Successful Berklee Alumni #151: Joe Barnard

Joe Barnard

Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 2 min.) or download it.


Graduated in 2014 with a major in Music Production & Engineering.  Principal instrument:  guitar.


Position:  Founder of Barnard Propulsion Systems, a.k.a., a company that builds and sells technologically sophisticated model rockets in kit form.  Unlike other model rockets, these ones steer not via fins, but by controlling the direction of thrust, just like real rockets do.  A typical rocket kit sells for around $300, but can be re-used with no engines which are under $20.  With the company currently a one-person operation, Joe’s current job is around 25% engineering and 75% running the business (communications, sales, and assembling kits).

Overview:  While at Berklee, Joe met Ben Meyers and was hired by his company, 21 Summit, where he shot many videos and weddings.  Joe spent more time doing video than audio by the time he was finishing Berklee, and he continued to work there until the summer of 2016 (2 years after graduation), then started his own video company, where he shot many music videos for Berklee through mid-2017.

However, in the fall of 2015 he got interested in  SpaceX, and figured a long-term goal was to get a job there.  Knowing that his current experience was inadequate to get a job there, Joe purchased many (expensive!) rocketry textbooks, and spent all of his spare time reading and building rockets “The best way I learn is through experience and experimentation.”   In March 2017 he figured out his current product.  He moved to Nashville that fall, did a few last videos for money, then was able to refine his product and go full-time with his business in early 2018.

You can see Joe’s LinkedIn profile here, but the best way to see what he’s up to is by looking at his company website,


Choice Quotes: “I definitely prefer being an entrepreneur. The original goal was to get a job at SpaceX. I’ve succeeded by that measure, as SpaceX and other companies have reached out to me and made offers, but it never felt like the right time. My goal at this point is to see how far I can take the business.”

“A year ago there was no market for what I sell–therefore we’ve had many articles written about us which means we’ve had marketing for very little effort.”

“The thing you learn at Berklee is you get out what you put in. If you just show up at class and do the minimum you won’t an education worth what you paid. But if you talk to professors, network with musicians in class,, do extra, you get the value. Running a business is like that. You can’t do nothing and all the stuff you have to do you have to set your own goals for–nobody gives you a deadline. ”

“Finding out what you want to do–if it isn’t music–is even more scary when you have a Berklee degree, which is really specialized.   I’m so glad I went to Berklee and still don’t think I’d change it, but acknowledging it is scary. I’ve heard if you don’t know what you want to do, do a job you don’t love. I really didn’t love shooting weddings–it was so clear to me that I’d rather do rocket work.”


One of Joe’s inventions. “My job changes really quickly–that’s what’s exciting. I do love what I do, but I have to constantly make sure I’m focusing on the right things so that I do continue to love it. It’s too easy because you’re spending time on what you don’t love–reading regulations, handling returns, which is monotonous. But if I can spend 30% of the time on what I love I call that worth it.”





A rocket in action. “I did an analysis of model industries: trains, etc. Most hobbyists care less about speed and performance than about things being as realistic as possible in both look and function.  Fin-guided rockets have to launch super fast, but real ones start off slowly–and majestic looking. The type of system I developed achieves a slow lift-off, just like the real thing. This opens up a whole new section of the hobby.”






Joe with a friend. “Although I didn’t do it, if you’re starting a company have at least one other person to work with. You won’t have all the strengths and it’s SO hard to start a business, especially during the first few years. You’ll want someone there to go through the experience. . I moved to Nashville because I knew it would be hard, so wanted to be around friends–that’s really important.




See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.