A sustainable jazz club is a true gem in any community, and it requires a village of support and advice. We are fortunate to receive both from our stunning board. In their service as advisers, I ask that each of these individuals teach me at least one thing each year. We are proud to share the backgrounds of these outstanding men and women, and the areas in which they concentrate their invaluable input.
— Tamara Fuller, Owner, The Velvet Note
CONCENTRATION: PERFORMANCE TECHNOLOGIES
Bob Bakert’s earliest remembrances of his father were of him singing in a beautiful baritone in the style of Bing Crosby… to this day every time Bob hears Bing Crosby he can see his dad. As an adult, Bob continued his music appreciations studies as a performance major in the jazz department of Georgia State University, all the while taking private lessons in voice and guitar. Bob spent 30 years as the leader of high-end professional sound electronics enterprise, and is responsible for the extraordinary sound system that supports each artist who performs on The Velvet Note Stage.
CONCENTRATION: NATIONAL ARTIST RELATIONS
Scotty Barnhart is a two-time GRAMMY- Award winner, acclaimed jazz trumpeter, leader, composer, arranger, educator, author and the Director of the legendary Count Basie Orchestra. Scotty has over ten recordings with the likes of Tony Bennett, Diana Krall, Ray Charles, and Tito Puente. Scotty released his debut solo CD Say It Plain on the Unity Music label. He invited Clark Terry, Ellis and Wynton Marsalis, Marcus Roberts, Jamie Davis and Etienne Charles to share his compositions and love of standards on “Con Alma”, “Giant Steps” and Barnhart’s own, “Dedicated To You”. Say It Plain achieved No. 3 in the Jazz Charts and has received celebrated reviews. When Scotty Barnhart is not touring with The Count Basie Orchestra or teaching at Florida State University, he performs with his own quintet-sextet, lectures and demonstrates at schools, colleges, universities, conferences around the world, spreading jazz music to ensure its future for others to explore and enjoy.
LARRY AND AMANDA FICHTER
CONCENTRATION: GUEST EXPERIENCE AND SPONSORSHIPS
Larry and Amanda Fichter are husband-and-wife owners of Fichter Financial Group, LLC, established in 1998. Their company handles both institutional investments and personal financial advisory services. Amanda holds a certified financial planner (CFP) designation and Larry has served on the Estate Planning Council of Los Angeles.
CONCENTRATION: MARKETING STRATEGIES
Dr. Dana Hall is an Associate Professor in the McCamish School of Business at Reinhardt University and serves as coordinator for the Reinhardt MBA Program and Faculty Senate Chair. She teaches a variety of courses that draw on both her academic credentials and corporate experience, including graduate-level courses in organizational communication, global management, research methods, and quantitative decision-making, as well as undergraduate courses in business statistics, marketing principles, digital marketing, and consumer behavior. She was honored to be awarded the 2017 Vulcan Materials Award for Teaching Excellence, chosen by her peers. In addition to a Ph.D. in Communication Studies, an M.B.A., and a B.A. in Art, she brings 25+ years of corporate experience to her teaching. She spent most of her career working in the advertising industry and was a Senior Vice President and Management Representative with McCann-Erickson Worldwide in the New York office and managed global advertising accounts that included L’Oréal and Lufthansa. While at Bernstein-Rein Advertising, she led the advertising launch team for Bayer Animal Health’s Advantage Flea Control. Her areas of research interest are focused on organizational identification and organizational commitment.
CONCENTRATION: GRASS ROOTS MARKETING
John Harris earned his Bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics from the University of Missouri – St. Louis and a dual Master’s degree in Management and Computer Science from Webster University in Missouri. His reputation for creative thinking combined with his technical background served him well during an extensive, 35-year career with United Parcel Service; with the majority of those years in their Engineering departments at the director level, completing his last assignment as the Corporate U.S. Hub Operations Engineering director in 2017.
As a fan of all types of music, John has a true appreciation for musical artists and live-music venues.
John is currently working with Trivnow, a technology start-up company, as director of strategic marketing and sales.
CONCENTRATION: NEW MARKET OPPORTUNITIES
Bill Killen is a businessman, strategist, entrepreneur, innovator, and a music lover.
He made his mark in the business world by combining a strategic vision of what is possible with the financial and business plans needed to implement that vision and make those dreams come true. He is currently the Principal of Intelligent Growth Group in Atlanta, Georgia.
Bill started down this path with an Electrical Engineering degree from Union College in Schenectady, New York and an MBA in Finance from Wharton School of Business.
Upon graduation he began his career in New York City at RCA Corp as an internal auditor and business planner, and then moved to its subsidiary NBC Television. While at NBC his assignments included a stint as a Production Unit Manager on Saturday Night Live (1979), and on various Sports remotes and features. He also helped prepare bids for the rights to televise live sporting events.
In 1980, Bill decided to move to Atlanta to join Cox Enterprises Inc. where he spent twenty years investing in, acquiring, and creating new businesses for Cox in the fields of media, telecom, and internet. He was instrumental in positioning Cox to thrive in emerging opportunities such as telephone over cable-tv, cellular and pcs wireless phone service, internet access over cable-tv, and numerous internet web site businesses. He championed and started Cox’s Auto Trader.com which became the largest used car website on the Internet.
While at Cox, Bill also invested in digital special effects pioneer Digital Domain of Venice, California. He served on the Board alongside its Founders, Hollywood luminaries Jim Cameron, Stan Winston, and Scott Ross. Digital Domain won numerous Academy Award nominations for movies such as Apollo 13, and won the Oscar for best visual effects for the movie Titanic.
To scratch his entrepreneurial itch, Bill left Cox and co-founded and built Blue Ridge Mountain Water Inc. from a start-up to become Atlanta’s second largest provider of bottled water service. BRMW delivered 5 gallon bottles of spring water, “Bottled at the Source” at the Company’s spring in the mountains of North Georgia. The Company grew to serve a subscriber base of over 14,000 homes and offices from a fleet of 20 delivery trucks and 65 employees. “Premium mountain spring water delivered fresh from the mountains to You!” BRMW was sold in 2008.
Since then Bill has helped various small growing businesses, including several juice store chain startups in Charleston SC and Atlanta, an organic produce home delivery subscription service in Atlanta, and a sod farm in Ocala, Florida. He is also the Business Manager for a Contemporary Jazz Guitar recording artist and performer, Eric Essix, of Birmingham, Alabama. In his spare time, Bill noodles on his Hammond B-3 organ, and he rides his bicycle in locales all across the Southeast while attending various music concerts.
STEPHANE LE GOUILLE
CONCENTRATION: GUEST SERVICE
Stephane Le Gouille hails from Brittany, France, where he attended pastry school and then went on to receive his degree in restaurant management. For the past 20 years, he has served as the Dining Captain/Maitre d’ of the acclaimed Patroon restaurant in New York City. Each year, Stephane and his restaurant team serve corporate executives, politicians, and an array of noted celebrities.
“Advertising, location and word-of-mouth will drive guests into your living room,” he says, “but it is meticulous focus on each and every table that will keep them coming back. It is fun for me to provide guests with outstanding service and I feel grateful to be able to do this for a living, but you cannot fake your way through it. It is the real knowledge of wines, handling problems, maintenance, décor, and a service personality that mean the difference between being good and truly being viewed as world class.”
CONCENTRATION: BRAND MANAGEMENT
Rakesh is a native of India and came to the US to pursue a master’s degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. After receiving an MBA, Rakesh has had an extensive career in marketing and brand management starting with Standard Brands Foods in New York. He then worked at the Hershey Chocolate Company, where he was responsible for introducing Reese’s Pieces. Next, he worked at Diageo where he managed various brands of alcoholic beverages such as The Famous Grouse Scotch Whiskey, Bisquit Cognac and Pernod.
Most recently, Rakesh was a Director of Marketing at UPS. During his 27 year career at UPS, Rakesh held a variety of positions in US Domestic, International and Customer Technology Marketing. During this time, Rakesh also managed UPS.com, directing several redesigns to establish it as an award winning website.
Rakesh is passionate about providing customers an exceptional experience by optimizing their experiences at every point of customer interaction, whether in-person, on the phone, web or on mobile devices. He believes that businesses succeed by building relationships with their customers and delivering on their brand promise.
Rakesh’s love for jazz began at 16 while attending an engineering school in India where he listened to the Voice of America on the radio almost every night. This led to Rakesh playing alto and tenor saxophones in the college band. He also listens to Indian classical music which emphasizes improvisations and is thus similar to jazz in some respects.
Currently, Rakesh continues to pursue his passions in technology, entertainment and design by advising technology startups and small businesses.
CONCENTRATION: INDUSTRY RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS
Dr. Lindsey Thornhill is a Vice President and Division Manager for Integrated Solutions for Systems, a small business engaged in a variety of engineering R&D projects. Prior to joining IS4S, Lindsey was a Senior Director for Program Management and Division Manager in the Global Markets and Missions Sector of Science Applications International Corporation. Lindsey manages a diverse staff of scientists and engineers engaged in a broad spectrum of defense-related research and development projects. He earned B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees from the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech, where he currently chairs the Woodruff School External Advisory Board and serves on the College of Engineering Advisory Board. Lindsey also serves on the the Parent Leadership Councils at both Belmont University and the University of Georgia. Lindsey has authored more than 50 publications, served as a reviewer for peer-reviewed journals, and delivered invited talks at international conferences and before the JASON Panel of the Department of Defense. He has served on dissertation reading committees, he co-directed student paper competitions at Georgia Tech and at Clark Atlanta University, and he has mentored students from a local magnet high school for the sciences.
CONCENTRATION: MUSIC DIRECTION AND SPECIAL PROGRAMS
Justin Varnes has served as The Velvet Note’s Music Director since the club’s doors first opened, and is one of the founders of the guiding concept “by musicians, for musicians”. Born in Jacksonville, Florida and residing in Atlanta, GA, Justin Varnes began studying music at 10 – on the trumpet. His father – an avid jazz listener – exposed him to Stan Kenton, Nat “King” Cole and Erroll Garner. After attending Douglas Anderson School of the Arts on trumpet, Justin studied drum set with Ray Charles alumnus Rick Kirkland. Then he studied music at the University of North Florida under Charlotte Mabrey, Bill Prince and Bunky Green while continuing to take privately from Rick Kirkland. After graduating with degrees in jazz studies and percussion, Justin relocated to New York City where he continued to study at the New School and study privately with Jojo Mayer. In New York, Justin began touring with Phoebe Snow, with whom he performed on the Roseanne Barr Show, as well as National Public Radio’s “World Cafe” (Justin would later perform on “World Cafe” with “Five for Fighting”).
While in New York, Justin also studied with Vernel Fournier, Reggie Workman, and Joe Chambers. Outside of private lessons, he received a healthy education on Tuesday and Wednesday nights at Small’s listening to Kurt Rosenwinkle (with Jeff Ballard) and the Sam Yahel Trio (with Brian Blade). He also developed musically through regular rehearsing and performing in groups led by Coby Brown, Oscar Perez, Bob Reynolds, Nate Shaw and Doug Wamble.
Justin is the founder and bandleader for the highly-successful Legends Of Jazz Series presented in its fourth season at the Velvet Note, and being presented throughout the Fulton County Library System. He is a member of the music school faculty of The Lovett School in Atlanta.
CONCENTRATION: CONTRACTS AND HUMAN RESOURCES
Brianna Williams is an attorney practicing in the areas of entertainment, employment, diversity management, and OFCCP compliance.
She is the founder of Mélange, a full service legal and consulting firm specializing in helping individuals and organizations visualize their dreams, implement tools to reach them, and protect them from harm. Through Mélange, Brianna has helped several organizations manage their differences, similarities, and tensions in meaningful ways. She has presented at conferences across the country on the topics of diversity management, OFCCP compliance, and strategic visioning, and her work has been published nationally.
In addition to a rich employment/diversity practice, Mélange’s entertainment practice is a full-service operation geared toward artists in the music industry. Among the clients represented by the firm are Jacquees (Cash Money Records), Rich Homie Quan, Trinidad James, and Reese Johnson (producer for Alicia Keys, Aaron Hall, and Changing Faces).
Brianna is also an active member of the community. She has served as the Director of Communications for the National Bar Association, is a voting member of The Recording Academy; is an active volunteer for the Georgia Lawyers for the Arts; has served as a guest lecturer in Music Business at Loyola University, and is a board member of Music in the Park ATL. In 2010, Brianna was recognized as one of the Nation’s Best Advocates: Top 40 Under 40 by The National Bar Association and IMPACT.
Brianna is admitted to practice in both Georgia and Louisiana.