Trumpet Players Directory

Trumpet Player Kevin Burns of the Airmen of Note - Washington, D.C.

Trumpet Player Kevin Burns of Washington D.C. grew up in Cleveland, Tennessee. Kevin's dad is a professor of music at Lee University (voice/choral music). Kevin had taken piano lessons since the 3rd grade and asked for a trumpet for his 12th birthday because he knew he wanted to play the trumpet when he got to 7th grade band. By the end of his first day with the trumpet, Kevin had figured out how to play "When the Saints Go Marchin' In" on the trumpet and was hooked!

Trumpet Player Kevin Burns didn't have any formal trumpet lessons until college; however, he listened to players like Jerry Hey, Randy Brecker, Bobby Shew, Allen Vizzutti, and Doc Severinsen. Kevin relates, "When you get the sound of great players in your head, you naturally start doing some things right (like use of air, etc.) or you could never sound like they do."

In high school, Kevin credits a combination of good influences on his playing. Kevin states, "We had an excellent jazz band director who was knowledgeable and demanding. A bunch of great musicians developed under his tenure. I also had a core of band friends who were very talented - including my brother. We would all get together, listen to great music, and talk about it. My senior year in high school all the section lead players and key rhythm section players in the Tennessee All State High School Jazz Band were from my school. I also had some great experience in high school performing with Lee University ensembles where my dad taught. The summer after I graduated from high school, I was on the verge of just doing some kind of temp work for the summer and I got a call to audition for a traveling ministry group called Festival of Praise. My brother and I both went out and traveled the country all summer playing every night. The charts were pretty demanding (high Gs and As). It was the best summer job I could have asked for."

Kevin Burns, Trumpet Player with The Airmen of Note

Kevin Burns Trumpet Player
The Airmen of Note

Kevin first attended Lee University which was only a couple of blocks from where he lived. Kevin played in all the ensembles and practiced hard. The summer after his freshmen year he got called again to travel with a group called The Spurrlows. Relates Kevin, "We performed top 40 corporate shows during the week and gospel music at churches on the weekends. It was another great summer of seeing the entire country and playing every night. The summer after my sophomore year, I toured most of the summer with a recruiting group from Lee University. I was the only horn player and there was a lot of soloing. Near the end of the summer, I got a call to audition for the Richard Roberts Live Television show that was broadcast from Oral Roberts University. The TV "orchestra" consisted of 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, two saxes and full rhythm section. It turned out to be an incredible 5 year experience. I was performing on live television every week day morning and recording shows for Sunday broadcast as well with Oral Roberts. It had the components of so many aspects of performance wrapped up into one remarkable gig - on live TV with cameras rolling (including a live studio audience) a studio setting with high impact music and no retakes or editing. I was a nervous wreck for 6 months, but it eventually gave me nerves of steel! From an experience standpoint it was no different than playing on The Tonight Show ... not nearly as high profile of course. I finished my undergrad degree in music at Oral Roberts University and also completed a Masters in Business Administration.

Kevin has only taken regular trumpet lessons with two college instructors: Phil Morehead at Lee University, who was principal of the Chattanooga Symphony - and David Gauger at Oral Roberts University, who was principal of the Tulsa Philharmonic. Both were wonderful symphonic players who taught Kevin much of the standard trumpet literature. Kevin credits their instruction with preparing him to win his early military auditions which included that side of the trumpet in addition to his lead work that he had more or less developed on my own. Later in his professional Air Force career, Kevin picked up a lot of great information and tips from all the wonderful trumpet players he had the privilege of working with.

Kevin's first gig ever was playing taps for the VFW in junior high for $10.00. Kevin has played taps at the USAF Academy Chapel and cemetery as well as at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC. When Kevin moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma and started playing for the TV show Kevin started feeling more like a professional trumpet player rather than just a student. Relates Kevin, "While in Tulsa I also became a member of the Oklahoma Symphonia, a mostly pops orchestra, that performed with many great artists as part of their annual concert series. They also won the contract to be the orchestra for the Tulsa Ballet, which was a remarkable experience. I played some great repertoire during that period. Eventually the TV show went off the air. I finished up my MBA and was just starting to interview in the business world when a friend from the TV show called me about an opening in the Air Force band in San Antonio. He had joined that band and my wife and I had just vacationed in San Antonio so we decided to give it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised at the remarkable talent in that band so we decided to pick up and join the Air Force. I had the pleasure of sharing the lead trumpet book with Paul Stephens, a remarkable lead trumpeter who now plays with the Army Jazz Ambassadors (and who is profiled here). I have been in the Air Force bands since 1993. I spent three years with the Band of the West in San Antonio, where I also played a number of pops gigs with the San Antonio Symphony. In 1996, I won an audition for lead trumpet with the Falconaires of the USAF Academy Band. I spent five years there ... a wonderful group of musicians and a wonderful place to live. With those first two Air Force bands I was playing in the concert band as much or more than the big bands, which was great for my overall trumpet playing, but when an opening in the The Airmen of Note came up I decided to audition. I joined "The Note" in 2002. The USAF Band in Washington, DC has enough personnel to have independently operating groups, so I'm full time with the big band. I feel blessed to be performing the music that so excited me when I stepped into my first jazz band back in 9th grade.

It has been an education everyday playing with The Airmen of Note ... they just do things right! Not only is every chair filled with a world class musician, but everyone understands their role in the ensemble and they really listen to each other. There is no drama or personality clashes ... all wonderful human beings! Working beside Brian MacDonald has been a daily lesson in "efficiency." He is a remarkably efficient lead player with whom I have had so many casual conversations about trumpet playing with that it's been the equivalent of many great lessons. I've always been a "pounder" who is very sound oriented. I blow tons of air through the horn and want that giant Doc Severinsen sound. I have been learning the benefit of backing off and letting the horn do the work ... but sometimes I still just want to let it all loose and feel the power!"

Trumpet Player Kevin Burns
Kevin Burns Trumpet Player with The Airmen of Note

Kevin relates, "The most important technical aspect of playing is how you approach your air ... the common thread of information that you hear among professional lead players is about supporting the air from the abdominal region and keeping the tension away from the neck. Musically, I like to remember the "Law of Diminishing Returns," which is the idea that the more you see, hear, or taste anything - the less effective/attractive it becomes. This is true with music ... so you pick a handful of moments to "blow the doors off," but you hold your performance to 80% the rest of the time. This is also critical for endurance.

For over ten years, Kevin played a Yamaha 6310Z. Since joining The Airmen of Note, Kevin has switched to an old Conn 8B (mid 60s) ... because it is a better match for Brian MacDonald's Conn Connstellation. It has a nice "shelf" of resistance that Kevin has come to appreciate. The Conn has helped Kevin figure out the whole "letting your horn do the work" concept ... which is harder to do on a horn with little resistance. Kevin currently uses a Stork LTV6 Trumpet Mouthpiece. He also keeps a Bach 3C for symphonic work. Kevin has a standard Yamaha Pro Model 631 Flugelhorn.

Since 1988, Sgt. Burns has been actively arranging and recording horn tracks for over 60 contemporary Christian albums and many commercial/jingle projects including several for ESPN and ABC Sports. Kevin has performed with such major artists as Natalie Cole, Ray Charles, Mel Torme, Diane Schurr, Jack Jones, Vic Damone, Cab Calloway, Burt Bacharach, Al Hirt, Phil Driscoll, The Lettermen, Rita Moreno, The Temptations and the Four Tops.

Kevin's Air Force decorations include a Meritorious Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Air Force Commendation Medal, an Air Force Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal with a bronze star, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

To contact Airmen of Note Trumpet Player Kevin Burns ... you can visit The Airmen of Note on Facebook at

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