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Evolution of Earth, Wind and Fire

Director Biography – Grayson Villanueva, Bakari Holmes

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Black Music Month – An Elevate Success Story
June 24, 2021

June is Black Music Month, which means it’s time to shine the spotlight on one of the musical talents that we have right here in the Elevate community.

Music has always been instrumental to the culture, and consistently serves as a unification point among the Black Community. And since June happens to be Black Music Month, we wanted to take a moment to shine the spotlight on one of the musical talents that we have right here in the Elevate community.

Meet Bakari Holmes, a neo-soul and jazz vocalist who left a career in STEM to pursue his passion as a music producer and content creator.

Tell us about your journey in music. What was it like to transition from teaching and working in STEM to becoming a full-time musician?

I grew up in a very musical and spiritual family. It was not uncommon during birthday celebrations growing up for my mom and her sisters to break into four part harmony on “Happy Birthday”. My dad plays piano, sings, and is a master African Drummer. That’s where I get my sense of rhythm and culture from. I started singing and obsessing over different vinyl records around the age of 7 or 8 and started playing the organ. I then moved to the piano and started singing. But differences with my family over what I should do as a career influenced my choice of Physics as a major and eventually music as a minor. After undergrad research with NASA/SETI, 12 years of teaching STEM, getting a 2nd degree in CS, and working 5 years as a Software Engineer I found myself ready to take my music making to the next level as I never stopped singing, arranging, playing, and writing. I even got to perform at Carnegie Hall with my college jazz group! Earlier this year while working and producing an acapella music project with some high profile musicians around the world and seeing an ad on Instagram for a music business course I (in consultation with my wife) decided to cash out a couple 401Ks and to use as seed money to launch a full time online music business initially hosted on Facebook and Instagram.

Bakari’s Advice For Transitioning Careers
1

Have a vision. You want to pursue something that you are passionate about. This will help sustain you if times get hard and you want to quit. Work out where you want to be in 6 months, a year, 5 years. Make it aspirational.

2

Have a plan. Vision alone won’t accomplish great things for you and others, you also need a plan for how you will reach those visions and execute on your mission. I love writing lists, spreadsheets, calendars for my current and future plans, songs, activities, albums, and people I want to work with.

3

Have friends. It’s good to have someone that’s a good listener to relate to what you are trying to accomplish. I really believe in coaches and trainers as essential to building your skill set. Surround yourself with people that aren’t afraid to tell you the truth and give you honest feedback.

What are some challenges that you’ve faced as an artist and what advice would you share with other artists and content creators just starting out?

The biggest challenges I’ve run into have to do with managing large scope projects, managing money smartly, and finding a way through when you run into discouraging setbacks. If you find yourself managing a project that is large in scope you will be dealing with lots of different people that work differently and have different preferences in terms of how they want to be managed (or if they want to be managed at all). In my case being an Executive Producer I’m paying for everything and everyone’s salary up front but don’t have a guaranteed return on my investment. I’ve invested a lot of time in relationships, in communication, in understanding those who I’m working with, and in working really hard so my expectations and deliverables are clear. Through relationships many times other opportunities naturally pop up that you may never have thought of otherwise. Managing money smartly is of utmost importance especially in the music business as everything costs money but not everything you do pays money. So it’s important to be smart about what order you do things in so you can continue to afford to do what you love. For example if there is a way you can monetize your content on social media you can start to build up passive income streams. And have a budget. Look at it often and keep it updated!

How have you been able to turn your passion into a business?

Over the years I’ve danced, sang, and produced for lots of groups and artists. Many of those connections I maintained on Facebook. So when I decided to finish writing my latest composition Evolution of Earth, Wind and Fire I asked myself: “who are the best singers, producers, and choreographers I know?” and “who do I WANT to work with?” One by one I assembled what I call the’ Vocal Avengers’, or Soul Collective. Soul Collective is an ongoing project where I assemble all star teams of singers, dancers, and producers to produce top-notch performances of covers and original soul, funk, jazz, and R&B/Hip-Hop fusion. Around the time I assembled the Avengers and cashed out our 401K I realized that I should focus on this as a full time gig. So I put in my notice at my company and the rest is history. Evolution of Earth, Wind and Fire is set to premiere on Juneteenth or June 19th, 2021 on YouTube.

What are some of your favorite ways to connect with your audience on Facebook and Instagram?

Through Facebook and Facebook ads I was able to grow my fanbase to 6,000 strong in less than 3 months. The interesting thing is most of my fanbase is in Nigeria, Ghana, and a bit in South Africa, in addition to the US. My favorite way to connect with my fanbase is to take requests of artists and songs and then create my own versions of those songs called “Quick Covers” on Facebook Watch. I was shocked when my version of Chris Stapleton’s Tennessee Whiskey got almost 40,000 views in a couple weeks. I’m still trying to figure out Instagram.

Black Music Month might only come around once a year, but every day deserves a soundtrack! With the help of the Elevate community we’ve curated a few playlists that celebrate, uplift, motivate and inspire. Give them a listen:

Mogul Motivation Playlist

A playlist curated by the Elevate community! Vibe to it on Spotify and let us know which one of your songs made the list: Listen Now.

The #GenBlack Playlist

We’ve curated a playlist that is all Black everything. Black excellence. Black joy. Black love. Black wealth. Listen Now.

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Grayson Villanueva, Bakari Holmes
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