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"If it hadn’t of been for the GI Bill, I couldn’t have made it." (Audio interview, 32:21)

   Charles E. Burrell
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War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Navy
Unit: Company 921, Camp Robert Small
Service Location: Chicago, Illinois
Rank: Musician First Class
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Though he was a musician prior to his entrance into the Navy during World War II—he attended Detroit’s Cass Tech High School, well known for its arts curriculum—Charles E. Burrell’s career in music is inextricably connected to his time in the service. As a band member at Camp Robert Smalls, a segregated training facility within Naval Station Great Lakes, his proximity to Chicago offered him the chance to meet and play with some of the era’s most legendary jazz musicians. After the war, he attended Wayne State University using the GI Bill, and later, became the first African American to play with the San Francisco symphony.

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (5 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: audio (46 min.)
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»The GI Bill: 75 Years of Opportunity
 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (5 items)
Getting his start in the ship’s company band; playing tuba; previous experiences in the marching band. (01:43) Experiences in Chicago; studying with bass with notable musician Rudolph Fassbender; going to big jazz clubs. (03:51) Playing “happy hour” concerts for the whole camp; encountering famous musicians; meeting Billie Holiday; extreme reaction when she winked at him. (03:37)
Going to Wayne State University on the GI Bill; gratitude for GI Bill. (01:22) Becoming the first African American to play with the San Francisco Symphony. (01:57) 

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  October 26, 2011
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