winstonBy Collin Kelley, Editor

Guitarist Winston McFarlane was working a corporate job, using his degree in marketing from Morehouse College, when the anxiety attacks began. He soon realized he was languishing in a career he didn’t want. McFarlane wanted to play the guitar and make music.

He took a significant leap and left the corporate world and went back to school at the Atlanta Institute of Music. He was a familiar face behind the counter at Belly General Store in Virginia Highland, where he worked while going to school and giving the occasional guitar lesson.

Word-of-mouth and a few well-placed advertisements suddenly meant McFarlane was in demand as guitar teacher. “I realized I had so many students, that I didn’t need to work at Belly anymore and I could teach and play full-time,” McFarlane recalled.

In 2005, he created Vision Music, an in-home music lesson service that has grown from guitar to include piano and drums. Vision is staffed by local musicians McFarlane met while playing in bands around the city. In just five years, Vision Music has instructed more than 1,000 students – from age 6 to 60 – on how to play an instrument.

McFarlane said he is actually a late-bloomer when it comes to music. The Jamaica native moved to Seattle with his family when he was in second grade and was witness to the city’s rise as a musical powerhouse.

“No one in my family was musical,” McFarlane said. “I grew up religious, and rock was the devil’s music, so I came late to it.”

While the grunge scene was happening in Seattle, McFarlane’s friends were picking up guitars and starting bands. A good friend in high school taught him basic chords, and McFarlane’s love for the guitar was born.

His brother, Delroy, encouraged him to buy his first guitar and took him to a pawnshop. “It was an Odessa acoustic,” McFarlane recalled. “My brother was so encouraging. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be doing this.”

McFarlane soon found himself being influenced by some of the great guitarists like Bob Marley, Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix and Derek Trucks. In Atlanta, he was a member of the band Uncommon Illusion, and it was during those gigs that he met many of the musicians who now work for him at Vision.

Vision Music got a big profile boost last month when MTV aired an episode of Made, which helps a teen realize his or her dreams, featuring McFarlane and vocal coach Shreepal Zala. In the episode, a teen wanted to be in a beauty pageant and have music as her talent. She ultimately came in second in the pageant.

Vision students are also getting a chance to showcase their musicality at Performance Club, which allows them to invite friends and family to hear them and other students play at Punchline Comedy Club.

McFarlane said he is close to perfecting Vision Music’s business model and hopes to franchise the concept to other cities. He’s using the Morehouse degree after all.

“Some musicians are interested in the business side, but I need business and music to balance me,” McFarlane said.

For more about Vision Music, visit

Collin KelleyEditor

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

3 replies on “Sound & Vision: Guitarist Winston McFarlane”

  1. Hey Winston this is John, I jammed with you over at Vision Studios. You came and played with me, Powell, Michael, and Andrew. Congratulations, good to see your dreams are coming true!

  2. It is very rewarding to see a young man like you with such great dream and aspiration.I am pulling for your Team keep up the good work Winston

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