Jake Yarmoff is a singer/songwriter. So it’s not surprising that he cites Alice Lipson as a major influence. At Staples High School — from which he graduated in 2010 — the choral teacher helped him hone his smooth sound.
But he also was mentored by English instructor Julia McNamee. “She woke me up my last 2 years there, ” Yarmoff — who now goes by the easier-to-remember name Jake Bernard — says. “She taught me to be harder on myself, and made me the writer I am.”
Even math teacher Lenny Klein made an impact. “His policy of total honesty and great sense of humor were so important,” Bernard says. “He’s all about taking your work seriously — but not yourself.”
With that background, it’s not too surprising that at Penn State the aspiring entertainer majored in … finance. And minored in sociology.
He interned with Vanguard after junior year, then joined the investment firm full-time in financial sales at its Philadelphia headquarters. Bernard calls Vanguard “a great company, and a fantastic experience.” But he left 8 months ago.
“I knew I had somewhere else to be,” he says simply.
That “somewhere else” was metaphorical — not physical. He remained in Philly, and dedicated himself to his musical craft.
“My goal in my career is to have a positive impact — to inspire and give ‘wow’ moments, like other musicians have for me,” Bernard says.
“I want to make people smile, laugh and be their full selves. Ever since I was little, in every interaction with people — even outside of music — that’s been my aim.”
So Bernard wrote songs. He played. And he’s been in the studio, recording a series of singles he’ll release over the coming months.
Right now, “City of Love” is getting a lot of attention. And love.
It’s a 2-way street. Bernard has come to appreciate Philadelphia — a place that, growing up in Westport, he never really thought of — for its small-town-in-a-big-city vibe.
It took several months to get the tune right. But it — and a music video that shows Bernard singing and playing in some of Philadelphia’s most iconic spots (yes, of course including the “Rocky” steps!) — is a catchy, compelling love song to his adopted city.
Bernard knows that — musically speaking — the City of (Brotherly) Love is not in the same league as New York, Los Angeles, Nashville or Austin. It does have a lively hip hop, rap and jazz scene.
But the “beach pop” genre that Bernard specializes in (think Jason Mraz, and Fairfield’s own John Mayer) is wide open. He hopes to fill it.
Yet he retains his Westport roots. He recently performed at Toquet Hall with Alan Southworth — a friend since orchestra at Coleytown Elementary School — and Dustin Lowman, another Staples grad on the fast musical track. Bernard has also played alongside Staples alum Drew Angus.
Jake Yarmoff loves Westport. Jake Bernard loves Philadelphia.
And both places love both Jakes right back.