Robert Burks was born in Tulsa but grew up in McAlester, Oklahoma. During his young informative years he was a boy scout, a Demolay, played on the school golf team, played baseball and was selected to play on the all-star team. And then there was music! Mr. Burks can play a variety of instruments that includes the ukulele, piano, clarinet, saxophone, trombone, violin, and oboe. During his high school years he was commissioned to play a piece composed for him titled “Burks Montage” which he performed, with the band, a medley of songs on six different instruments. Mr. Burks began formal training on the oboe at the St. Louis Conservatory of Music with Richard Woodhams, who is now principal oboe at Philadelphia. The first orchestra he played professionally was St. Louis under Leonard Slatkin, after two years in St. Louis he was accepted and studied with John Mack at the Cleveland Institute of Music.
After graduating from Cleveland Institute he performed with the Columbus Symphony and the Honolulu Symphony and came to Chattanooga as principal oboe in 1981. Mr. Burks has performed numerous times with the Atlanta Symphony. He recently recorded Mahlers Symphony No. 2, under the baton of Yoel Levi, his last recording with the Atlanta Symphony. He has performed at numerous music festivals and toured Europe twice, most recently with the American Sinfonietta. He has taught oboe for Cadek Conservatory at UTC, University of the South, Lee University, Bryon College, Covenant College, and Southern Adventist University. He was principal oboe of the Tennessee Summer Symphony and has recorded for the RCA Studios in Nashville. He has served on numerous committees with the orchestra and is currently the ROPA delegate for the CSO Orchestra and is on the executive board of the Local 80 musicians union.