From The Bassoon To Cartoons

Linda Dela Cruz
Wednesday - January 20, 2010
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Honolulu Symphony musician Paul Barrett at work on his Grin-n-Barrett line of greeting cards

Whatever comes to his mind is what Paul Barrett sketches, and these drawings star in his Grin-n-Barrett line of greeting cards.

The newest designs feature something that is near and dear to his heart - music.

“I view my job as a musician as a therapist,” explains Barrett, a bassoonist with the Honolulu Symphony since 1977. “If I invite people to pay money for my concerts, I want them to go away feeling better than they did in the beginning.”

And that’s also what he tries to do with his cards. One set, Musicians, depicts animals such as ducks, alligators and cats playing instruments. Another set, Deconstructed Instruments, shows parts of musical instruments displayed in a pattern.

“These are really unique because I don’t think anyone else has anything like this,” he says.

The “audition” for the cards started about 10 years ago as Barrett doodled on his sheet music, and he’s collected many designs over the years.

“A lot of the bassoon parts have my little doodles on them,” Barrett says. “The bassoon has a lot of rest, as there is frequently a lot of down time.”

What kick-started his business was the symphony’s bankruptcy announcement in October, so he needed to supplement his income.

“When one door closes, another door opens,” he says.

By Thanksgiving, the Kailua resident launched his Web site and debuted his Christmas line featuring Santa Claus playing instruments, as well as winter Christmas trees. On his other set of cards, which can be used all year round, he showcases angels playing violin, bassoon and trumpet. Using a computer, he works his designs over and over until, like his music compositions, he gets them just the way he wants. He also carries his trusty sketchbook with him in case something comes to mind.

He does special orders and can print up any of the designs shown on his Web site.

“It’s basically a real bootstrap thing,” says Barrett, who knew he wanted to be a musician since he was in the ninth grade at Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan.

Some of the cards also are influenced by his family, which includes wife Judy, Honolulu Symphony’s assistant concert master and an avid equestrian, as well as their adult children, Colin and Meghan.

In addition to his new life as an entrepreneur, Barrett gives private music lessons and teaches at University of Hawaii. He looks forward to playing for Hawaii Opera Theatre in its upcoming season, featuring Le Nozze di Figaro, Die Walkure and La Boheme.

One of the challenges this small-business owner faces is learning about the world of retail.

“I’m learning how to talk to buyers,” he says. “I’m learning how to present myself to them and get positive feedback from them. Everything I’ve done up until now is social networking and word of mouth. If anyone has advice for me, I’m really receptive because I’m really green to business.”

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