Tamara Fuller’s imaginative and prescient introduced The Velvet Observe jazz membership to life 10 years in the past

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Tamara Fuller describes herself because the little one of a once-upon-a-time opera singer. In reality, it wasn’t all fantasy. Her mom, Barbara, sang in church choirs wherever the household was residing, which, as her father, Monroe, was an Air Drive pilot, modified ceaselessly — eight occasions from Warner Robins, the place Fuller was born, by her highschool commencement.

“I grew up listening to music being performed and carried out in our home as my mom ready for her weekly choir solo,” Fuller recollects. The consistency of their lives was supplied by church. The Fullers have been sure to develop into concerned wherever they moved, specifically providing their residence as a spot of hospitality when missionary and youth teams visited their adopted church. 

“Mother would prepare dinner a meal and make her well-known pound cake, and the singing would ring by the home,” she says. “It was how they confirmed their love and caring for the individuals within the communities the place they discovered themselves yr to yr.” 

It was sufficient to encourage a really younger Fuller to study to play, and she or he started piano classes. And although she “performed for each relative’s marriage ceremony and funeral from the age of 4 to 16,” Fuller states emphatically that she was not neither is a musician. Not a participant of music, however a lover of music, and, most related to her life and ultimately as proprietor of The Velvet Observe jazz membership, of music’s function in entertaining buddies once they collect. 

Pre-Observe life 

Following a university pc science diploma and a graduate diploma in organizational improvement, Fuller’s first profession led her to a place because the principal guide of an organizational psychology follow in Ellicott Metropolis, Maryland. A lot of her work was for a New York Metropolis-based enterprise, and she or he discovered herself piling up frequent-flyer miles not solely backwards and forwards to New York however to the shoppers’ places throughout the nation. When at residence, she relaxed by internet hosting dinner events, for which she at all times employed stay music “to take advantage of bizarre event extraordinary.” 

The Velvet Note Tamara Fuller
Fuller was impressed by her personal need to listen to stay jazz in a membership setting.

Her high-flying profession introduced different alternatives, together with a partnership to determine and open an FDIC-insured financial institution. All of it generated sufficient revenue that she would retire at age 42. However Fuller discovered inactivity unsustainable. She had served on a number of boards throughout her consulting profession, and she or he took a spot on a board eyeing another method to larger schooling. In 2006, she turned the primary lady within the U.S. to begin a four-year liberal arts faculty. However the enterprise turned bitter, and when it lastly failed it had value her most of her private wealth. 

“I fell right into a deep melancholy and remoted myself,” Fuller says. “I felt shamed, responsible about the way it affected the individuals who adopted me into this enterprise. I had squandered my assets and didn’t know what I’d do with the remainder of my life. One factor I did know: I must work once more.”

To drag herself out of her melancholy, she “started making little duties into victories,” She taught herself to prepare dinner, most frequently to recordings of stay jazz performances: Miles Davis in Stockholm and Shirley Horn at The Village Vanguard.  

“Shirley’s ‘If I Ought to Lose You’ had a very profound influence on me,” Fuller says. “It’s such a easy association.  You may hear the dishes clanging and the din of whispered dialog, and you may even hear Shirley clearing her throat. It confirmed me that nice issues weren’t good. Whereas they’ve their nicks and dents and surprising ups and downs, altogether they may very well be very gratifying. It was a part of my therapeutic that I wanted on the time, affirmation that I may nonetheless have a fantastic life despite the fact that I’d made an enormous mistake.” 

The combo of duties and jazz turned a components, a technique for shifting ahead: to do one thing that may enable her to hearken to stay jazz for the remainder of her life.

Making it actual 

At some point whereas she was ready in an airport, Fuller learn an article in USA At present speaking about cultural facilities being on the decline as a result of individuals with the urge for food and cash to frequent them not lived within the components of the cities the place they have been situated. It appeared irrelevant to her on the time, however later, whereas she was enthusiastic about the problem of listening to stay jazz whereas residing in Warner Robins, it occurred to her that the answer to that downside may very well be a part of her plan. “So,” she says, “I started searching for a spot for a suburban jazz membership, which was on the time, in 2010, largely exceptional.”

Fuller was residing in Center Georgia in an house her dad and mom stored, and commenced researching applicable places, which ultimately introduced her to Alpharetta. 

“Alpharetta sits in center of 5 contiguous zip codes that collectively have the very best median incomes and lowest unemployment charges within the state, which is the demographic profile of people that eat jazz regularly, that’s, go to a jazz membership two-point-five occasions a month,” Fuller says. “Alpharetta can also be inside an hour’s driving distance of a number of college-level jazz teaching programs. So if you wish to launch a jazz membership, put it someplace the place they’ve performed jazz, studied jazz and carried out jazz.”

Not inconsequentially, Fuller famous, Alpharetta supplied an infrastructure that may show precious to her and The Velvet Observe. 

“We sit on an infrastructure that carries an incredible quantity of company information and offers information redundancy,” she says. “That provides us a strong sign exceeding that of most music venues. We didn’t know once we’d want that till we began broadcasting from the membership in 2015.” 

The Velvet Note Tamara Fuller
When Fuller couldn’t afford to rent a chef through the early phases of the pandemic, she took on the function of govt chef and excelled. She stays within the place immediately.

Whereas Covid took down many leisure venues, together with a number of of the nation’s iconic jazz golf equipment, the Velvet Observe shortly switched to digital choices. “We have been capable of broadcast a group of stay and recorded jazz in top quality,” says Fuller. That not solely stored The Velvet Observe alive in its audiences’ minds, it generated donations to maintain the membership solvent and able to reopen when visitors may very well be invited again in. 

Past the expertise, the true key to survival was the flexibility to pivot. “Once we reopened we may solely open to 16 individuals at a time,” she says. “You may’t run a membership with that sort of revenue.”

So Fuller fell again on that talent she had honed working her method out of that precedent days of melancholy. 

“We didn’t have the cash to rent a chef so I cooked — and we began getting excessive marks from our visitors for our meals,” she says. “I loved doing that and I’m nonetheless the manager chef, developing the recipes and menus, sourcing all of the substances of each dish.” 

Montreux to Alpharetta 

The Velvet Observe is situated in an unimpressive strip mall simply off Previous Milton Parkway a pair miles from Georgia 400. It’s a small venue, seating solely 40. However all that was a part of the plan. 

“I do know comparatively nothing about jazz,” Fuller says. “What I do know rather a lot about is how individuals get pleasure from jazz when they’re on a date evening. I made a decision we weren’t going to attempt to be the world’s biggest jazz facility or swankiest nightclub. We’re a spot the place individuals be ok with having fun with one thing that’s vitally vital: high quality time spent with their accomplice. Remembering that within the face of a large number of distractions has been crucial to our success.”

The idea was prime of thoughts even when naming the membership, which Tamara reverently defines as: “A velvet word is that whisper of a word that hangs within the air of a stay efficiency, lengthy after the word has been performed, when the room is so quiet and reverent which you can hear the word linger on, and on, and on. You don’t need to interrupt even a microsecond of its life because it softly and slowly fades from this world to reside solely within the tender folds of your thoughts.”

Ten years of The Velvet Observe performances embrace an intentional mixture of nationally acknowledged musicians — jazz giants like guitarists Larry Carlton and Pat Martino, drummers Jimmy Cobb and Dave Weckl, bassist Christian McBride, singer-pianist Diane Schuur, and pianist Robert Glasper. These famend greats are interspersed with an extended checklist of regionally sourced gamers, together with Grammy winners Terreon Gully, Melvin Jones and Saunders Sermons, and pianist Kevin Bales together with his personal ensemble or accompanying different artists. 

The Velvet Note
Fuller’s imaginative and prescient was to create a small and heat venue for stay jazz.

“Most jazz golf equipment go somehow, native or nationwide,” Fuller says. “We make investments the cash to herald nice jazz musicians from all over the world, and likewise commit a variety of our calendar to individuals who stay and carry out and train and play right here. That’s vital as a result of we don’t need individuals to get uninterested in what they hear and see. We need to give them entry to all that jazz is, all of the subgenres, the locations the place it’s performed and has originated, from New Orleans to Montreux.” 

It’s additionally vital as a result of The Velvet Observe is sufficiently small that the intimacy carries over into conversations between the performers and crowd — from the stage in addition to after performances, when musicians and viewers mingle. 

“A sustainable membership requires a village of assist and recommendation,” Fuller says. A part of that village is her board of advisors, a formidable roster of achieved musicians, entrepreneurs, guest-services professionals and different enterprise of us, whose duties she describes as, “Every has the accountability to show me no less than one factor annually, which has led to a really wealthy curriculum of constant schooling for me over time.” 

Lastly, Fuller emphasizes, The Velvet Observe advantages from its location within the metro Atlanta space. 

“Atlanta is a goldmine,” says Fuller. “We now have so many extremely regarded, music-school educated, Grammy-award-winning artists who make their residence in Atlanta. That’s pure gold.” 


Mike Shaw is a jazz pianist who has carried out for many years in New Orleans and Atlanta. He’s the writer of the novel The Musician. He’s the founding father of Shaw Communications, a advertising and marketing firm.


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