Phillip Clyde Bernier
8 Counts To An Open Door
Singer, dancer, actor, motivational speaker, husband, and father Phillip Clyde Bernier marches on despite of difficult circumstances by seeking to bless others.
PREFACE: This spotlight article is considerably longer than most; therefore, it is split into 4 episodes. If you are to read only one episode, I strongly recommend reading Episode 3.
EPISODE 1: Phillipping the Switch
Phillip’s HOME story starts when he was cut from his college’s wrestling team. In High School, in the middle of suburbia right outside of DC, he was known as “the wrestling guy” and “the music guy,” so having wrestling suddenly pulled away from him came as a major shock. Even though Phillip felt completely stuck, only a few agonizing days later, he swore he could hear an audible voice from God assuring another door will open soon.
Since he also had experience doing stage performance, one community theater role being Peter in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, he decided to audition for his college’s Spring musical. Of course he was cast into the show, but he was just one of two freshmen in the entire cast. Plus he was the only student who wasn’t majoring in music or theater.
Phillip had enrolled in the communications major track to later go into radio broadcasting. That way, he could be talking to and around artists and managers, using a direct approach tactic to present his music to them, as opposed to simply having a signed piece of fancy paper declaring in decorative font that he can sing well.
Regardless, the director of the musical pulled Phillip aside after rehearsal one evening and suggested he audition for the music business major.
Two weeks, lots of praying, and one Italian song later, Phillip auditioned. And, by the fighting grace of the musical director, Phillip received approval to enroll in the music business track.
Hardly by coincidence, without a communications major, and still a student, Phillip landed a radio broadcast job through contacts at his church. The gig was on Saturday mornings, and it required Phillip to wake up at 4am. However, being the sociable guy he is, Phillip would still hang out with his friends on Friday evenings and laugh until the sun rose. From there, he would go straight to the radio station without any sleep, which was ok because he also worked as a barista in a coffee shop. Though Phillip shortly learned, after waking up on the coffee shop counter, that six shots of espresso can only do so much for the human body. Phillip also learned, through his radio job, what truly and unexpectedly happens behind the microphone, which is practically nothing at all. No artist or manager interactions, nada.
Needless to say, Phillip was glad he did stage performance instead of wrestling and did not go into communications like he had initially planned.
EPISODE 2: The Big Move
A short recap: as Phillip was nearing his December graduation, he worked in a coffee shop and as a Saturday morning radio DJ, all while taking 18 credit hours of classes in VA.
During his last Thanksgiving break as a student, Phillip worked at the local coffee shop in the middle of a typical college town.
Since all the other students were home with their families the neighborhood was desolate and motionless. The night after Thanksgiving Day, aka Friday night, Phillip swept the floors and wiped down the tables, preparing to close the shop. Then, 5 minutes before closing time, two guys walk in, order coffee, sit at a table, and hang out. In passing, and not purposefully eavesdropping, Phillip heard one of the guys say that he was looking for a cool Christian roommate to live with in Nashville. Phillip enthusiastically raised his hand in the air and explained he is perfect for the position, so the two immediately exchanged information.
Fast-forward to 3 weeks after Phillip’s graduation, at age 23, on January 5th, by the grace and guidance of God, he moved into his already furnished apartment with his new roommate in Nashville. Fast-forward again to one week after moving, Phillip landed an unpaid internship at the Sound Stage recording studio on Music Row, but of course shortly realized he needed a paying job to cover rent and groceries. To solve his unpaid predicament, Phillip found a ballroom dance instructor job in Hendersonville.
All was moving at a reliable and steady pace until one night walking down Broadway . . .
EPISODE 3: Do What You Dream (Blessing In Disguise)
One seemingly normal night walking down Broadway, a female stranger strolled up to Phillip and smoothly asked him if he wanted to audition for a televised singing and dancing competition. He eagerly answered yes and auditioned the next morning. After landing the audition, Phillip soon found himself in LA filming for a reality TV show called Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann. Note: the term “reality” is used loosely; most of the off-stage “behind the scenes” segments were scripted or coached. So, in addition to singing while dancing, Phillip took on the role of being an actor for the show.
After winning the competition as “the underdog/dark horse,” Hollywood Records wrote songs for the contestants to record for a post-show album.
One song the big guys wanted Phillip to sing was too raunchy for what he could morally represent, so he gave up the opportunity for a huge solo moment on the album in exchange for being an uplifting and positive influence for his younger audience. Though, Phillip recorded non-solo vocals for two other songs on the album.
Once the cast finished recording the album, the big guys instructed the crew to go home and rest, and that they would call them back when they’re ready. Phillip assumed they would call back a week later to tell him to move to LA, so he made the conscious decision to not renew his apartment lease, keep his belongings in storage, and sleep in his Jeep in the meantime.
One week turned into one month, which turned into several months.
The entire time, Phillip kept telling himself “they’re going to call back soon” and refused to crash somebody’s couch, becoming a burden for an unknown amount of time. Since fans of the show would stop him on the streets to take a photo with him, treating him like a celebrity, Phillip refused to tell any friends or family that he was actually homeless. He considered getting a job, but how would working at IHOP after just being a TV celebrity look?
Finally, after three months, the big guys called Phillip, stating they did not want to renew his contract. Being rich and famous was not Phillip’s reality.
After living in his Jeep for three months and not having any sort of job, he asked himself the big question: now what?
Phillip returned to Broadway to book shows on his own and consequently met a majority of the homeless community living on Broadway.
Phillip then decided the best way to be a blessing and minister to the homeless was to be homeless himself; he wanted to reach them by being able to somewhat relate to them. Again, not telling anybody in his life what he was going through, he ministered to his peers.
Thinking back to the number of weeks he spent in LA and did not attend church services, Phillip calculated the amount of money he would have tithed to the church had he gone, which added to $1K. Regardless of having a limited supply of cash left to his name, Phillip sought to contribute $1000 in some way to bless others. One homeless man Phillip had come to know well was honest, sober, and never begged for money; he would only ask for work. On their following encounter, Phillip invited this man into his Jeep and handed the man an envelope with $1000 cash.
The kind act made no logical sense, but Phillip held onto his strong faith, knowing that good would come out of it one way or another.
Eventually, Phillip developed the idea of putting a spin on motivational speeches for students in school. He formulated a half performance, first catching the students' attention with uplifting song and dance, and a half motivational talk, telling the kids how valuable they are, that they are never alone, and that they are never without love. During his encouragement deliveries, Phillip was still sleeping in his Jeep house. While he was homeless, he told students that they could achieve what they dream, to chase it and just go for it! No matter what situation someone is in, there is hope and something better around the corner; that is what Phillip firmly believes.
Believe it or not, Phillip’s belief proved itself true. One night, while he was booking shows for himself on his laptop using Panera’s Wi-Fi, one worker set down a plate with a warm sandwich in front of Phillip. The worker simply said, “I thought you should have this Panini.” That one incident became nightly, and Phillip no longer had to worry about going hungry. In fact, right before closing, the worker would pack up all the pre-made sandwiches left over and give them all to Phillip.
Even though he had given away the last of his money, he had an abundance of food, and he chose to share his abundance with other hungry people.
Approximately one month after giving away his money, someone at Phillip’s church had invited him over to his house for dinner. After the warm and nourishing meal, the guy pulls Phillip to the side, hands him an envelope, says, “I think you should have this, but I don’t know why,” and kindly asks Phillip to open it after he’s left the house. Later that night, Phillip drove to a Walmart parking lot and opens the envelope to discover a check written out to him for $1000. By that time, six months had passed since Phillip left the TV show in the hopes of shortly becoming rich and famous.
Phillip acknowledged he needed to think carefully and precisely about what his next move would be.
He still wasn’t ready for a “normal” job, so it was now or never for him to fully focus on his music career; though, he still had no clue how he would continually finance his career.
First priority was finding a place to live other than his car. Luckily, Phillip found a CL ad for “Musician’s Paradise” aka 7 dudes in one house. The check covered the deposit and 1st month’s rent, giving Phillip one month to figure out how to finance the next chapter in his life.
Of course, not long after, a woman who had seen him on TV reached out to his mom, who gave the woman Phillip’s contact info. The woman said that she admired where Phillip’s heart is, having seen his website promoting his inspirational school talks, and wanted to do anything she could to help him on his journey. Phillip, however, gently denied her generosity. After the woman persisting, Phillip reflected and considered how he’d feel if the homeless man he gave his money to had denied his gift. Swallowing his pride, Phillip he decided to accept her blessing.
Having never met this woman who lived all the way in Seattle, practically the opposite corner of the continent, one month after receiving the check from the man at church, Phillip received a letter in the mail from the woman containing a check for $1K and a note explaining that she would send him the same amount each month until he expressed that he didn’t need it anymore.
On the generous monthly check, Phillip survived and thrived, all while pursuing his music career. Not to mention Phillip also found the woman he was destined to marry in that time. As a parting/wedding gift, the very last thing the woman from Seattle sent Phillip was a TV (which they still have after 8 years) and a note expressing that she was happy for him but sad to stop correspondence.
All in all, even during extremely rough times, Phillip received love and care far beyond what he could have ever imagined.
EPISODE 4: HOME Sweet HOME
Today, Phillip lives in a cute little house in Nashville with his wife and 3, soon to be 4, kids. Now a member of HOME, Phillip envisions using the space to incubate his next big multi-media project. Here, he can rehearse what he wants to perform in the same space he plans on performing it.
He envisions performing a live entertainment show, ideally with a full band and background dancers, but he doesn’t have the budget for that yet. Instead, the plan is to have a green screen and record himself playing all the instruments and being his own background dancers in all different outfits. With a green screen, he can act as though he is interacting with his multiple digital selves. Plus, for on the road, all he’ll need to pack is a screen and a projector, nothing else. Before the rehearsing starts, Phillip is spending time to gather like-minded team members who believe in his creative vision.
Long story short, Phillip firmly believes that HOME is his latest blessing from God.
Interviewed and written by Andra Ingram