Rock Ensemble

Director: Mr Sammy Gonzalez

Assistant & Tech Director: Mr Michael “Mac” McNamee (The Macsters, Mac-Attack Productions)

Artistic Director: Mr Aj Hill (member of the world-renowned Spam Allstars​​​​​​​)

Stay tuned for upcoming concert dates
Visit the Rock Ensemble Web Site for more information

Doug Burris (1942-2016), Founder

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Clark 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 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 about music from me.”

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 its 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.

Michael “Mac” McNamee

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2231 Prairie Avenue
Miami Beach FL 33139
Room 311
305.532.4515 • Ext 2311

Iran Garcia, Former Director

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Iran A. Garcia was born in Cuba. In his first 6 years, he did not have any options when it came to music or anything relating to performance. It was only after he and his family received permission to travel to the United States that he began his journey as a musician and performer. Starting in the 3rd grade at Biscayne Elementary, Miami Beach, and every year after, Mr. Garcia would perform more and more with the guitar ensembles he was part of, both during and after school. He was then shown the ethics, and built his discipline as a performer when he joined the Miami Beach Rock Ensemble and the Classical Guitar Quartet, both under the direction of Clark Douglas Burris. Performing for all occasions throughout his high school experience led him to appreciate and understand what the expectations from a musician would be, in all levels after graduating from school. Raised in a family full of educators, Iran realized at a very young age that he too had the same passion as his parents, in teaching others in whatever way possible. He received an Associates in Science Degree specializing in Music Business and Production from Miami-Dade College under the direction and mentoring of Steve Roitstein, Ed Calle, and Richard Rose. He was constantly involved with classical and commercial music ensembles, recording projects and interning at various production locations. At the same time, Garcia was double majoring in Music Education under the guidance of Jose Adans as his classical guitar instructor. In order to fund his education degrees, Garcia was employed at a nearby Sam Ash music store where he interacted with music in another way–retailing. After graduating with two different degrees, he then transferred to Florida International University where he pursued a Bachelors in Music Education directed by Dr. Kathleen Kerstetter. It was during this time that he continued with his classical guitar ensemble aspirations under the direction of Rafael Padron. Iran Garcia also decided to embark on a new journey and get involved as an educator as much as his accreditation would allow him. From retailing at Sam Ash to teaching at River Cities Charter, Mr. Garcia embarked on his musical journey by teaching 6th-8th grade guitar and instrumental ensemble classes. He was also hired as the after school guitar instructor for Biscayne Elementary after his Middle School hours. He suddenly found himself getting what he asked for, finishing his degree in the morning hours, and teaching music for the remaining hours of the day. He then became the music director for the North Shore Parks and Recreation, where he worked with kids of all ages in learning how to perform and operate instruments and technical equipment. All, while still working at two other schools and giving his private lessons during the weekends. “I just enjoy teaching others what was taught to me…, the tradition of education, and the emphasis of never allowing one to stop learning.” Through it all, he strengthened his dedication and reasons why he wanted to become an educator. Garcia is a firm believer that the process which students take in learning a concept is just as, if not more important than the result itself. Trained in both classical and popular guitar, Iran Garcia teaches 4 levels of Guitar and 3 levels of Electronic Music at Miami Beach Senior High. Having picked up where Burris left off, Garcia was hired at Miami Beach Senior High School by Dr. Rosann Sidener in 2012. Proving to all his students that anything is possible with hard work, focus, and dedication, he continues to want to do more. Aside from directing the Miami Beach Rock Ensemble, the Classical Guitar Quartet, and organizing the music for all the theater plays at school, he has created a songwriting and creative composition community at Miami Beach Senior High for students that might want another option in music interaction in which they may be free to create music of their own for all mediums (commercial, jingle, tv, pop, poetry). Iran has spoken both nationally and internationally on songwriting and technology for organizations such as the 2012 and 2013 Florida Music Educators Association (FMEA), the 2012 Association for Technology in Music Instruction (ATMI), the 2012 Maryland Music Education Association (MMEA), and the 2010, 2011, and 2012 Creative Music Project in the Cayman Islands. The CMP is an organization which looks to promote student-based musical creativity by providing composition and improvisation activities accompanied by technology-based workshops. “I couldn’t be more excited to be working in the community that I’ve been a part of all my life. Having the chance to give back to what was once given to me, and to keep the tradition going.”