Remembering Harold Burt

Cary, NC – We heard this morning that Harold Burt had passed away. In remembrance, we’re re-running our story about Harold from August 2010. Pictures from Harold Burt – Music Man on Facebook.

Burt’s Music

Story by Leslie Huffman, August 2010

Burt Music Company is a multi-faceted enterprise run and owned by a jewel of the community, Harold Burt.  Mr. Burt has been making music in Cary since 1950, when he became Cary High School’s first band leader.  I visited Mr. Burt at his music shop where he was surrounded by a library of music, a variety of instruments and newspaper clippings of stories written about him over the years.

Harold Burt, Cary’s First “Music Man”

Accord to NAMM, “Harold Burt was just about 3 years old when a musician from a traveling circus came to his North Carolina town and sold his parents a clarinet for young Harold.”

During his senior year in college at N.C. State, Harold Burt spent part time teaching band at all 7 elementary schools in Raleigh. He was then employed in 1950 at Cary High School to teach Industrial Arts and to organize the first High School Band.

“Back in those days, the state didn’t hire music teachers.  I studied Industrial Arts in college and was hired at Cary High School to teach shop and began the band program part time,” recalls Burt.  “I only had 12 students that had instruments at that time and only two of them knew how to play.”

Mr. Burt taught band at Cary High School from 1950 to 1955.  For the next 25 years he started the band programs at Cary, Apex, Millbrook, and Knightdale High Schools plus seven more high schools in Johnston County.

In 2000, the Town of Cary honored Harold Burt by bestowing the title of Grand Parade Marshal at Cary Band Day’s annual parade.  Harold Burt is Cary’s own “Music Man”.

Burt Music Company

When it comes to making music, no one does it better than Burt Music Company.  They have been helping others do it for more than 30 years.

The E.R. Poole Music Company was located at Cameron Village in Raleigh when Harold Burt bought the business in 1979.  In 1987 Mr. Burt moved his music company to it’s present location in Cary, at the Shoppes Of Kildaire. Burt Music had a store front there, but due to the slowing economy the store was forced to downsize and is now accessible from High Meadow Drive.

The shop is located on the back side of the building behind Trader Joe’s.  This is where Mr. Burt and company have taught generations of families to play horns, piano, percussion, guitar and more.

The Burt Music Company boasts approximately 20 teachers, instructing students of all ages in every type of instrument.  These teachers are the best in the business and have an amazing array of talent.

In addition to a teaching facility, Burt’s sells the largest selection of printed music in the area.  The retail shop sells many brands and types of instruments from high-end to rental and accessories. And if they don’t carry what you are looking for, they will happily order it for you at no extra cost. They also have repair technicians who can expertly and economically service instruments.

Mr. Burt, now in his 80’s, still teaches music lessons 3 days a week.  His favorite?  It’s the clarinet, but he teaches every instrument.  He tells me that every week he has a prior student stop by the shop to say hello.  He has even taught many of the grandchildren of his previous Cary High School students.

Harold Burt is a living slice of Cary history.  The sounds of his legacy will continue to be heard for many more generations.  For all those presently in a band program anywhere, come and support our local music man.  We know that without Harold Burt’s dedication, High School Band in our area would not be where it is today.  Stop by Burt Music Company and say hello to Mr. Burt, you’ll be glad you did. Tell him the CaryCitizen sent you!


This article was first published in August of 2010. 

3 replies
  1. Beverly Massengill McBrayer
    Beverly Massengill McBrayer says:

    Mr. Burt and his family gave (God only knows how many) students opportunities to not only learn to play an instrument or instruments but to better prepare themselves for life. He gave many of us at Four Oaks our first experience with college when he had us march in the NC State homecoming game parade, watch the game and play during half time. WOW! I’d wanted to go to college to be an educator before then but that made me more determined than ever. I wanted to help others like he helped so many of us.

    When I told him I didn’t know how I was going to pay my way through college, he encouraged me and others by sharing his story of how he and his mother had worked together relentlessly to sacrifice to pay for his college.

    There are thousands of stories in my heart of how he helped students, their parents, teachers and all in our school community. If it had not been for his training and encouragement, I would probably not have a Master’s degree and be an educator.

    My heart and prayers are with his family and all who will miss him.

    Grateful former student,

    Beverly Massengill McBrayer

  2. John M. Williams
    John M. Williams says:

    I graduated from Four Oaks High School/Class of 1969….the last year of Four Oaks High School.I have fond memories of being in Mr.Burt’s band because he really cared about the students.We always performed in the Cary Band Day……and he was always had us entered in the Jazz Band contest that followed the band competition that day.
    I remembered many times seeing him drive up to the school and he would be shaving with a electric razor…..after he had delivered newspapers in Raleigh that morning.I often wondered how and why he did what he……and my answer was,he loved what he did.
    Harold Burt made a lasting memory in a lot of students at FOHS…and throughout eastern North Carolina.
    His life made a difference!!
    John M. Williams

  3. Mihir Shah
    Mihir Shah says:

    Mr.Burt was my private clarinet teacher for a year before I had to switch to a lesson teacher closer to home, but he was really amazing.

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