Nationally recognized bass player Vernon Barbary faced a fork-in-the-road decision as a high school student preparing for college. Football scholarship or music scholarship? He chose music, and it has made a difference in his life and in the lives of hundreds of musicians across the country.
The Denver-based musician has played all over the world with dozens of artists including, Gerald Albright, Warren Hill, Kim Waters, Kevin Toney, Nelson Rangell, Alex Bugnon and Jeff Kashiwa.
Throughout his career he has pulled from the lessons learned while earning his double degree in music and business from Oral Roberts University, and has ultimately blazed a trail benefitting the music industry as a whole.
In 2009, he created Pockit, a business that provides national recording and touring artists with remote local band support, enabling local artists to increase their income and build a resume playing with national artists without leaving their home city. National artists and promoters receive a break in costs associated with taking an entire band on the road for numerous dates. Pockit is a term used by musicians to identify when a band is playing in perfect timing or “in the groove,” he says.
Pockit “is for the guy who lives in L.A., but plays in Florida,” says Barbary, who notes that the idea came to him when he was not asked to play a show with an artist that he was traveling with at the time. That artist was planning to use local talent to back him up on that particular tour date.
The native of Rockford, Illinois had no shortage of requests to play with any number of bands at any given moment, so the missed gig did not break him. In fact it was a turning point that ignited the businessman inside to identify and fulfill a need in the music industry.
Today, he estimates that Pockit has more than 500 musicians across 37 cities who are available to come together to be a ready-made band, backing up national artists when they come to their respective city.
“Whether I’m playing or not, I get a piece of the action,” says Barbary, who emphasizes that the concept for Pockit is not new, it is just organized. There is no advertisement and it is all by referral. “Good musicians know good musicians,” says Barbary, who provides Pockit’s participating musicians a code of ethics, outlining rules and fines.
Where he stands today is the combination of choices, discipline and some adjustments in what some consider standard practice. There is a general rule that everyone should have a backup plan just in case their ideal plan doesn’t work out.
“I don’t plan to fail,” says the musician, who at the age of 12 practiced the bass eight hours a day in the basement during the summer when his friends were out playing.
He was not specifically instructed to do this, but chances are that words from his father rang clear. At Vernon’s request, his father purchased an electric bass that ultimately costs $500. His father told him that he had better “play this thing. I didn’t waste money. This ain’t no toy.”
He went on to earn the first chair role in his junior high jazz band. His tryout test was a song by Earth, Wind & Fire, something he had taught himself by listening to his father’s music collection while practicing in the basement.
Jump to post college graduate, and a young Barbary secured a job with an airline in Denver so that he could travel to play on the weekends. Once married and with two children, he continued to find positions that would support his music career and business. He has worked for a number of corporations, primarily as project engineer or project manager. In addition to being the bass player in bands, he also served as music director for some of them, keeping the logistics on track and leaving the artists time and energy to focus on other priorities. This background helps him to keep his own personal music career alive and at the same operate Pockit.
“God has only blessed me in music to bless other people, not to keep it to myself,” said Barbary, who initially started playing an instrument at the age of 10 when a substitute teacher assigned him to play the cello. “The biggest compliment for me is for someone to say ‘that guy changed my life.’ ”
The next major project for Barbary is working with smooth jazz saxophonist Warren Hill to take the Warren Hill Music Summit on a college tour across the U.S. to teach students about the music business. “We are trying to get the students to look at themselves as the business,” says Barbary.
Editor’s note: For more information or to contact Barbary, email email@example.com.