About the Director

 

Dr. Wayne A. Barr

Dr. Barr enthusiastically conducts choir rehearsal

Spirituals will remain very much a part of the choir’s repertoire, but the new director of the Tuskegee University Golden Voices says he hopes the choir will "also rise to the challenge of a Faure Requiem," and do works from Benjamin Britten to Russian choral works to works by German masters.

Dr. Wayne Anthony Barr is coming to Tuskegee University from Detroit, MI, where he has been Minister of Music/Organist at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church since 1997. Dr. Barr holds the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Michigan with the organ as his major instrument; two master’s degrees from Southern Methodist University, one with an emphasis in organ performance and a second in choral conducting; and his undergraduate work was completed with high honors at the Westminster Choir College in New Jersey.

Membership at Hartford Memorial exceeds 10,000, although weekly attendance is reported to be between 3,000 and 3,500 members.

In addition to his church work at Hartford Memorial, Dr. Barr has been an organist and choir director at churches in Plano, Texas, Nashville, TN, and Rocky Hill, NJ.

His doctoral dissertation at the University of Michigan focused on "The History of the Pipe Organ in Black Churches in the United States." Barr said he found that immediately after Emancipation, a lot of Black Churches had pipe organs, a trend that declined during and after the depression.

African American churches wanted pipe organs because, Dr. Barr said, the pipe organ "represented the best in church music." He said that mind set changed as the music changed, and Black churches moved away from hymns.

But he said churches need to get back to singing hymns. "The music that is taking place of the hymn is very trivial," Dr. Barr maintains. "We sing what we believe," Dr. Barr explains. "Hymns reinforce our belief." He says a lot of songs today are one liners. "They give the what. Hymns go further. They give the what and the why," Dr. Barr observes.

Dr. Barr calls for identifying new ways of using the pipe organ so that it remains relevant.

Although he has been a part-time music instructor at William Tyndale College in Michigan while serving as Minister of Music at Detroit’s Hartford Memorial, Dr. Barr’s appointment at Tuskegee University will be his first at a four-year institution.

Since his undergraduate studies at Westminster Choir College in New Jersey, Barr says his goal has always been church music. But as he progressed through school, he says "the academic arena also became appealing."

"I could teach students to go out and teach others. You do more with what you have" in a university setting, he allows. "In the church setting, you are teaching but they (the church members) are not likely to go out and teach others."

Barr says he hopes to "build on the tradition and legacy of the Tuskegee University Golden Voices." He wants to take the name of Tuskegee University out into the larger community, including annual choir concert tours.

"Wherever we can go, wherever we can take the name Tuskegee, even Europe. No place is too far (for the choir to travel)," the new choir director says.

Dr. Barr completed his undergraduate studies at Westminster Choir College with scholarships in conducting, organ performance, church music, and piano performance.

He is president of the Detroit Area chapter of Choristers Guild, as well as a member of the American Guild of Organists, Music Teachers National Association, National Association of Negro Musicians, Organ Historical Society, and Pi Kappa Lambda National Music Honor Society.