Vennie Palmer Hits All the Right Notes While Earning Degree at Tri-C
May 16, 2016
Vencott “Vennie” Palmer didn’t think he could do it. Yes, he was tired of working part time and wasting the rest of it. But when he thought about enrolling at Cuyahoga Community College, he didn’t think he had the money. He worried about the pressure it would put on his wife to take care of their two daughters. He wasn’t sure how to make it work.
Palmer was a musician at Mega Church on Scranton Road in Cleveland, and was earning a small salary to play. But as it slowly began to dawn on him that if he didn’t change, he would be performing at church for his whole life, he decided to take a friend’s advice and visit Tri-C.
In 2010, he did so, if skeptically, when he took a tour of the Gill and Tommy LiPuma Center for Creative Arts.
“I walked around, and I was so blown away by the facility,” Palmer, 35, said.
It would take two more years for him to “build up the courage” to enroll, but when he collects his associate degree in recording arts and technology at Commencement May 19, he will already have been working at his new job teaching in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.
“My champion, who really made it easy for me, was my wife (Jennifer). She really stepped up and said, ‘I am going to support you in this in every way possible.’” Palmer said. He said time management and money were major challenges while he was a student, though good grades would eventually earn him scholarship assistance.
Palmer plays piano, bass and “drums are a distant third.” By the time he enrolled at Tri-C, he had already recorded a CD of his original music. The title track, “My Element,” even got radio play, Palmer said.
“When I listen to it, I’m actually still proud of what I did. I still hear the mistakes in terms of the mixing. I hear some of the things I know now I would do differently,” Palmer, of Strongsville, said.
That comes courtesy of his education and the professors who helped him attain it.
“The first thing that popped out to me was how knowledgeable the teachers were,” Palmer said. “It was the first time I had gotten instructors who didn’t mind taking the time and sitting down, even if it was interrupting their own work.”
This personal attention helped him land a job teaching recording arts at the Cleveland High School for Digital Arts. Palmer, who also holds a bachelor’s in business from Baldwin Wallace University, started the job April 11. He will work as a contractor until he attains the required certifications.
Ten years ago, Palmer would have laughed if someone told him he would become a teacher, but when he walked into the high school and saw the way technology made students light up, “I instantly fell in love. I was taken aback by how interested these kids were.”
Palmer said that he considered quitting school many times, but what kept him going was the goal of showing other Cleveland musicians that they can make money in the business without just scraping by as a performer.
“I don’t want to be a CEO. I want to do music, but there are other ways to do music,” Palmer, who will continue to play at his church, said.
Completing a degree at Tri-C “changed the way I approach life in general. All my life, I have been tentative. I think going through the program taught me not only how to record, but it taught me confidence.”