MIAMI BEACH – (CBSMiami.com) — In his 40 years leading Miami Beach’s Sr. High School’s Rock Ensemble, Doug Burris hasn’t skipped a beat.
In fact, his legacy as a teacher who launched the first official School of Rock has had enormous success. Many of his students have gone on to pursue professional musical careers.
Now, Burris who has mostly taught from his wheelchair after Multiple Sclerosis left him paralyzed, is preparing to bid farewell to his own career as he plans to retire at the end of this school year.
But this music man is preparing a big time performance expected to crowd the school’s auditorium this Saturday night. The performers will include current and former students dating back to the early 70s when Burris himself got his start at the school.
“I love watching the kids play music, they bring their own personality and character to the music,” Burris told CBS4’s Lisa Petrillo. “I live vicariously through what they do .”
Since then, the Rock Ensemble program has taught thousands of students and has received numerous awards and even featured on CBS’ Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood back in 2000.
“The rock ensemble has been my prize , it’s something I put together 40 years ago and who would suspect we would still be there,” Burris said.
His former student and professional musician Roger Houdaille agrees. Houdaille is a Rock Ensemble alumni who will share the stage with other former students in a tribute concert for their legendary teacher.
“Amazing it’s been 40 years,” Houdaille, a lead singer and musician for the band Ex-Norwegian. “I can think of a band that lasts that long– maybe Rolling Stones – very unique, everything about this program is unique.”
Burris also makes his students learn the classics – for guitar and jazz.
Petrillo’s son Dylan McCue, 14, plays free stroke Arpeggio under Burris’ watchful eye and he also coaches his classically trained quartet.
“I heard all about Mr. Burris and that he’s a legend and how he’s contributed to the music scene here and I’m glad to be a part of his class,” Dylan said.
Other students feel that same sense of pride.
“He can tell if a note is wrong form a mile away – he’ll say that wasn’t an A it was a B-flat,” said Kali Hughes, a 16-year-old.
Adam Perez, 15, echoed those sentiments.
“I learned about how inspirational he is and the trips we went on playing awesome shows with awesome music,” Perez said.
Burris acknowledges it’s hard to say good-bye as he prepares to drop the curtain on his final directorial performance.
“We all know everything comes to an end, but it’s surreal to realize that this is the end of my career here,” Burris said.
For more information on tickets to the Rock Ensemble’s final performance, log on to http://www.rockensemble.com/.