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Columbia Missourian

Former MU Professor James Burk lived a life full of music

By Stephanie Proffer
June 5, 2012 | 7:12 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — A 45-year resident of Columbia, James Mack Burk died Tuesday, June 4, 2012. He was 80.

Dr. Burk was born July 1, 1931, in Muskogee, Okla., to John Dee Burk and Marie Burk. He attended public high school in Muskogee, graduating from Central High School in 1949.


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A graduate of Oklahoma City University, Dr. Burk served as secretary and president of the university's chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, a professional music fraternity, as well as vice president and president of Blue Key, a national leadership organization.

He earned two master's degrees and a doctorate from the University of Oklahoma. Dr. Burk also did graduate studies at Indiana University.

Dr. Burk served in U.S. Army Bands at Fort Chaffee, Ark., and Fort Sill, Okla. He was also the assistant bandleader in the 60th Army Band in the Panama Canal Zone.

He married Bobbie Jean McBride on June 12, 1954. They were married for 52 years. She died earlier.

Dr. Burk was a band director at Classen High School in Oklahoma City for six years. His bands earned honors at festivals and contests, including the Downbeat Award for Outstanding Stage Band at the Tri-State Music Festival in 1958. He also conducted several musicals at Classen, including "Kiss Me Kate," "Annie Get Your Gun," "Where's Charlie," "Mr. Wonderful" and "The Pajama Game."

Dr. Burk taught at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City University. He joined the faculty of MU in 1967 and taught music theory and other undergraduate and graduate courses. He retired in 1996 after 30 years at MU.

While at MU, Dr. Burk was president of Pi Kappa Lambda, a music honors society, for 24 years. He also initiated the Honors Convocation for the Department of Music, which has become a special annual event. He was a Friend of the Arts in the international music fraternity Sigma Alpha Iota.

Dr. Burk attended and presented papers at regional and national meetings of professional organizations. He was a contributor to "The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians," "The New Grove Dictionary of American Music," "The American Biographical Dictionary" and other professional publications. He compiled and edited "A Charles Ives Omnibus," a large listing of research and reference materials regarding the American composer.

An elder of the First Presbyterian Church in Fulton, Dr. Burk performed many flute solos and accompaniments to the choir, which his wife directed from 1976 to 2004.

Dr. Burk is survived by one son, James Jeffery Burk of Aurora, Ill.; and one sister, Barbara (Burk) Ferguson of Owasso, Okla.

Visitation will be from noon to 1 p.m. Friday at Parker Funeral Service, 22 N. Tenth St.

Services will follow at the same location, followed by burial at Columbia Cemetery, 30 E. Broadway.

Memorials can be sent to the Dulaney-Browne Library at Oklahoma City University, 2501 N. Blackwelder Ave., Oklahoma City, OK 73106. Address memorials to the attention of the James Mack Burk Collection.

Supervising editor is Ann Elise Taylor.