Dakari Kelly is a local Chattanooga musician whose life is defined by music. He began his journey in Barger Academy and continued on to the Center for Creative Arts, and attended Tennessee Tech on a music scholarship. After years of devoted practice, he eventually made it to competitive divisions like All East, All State, where he received principal positions. Dakari went on to do a few national competitions like Act-So under the NAACP and one sponsored by the Omega Psi fraternity. With thirteen years under his belt, he now juggles a few jobs, including teaching at the Mountain Arts Community Center, playing bass for Rick Rushing and the Blues Strangers, and interning with SoundCorps. He is currently a Craft Masters attendee hoping to hone his music experience and build his career.

What instruments do you play?

Dakari: I am classically trained in upright bass; it was the first instrument that I actually invested in learning. Before that, I played the violin in the second grade. Everyone else moved up from second to third grade in the violin section except for me, so I switched to the upright bass and began to move up in it. I play a little bit of the cello, drums, upright bass, and the bass guitar, which I’ve been playing professionally heavily for the past year.


What is your position with SoundCorps?

Dakari: I’m a data entry intern. Stratton gives me the opportunity to soak up all of the aspects of the industry, so I get to see what happens behind the scenes at events. Basically I have a VIP pass to what happens at SoundCorps and I get to absorb as much knowledge as possible to improve my career. I want to get my personal skills to a level where I can do it on a day to day basis. I get to see Stratton do that with entrepreneurs on a regular basis. My project right now is to get people on the directory; when I’m at events I try to network with people and talk to them about signing up on the SoundCorps page so they can get their stuff out there.


Why did you decide to join the CraftMasters class?

Dakari: I’ve never taken a music business class before and this was my opportunity to immerse myself in the questions I need to be asked. I’ve heard some of this stuff before but I’ve never had to answer the questions that have been presented to me in this class. I’m getting to experience and learn from the music business. I have a bigger picture of what is going on by studying how promoters or venue owners think. I get to hone in on a certain project, which is the focus of this class. Where I’ve been focusing on getting gigs as a bass player, this class has shown me how to make a business out of it. I love bar gigs (they do give you beer after all) but I like how this class is showing me how to expand my horizons and look for bigger show opportunities.


What is your music career goal for the next year?

Dakari: I want to branch out of Chattanooga. I’m trying to get some more gigs with local bands and meet more of the people who are collectively doing what I’m doing. I’d like to go on tour within the next year with a band that I’m working with. It’s very low key at the moment but we’re playing some shows here and there that have done very well. I have some rafting friends who are very good at music and can bring out a crowd. We’re recording an album that will be released hopefully by December. I’m doing more of a managing aspect with them because I’m not the songwriter; I help people hone in their energy and become like–minded so that the product is good. Right now we’re looking for a drummer, so we need to find someone who can mesh with us and that’s really hard to do when everyone’s got an opinion. We could tour if we got heard by the right people. I’d also like to play more gigs here, because there’s no reason to not play around town. I’m ready to start working with people like Courtney Reid who are like–minded because it’s an opportunity to learn and grow with open minds.