Virginia Commonwealth University assistant trumpet professor and No BS! Brass Band member Taylor Barnett never stops working, and doesn’t seem to mind.
Barnett has been immersed in the world of music since he was a young child and has been at VCU in some capacity for nearly 20 years.
Barnett began his VCU career early as a high school senior who would drive to Richmond twice a week to play with the school’s jazz orchestra. Now he’s an assistant professor of jazz trumpet, improvisation and is a coordinator of musicianship studies.
Before Barnett had any intention to play trumpet, he grew up in Reno, Nevada, where his parents owned a radio-electronics store, and his father was an amateur musician.
With one parent inspiring his love for musicianship, and the other providing an outlet to listen to music on “ridiculously nice,” equipment, it’s no wonder Barnett developed a passion for playing.
“I have really nice memories of putting on the Beach Boys’ ‘Good Vibrations’ and putting on really nice headphones and listening to it over and over again,” Barnett said.
Barnett remembered how famous musicians who happened to be friends of the family would often visit his childhood home, including famous faces like the Kingston Trio.
Barnett moved to Charlottesville, Virginia in 1988, where he met his high school band director Greg Thomas, who was a great inspiration to him.
“He had a real big impact on me.” Barnett said. “Being a part of his group got the fires stoked.”
According to Thomas, Barnett had a clear vision of where he wanted to go in music.
“Taylor was one of the most determined students I have ever taught,” said Thomas, who still teaches high school band.
Barnett was eventually able to take instructions from famed jazz trumpeter and Charlottesville resident John D’earth in his junior year.
Barnett made his way to VCU as a high school senior to play with the school’s jazz orchestra. He has stayed a part of VCU since 1997, save for the three years he spent pursuing his doctorate of musical arts at James Madison University.
When he’s not teaching students, Barnett is often on the road with his many musical projects, including the Richmond based No BS! Brass Band which he joined in 2006.
Barnett said he balances his school and touring life “very carefully.”
“It’s a drag. I’ve sat in many a green room grading tests and updating the grade book online,” Barnett said.
Barnet often has to fly to a venue that the rest of the band has left for a day or two before.
Most of his intense touring happens during the festival circuit in the summer. Even then, the time he spends on the road is often spent on the computer, grading, writing or coordinating.
“I can not afford to get sick, ever,” Barnett said.
However, despite his heavy workload and packed schedule, Barnett is happy with his job because it lets him pursue his passion for music.
Barnett said he believes being a professor is rewarding and engaging work, and that the city of Richmond is a big part in making that a reality.
The sense of community that comes from artists and musicians who live in the city is hard to come across according to Barnett, who says that Richmond — and in part VCU — are gaining a reputation as an artistic hotbed.
While he travels around the world for his art, Barnett says Richmond is “the best of both worlds,” in the sense that it is a city, but not a very large one, providing a home where he hopes to stay for years to come.
Kirby Farineau, Contributing Writer