Monroe Presbyterian Church Choir and the Monroe-Woodbury Choristers, a community chorus. He attributes his early interest in music to his mother, Phoebe Burris, who sang alto in the Monroe Presbyterian Church Choir, Mr. August Natoli, his band director, and Miss Marion Gray, his choral director and music theory teacher. In addition, Mr. Burris taught himself how to play the guitar and performed with a local band, The Variations, throughout his high school and community college years.
He lettered in football, wrestling and track while attending Monroe-Woodbury Central High School, and graduated in 1960. Mr. Burris attended the Orange County Community College in Middletown, New York where he studied music and earned his Associate in Applied Arts Degree. It was while attending OCCC that he was inspired to continue his education in music by Dr. Marvin K. Feman. "He was a great man whose talent, knowledge of music, sense of humor and commitment to giving his students unforgettable experiences in music inspired me to pursue music as my life's profession," states Burris. His college expenses were paid for with the money he earned working in construction during vacations and performing with The Variations at popular local bars: Galu's Restaurant in Highland Falls, Vince Dino's in Middletown, Stanfield's in Central Valley, and Hennesy's Bar in Monroe.In 1962, Mr. Burris continued his education at Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida. At the School of Music, he continued his music education and studied the trombone under the direction of Dr. William F. Kramer. He played trombone with the Marching Chiefs and enjoyed playing guitar and singing with The Embers, a popular campus rock band that played at fraternity and sorority parties. Doug was an active member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity, where he was the director of the chapter chorus and became the social chairman for one trimester. Several of his fraternity brothers formed a musical folk group known as The Merrymen. They were popular at fraternity/sorority exchange dinners and performed at local supper clubs. They also appeared on FSU-TV and competed in campus talent shows. In December 1966, he completed his education at FSU with his internship at Deerfield Beach Junior High School with band director Mr. Fred Humphries. It was during this time, under the direction of Mr. Humphries, that Mr. Burris decided his life's profession would be teaching music.
Mr. Burris was hired in January of 1967 by the Highland Falls Central High School System, Highland Falls, New York, as the Director of Bands. He was responsible for teaching instrumental music, grades 4 through 12. In addition to his regular responsibilities, he organized a jazz band that met after school, and a film scoring ensemble to accompany films that were done by the art department. "It was an exciting time in my career and I will always remember the talented students, intense rehearsals, support of the school system, and the people of of Highland Falls. I am sure that I learned as much from those students about life and teaching as, hopefully, they learned from me about music."On August 18, 1969, Mr. Burris moved to Coconut Grove, Florida where he continued his education at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida. He received his Masters Degree in Music Education in January 1971. His principle instrument at this time was the classical guitar. And while at the University of Miami, Mr. Burris studied guitar with Mr. Ron Maurno, Dr. Rene Gonzalez and Mr. Juan Mercadal.
In June of 1971, Mr. Burris was hired by Dr. Solomon Lichter to teach guitar at Miami Beach High School in Miami Beach, Florida. A guitar ensemble was formed that year. The guitar ensemble met after school. These students were highly motivated and needed more than what was offered in class. In September 1972, under Mr. Burris' direction, the Rock Ensemble was established. Since then, the group has won many honors and has been featured in newspaper articles and television feature stories. The group has traveled to many cities: Lakeland, Florida; Orlando, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; Atlanta, Georgia; New York, New York; Chicago, Illinois and Las Vegas, Nevada. In April 1999, the group was invited to perform at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. They were awarded a plaque commending the ensemble for 'Rockin' The Planet Since 1972.'Mr. Burris was inducted into the Miami Beach Senior High School Alumni Association Hall of Fame, November 10, 2000, in "Recognition of his Achievements and Contributions to Society."
The Miami Beach High School Guitar Ensemble has established itself as one of the premier high school musical performing groups in the United States. In addition to their many "Superior" ratings and First Place trophies, in October of 2001, they were awarded a grant by the State of Florida, the city of Miami and city of Miami Beach that enabled them to travel to Japan. The ensemble performed concerts in many cities throughout Japan and participated in the International Peace Summit in Kagoshima. The Guitar Ensemble performed with other groups from Perth, Australia; Milan, Italy; Changsha, China and Kagoshima, Japan.
Mr. Burris retired from Miami Beach Sr. High in June 2012 after 41 years.