It started with an exception.
Georgia Pick & Bow, a Dahlonega-based music program that teaches traditional bluegrass music to students from fourth grade to 12th grade usually doesn’t allow adults in their classes. But when Amanda Barton, the music teacher at Lumpkin County Elementary School, asked if she could be a student in Pick & Bow’s mandolin class, they obliged, not knowing it would be the beginning of an even greater journey for both Barton and the program as a whole.
“Amanda came to us...asking if she could be a mandolin student in Pick & Bow,” former Pick & Bow curriculum director, Ann Whitley Singleton said. “Though we don’t allow adults to be students in our classes, we did say yes to Amanda, and right away I saw her passion and compassion for our children. It wasn’t long before it was obvious that she could teach mandolin for us, and as I watched her and got to know her, I knew that she would be excellent as a guiding force for Pick & Bow.”
From there, Barton fell in love and wanted to help with the program in any way she could.
HANDPICKED TO LEAD
“I knew I wanted to be the link between my school and Pick & Bow,” Barton said. “I began walking students to Pick & Bow classes, attending Mr. John Day's mandolin class and Ann Whitley Singleton's Jam session, and getting to meet some board members. I immediately felt welcomed and a part of a family who passed down the love of traditional music. I volunteered to help however I could, I already knew the students that had gone to LCES so it was easy for me to help with getting people where they needed to go. I was so impressed how the program really helped students to get every opportunity to succeed on their instrument and perform all over our community and even on some big stages.”
Now in her fourth year with Pick & Bow, Barton is taking on a much bigger role, taking over as the new curriculum director for the program.
However, Barton says it’s not just about her.
“I am so very honored to be the new Curriculum Director, but I am not alone,” she said. “I am so fortunate to work in a team of dedicated people who go the extra mile to make this program a success. Pick & Bow has a Board of Directors and an Administrative Director, Cynthia Gilbert who do an incredible amount behind-the-scenes to help everything to run smoothly. The Board makes it possible for students to learn an instrument who would not normally be able to afford lessons. Margo Booth, Cynthia Gilbert and Ann Whitley Singleton are so helpful in mentoring me to help with this transition.”
According to Barton, Singleton has been a great mentor from the start and even predicted this move years before it happened.
“Approximately two-and-a-half years ago, I was attending a group lesson by Ann Whitley Singleton and afterward she shared with me some of her dreams for the program,” Barton said. “She then gave me the most cherished compliment I have received in my life. She said that she hoped that one day I would be the next Curriculum Director. Now this was such a sweet compliment because I knew how much she treasured this program. I knew only a portion of what she did, but her love of this program and of teaching these students was so apparent. I knew that if I had poured so much into a program, that I would want to make sure my replacement would have just as much drive and excitement about the program as I did. My response to her was, ‘I have a lot to learn.’ I hope that I can be everything she hoped I would be for this program.”
As for Singleton, she still has the same high confidence in Barton.
“I have absolutely no worries about the future of Pick & Bow with Amanda serving as Curriculum Director,” she said. “I haven’t felt the need to give Amanda much advice, but the main thing I have shared with her is that our instructors are excellent at teaching music and are great with children, but they don’t necessarily have the training that she and I have had in recognizing individual needs of children based upon learning styles or giftedness or any of the special needs that we have been trained to accommodate. Amanda will have the ability to give counsel to our instructors whenever it becomes obvious that there are children who might have particular challenges and need particular attention.”
While Barton’s transition may be taking place at a tough time, with COVID-19 still impacting groups and extracurricular activities across all schools, she sees that as an opportunity to add another tool in the program’s arsenal for the future.
“The immediate future of Pick & Bow is a non-traditional approach to traditional music. All classes will be offered exclusively in a virtual format through Zoom,” she said. “ I think that once teachers get used to teaching on Zoom, we may just keep offering that as an option once we go back to face-to-face instruction. We've had some interest from students that were formerly in our program but have since moved away. I know we have something special here. I'd love to share our talented instructors, fun music, and traditional roots in a broader scope.”
Barton is also excited to bring a new instrument into the curriculum that she feels could help beginners find a passion for music.
“We are offering intermediate and advanced lessons to our traditional instruments and adding a new instrument to the mix, ukulele, for beginning students through adults,” she said. “For our new students, this is the perfect instrument to start on. It is much simpler than the guitar, easier on your fingers, and allows you the choice of picking out melodies or strumming chords.”
As for Singleton, she looks to stay involved with Pick & Bow as a member on the board, but is looking forward to where the extra free time may take her, from more time with her children and their families and road trips with her husband Doug, to learning yet another new instrument.
“I have been focusing on what I call my “final frontier” of musical instruments, the clawhammer banjo,” she said.
For more information about the Pick & Bow program and to register for fall classes, visit georgiapickandbow.org. Students interested in participating in fall classes must be registered by August 24.