“I’m honored to announce that I will be leading the Miami Beach Senior Rock Ensemble as its new Director. Beginning in 1972, Mr. Burris produced a creative community and built a legacy that reaches Nationally. Doug Burris was like a father to many of us and spent his life mentoring and showed us what it truly means to be selfless and to give to others. The Rock Ensemble and Mr. Burris we’re a big part of my life and molded me into the musician and mentor I am today. I feel very strongly about Mr. Burris’ legacy and I want to ensure that the idea of the Rock Ensemble will never lose its innovative potency. The Rock Ensemble will be led by a team of 3 moving forward. As I take on the position of Director, Michael Mac will continue to serve as Assistant Director, an Alumna will serve as Head of Programming. It takes a village to raise a child and I’m confident that this structure will give the Rock Ensemble the stability needed to grow and keep our young musicians excited and on their toes.”
Since playing his first guitar concert at ten years old, Sammy Gonzalez has grown into one Miami’s most established musicians. Sammy is known as an accomplished classical guitarist and bassist for Jacobs Ladder. He has performed over 900 concerts and toured the US more than 15 times, stopping to perform at iconic festivals such as SXSW and Van’s Warped Tour. Sammy owns and operates The Bull Productions Recording Studio, in Miami, where he acts as a songwriter, mix engineer and composer for film documentaries. As an alumnus of Miami Beach Senior High, Sammy toured the U.S. and Japan as first chair of the Classical Guitar Quintet.
Sammy is the CEO & Co-Founder of Young Musicians Unite, an educational non-profit. Since 2013, Young Musicians Unite has been dedicated to providing free, consistent music programming to undeserved communities in Miami. Through peer to peer mentoring, YMU engages students of different backgrounds and brings them together through a shared passion for music. By collaborating with schools to bring music programming to students, YMU addresses education gaps to develop leaders, boost personal development and inspire self-confidence.
Sammy is a graduate of Miami Beach Senior High School, New World School of the Arts College and The University of Florida.
Michael “Mac” McNamee
Born January 20, 1963, at Mt. Sinai Hospital, Miami Beach, Florida, Mac is a true native of Miami Beach. His childhood education started at Treasure Island Elementary School. There, he was known more for his athletic capabilities than his musical ones. But with his parents’ vast influence of musical tastes, Mac would soon find himself gravitating toward a new interest: music. And, to help the process along, there was a day in the spring of 1975 that would change this direction: Watching The Rock Ensemble perform at Treasure Island Elementary School. After arriving at Nautilus Junior High School, and with influences like The Beatles, Santana, The Allman Brothers Band, The Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, it was only a matter of time before music would dominate Mac’s world.
There was a short period of time—just before taking guitar seriously—that Mac had a serious interest in playing drums. If Mac’s best friend, Fred Zanegood (RE drummer, ’79-’81), hadn’t found the drums so intriguing and exciting, Mac would’ve probably become a drummer instead of a guitarist. Once Mac and Fred knew which instruments they were comfortable with, the two were almost always together practicing. It wasn’t until Mac’s senior year at Miami Beach High School that he would audition for The Rock Ensemble… and make it!
Since graduating Beach High, Mac has pursued a career in the entertainment industry; primarily behind the scenes as an audio recording engineer and music producer, and recently back on stage with Think Like A Key recording artist The Macsters. Along with his professional work, he’s volunteered his experience as assistant director with The Rock Ensemble from 1996-2012 with Mr. Burris, 2012-2016 with Mr. Iran Garcia and currently with new director Sammy Gonzalez.
Clark Douglas Burris
March 21, 1942 ~ January 28, 2016
Clark Douglas Burris was born in Paterson, New Jersey. He grew up in Monroe, New York where he attended the Monroe-Woodbury Central School system.
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 of 1971. His principle instrument at this time was the classical guitar. And while at the University of Miami, Mr. Burris studied the 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 of 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. They’ve 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 of 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 their 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.
Mr. Burris retired from Miami Beach Sr. High in June 2012 after 41 years.
Mr. Burris passed away on January 28, 2016 at age 73. His Miami Herald Obituary: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/obituaries/article57245358.html