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The Barnhart Group — Trumpeting Family Business

September 2007 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor
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WHAT WOULD you give up for a life in the music business? Brent Barnhart unwittingly sacrificed his childhood.

Barnhart, chairman of The Barnhart Group in Canton, OH, wasn’t always in the sheetfed printing business, though the firm has been in his family for more than 80 years. At the age of 8, the now 37-year-old Barnhart—even as a child, an accomplished trumpet player—began touring the world with a sundry of evangelists. For the next 20 years, it was an annual diet of 30 weeks on the road and 100-plus cities.

He quickly spread his wings by cutting an album every other year beginning at the age of 12, and put out nine records in all. At the age of 16, he was a featured soloist with the U.S. Collegiate Wind Band and circled the globe twice. At 17, the veteran musician was a featured guest soloist with the “President’s Own” Marine Corps Band.

While attending Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Barnhart received an invitation to perform on the Grand Ole Opry. For the next five years, he performed alongside some of the biggest names in country, bluegrass and gospel.

After the Opry, it was on to Las Vegas, where Barnhart was executive producer of The Legends of Country Music at the Aladdin Resort & Casino. Armed with a budget of $7 million, he booked acts such as Tim McGraw, Trisha Yearwood, Kenny Rogers, Randy Travis, Tammy Wynette and Waylon Jennings. Barnhart even had the Jordanaires—noted for having sung with Elvis—as his personal backup singers.

Suffice to say, Barnhart packed a wealth of experiences into his scrapbook before most people have figured out what they want to do in life. In fact, he penned his life story, “Joy in the Journey,” at the age of 25. But such a rich life at a tender age cost Barnhart the more mainstream childhood memories.

On the Road Again

“I was never a kid. I was with adults constantly since the time I was 8 years old,” he says. “To this day, my best friends are in their 50s and 60s. In 2050, when I’m 80 years old, I’ll be talking about artists who were famous 120 years before that, like Roy Acuff.

“That’s why I published my life story. I was worried that if I didn’t write it down at the time, I wouldn’t remember it later. Without the documentation, people would think I was nuts, some senile guy.”
 

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