Stories of Excellence–Dr. Barry Farmer

Dr. Barry Farmer’s passion for music is evident in all aspects of his life. He holds that his time at Mitchell––an acclaimed music education program both then and now––nurtured this passion and laid the foundation for a successful career. Though his studies at Mitchell ended many years ago, the friendships, lessons and memories have stayed with him throughout the years.


Dr. Farmer grew up in Danville, Virginia and completed his first two years of college at Mitchell (1961-1963). He quickly made friends, many acquired on the front porch of Main Building where the rocking chairs were a popular gathering point to mix and mingle and view the going-ons down West Broad Street and downtown Statesville. Dr. Farmer proved to be a dedicated student. He was involved in many activities at Mitchell including memberships in the Circle K Club and in the French Club where he served as an officer. He successfully balanced his social life and studies, no small feat he admits looking back. “Thank goodness I didn't have access to a car,” he said, “or I would never have gotten through the rigors of academia from distractions by the party scene off campus.”


An avid musician, Dr. Farmer spent many hours in Shearer Hall practicing on the old Estey Pipe Organ or in a practice room perfecting musical assignments. “For the size of the college,” shared Dr. Farmer, “the Music Department was one that could stand up to any four-year institution in offering students opportunities in pursuing their musical talents in various groups.” This high caliber music education can still be found at Mitchell today.


The premiere music group during Dr. Farmer’s time at Mitchell was the College Choir, long recognized as one of the finest singing groups in the entire state. Dr. Farmer served as president of the Mitchell College A Capella Choir during his sophomore year. The choir was part of The Fine Arts Series that presented the Messiah in December and an operetta in the Spring, along with touring to different parts of the state during the second semester. An offshoot of the choir was the male chorus, The Mitchell Aires. Dr. Farmer served as accompanist and singer with this lighter musical fare chorus. All of these groups were under the leadership and direction of Kenneth Bradshaw, Head of the Music Department. With principal rolls in the operettas, 'H.M.S. Pinafore' and 'Down in the Valley', staged by the choir, Dr. Farmer was known as 'Dick Deadeye' or 'Thomas Bonche' by many for the remainder of his time at Mitchell. 


Along with his commitments at Mitchell, Dr. Farmer was also active in the music scene in the Statesville area during his student years.  He was a recipient of the MacDowell Music Club and E. B. Stimpson Aware and scholarship for his outstanding contribution as a Mitchell music student. Dr. Farmer served as organ accompanist for the MacDowell Music Club's Children's Choir Festival of Christmas Music at the First Presbyterian Church. In May 1963, Dr. Farmer presented his sophomore organ recital in Shearer Hall at the college, followed by another recital at First Baptist Church for the North Carolina Federation of Music Clubs annual convention held in Statesville at the Vance Hotel.


After graduating Mitchell, Dr. Farmer attended St. Andrews Presbyterian in Laurinburg, NC, where he completed a Bachelor of Music degree followed by a stint in the Air Force during the Vietnam era.  Following his military service, Dr. Farmer returned to graduate school to obtain his Master of Music degree in Organ Performance at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.  After graduating Northwestern, Dr. Farmer taught in his hometown of Danville at Averett University and in the Danville City Schools.


In 1973, Dr. Farmer began working on a doctoral degree in organ performance at the University of Colorado-Boulder. While at the university, he taught applied organ through the Extension Division and held a Graduate Assistantship in the Division of Organ and Church Music. He had previously studied organ with Sue Crawford and Charlotte Clontz at Mitchell and with some of the outstanding organ teachers throughout the country including: John Williams, Dr. Richard Enright, Don Vollstedt, Everett J. Hilty and privately with Dr. Arthur Poister of Syracuse University.


Dr. Farmer has been associated as a musician, educator and administrator with the Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist denominations and the Jewish faith throughout the country. Dr. Farmer also taught at the public school and at the university levels in the states of Virginia, Colorado, Arkansas and Alabama. In 1975, Dr. Farmer began teaching at the University of Central Arkansas, Conway, Arkansas followed by fourteen years as Director of Music and Organist at the First United Methodist Church, El Dorado, Arkansas. In Dothan, Alabama, where he continues his church work, Dr. Farmer served as Dean of the Dothan-Wiregrass Chapter of the American Guild of Organist on two different occasion, 1992-93 and 1997-98. In 1998-99, Dr. Farmer also has international experience as he taught English in Dothan's sister city, Sakado, Japan representing the city and school system of Dothan where he served as a teacher before retirement in 2005. 


In addition to professional memberships in various national and regional guilds and associations throughout the country, Dr. Farmer remains a lifetime member of in The College Music Society.  Dr. Farmer holds certification as a Massed Ringing Conductor with the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers, Inc.  Dr. Farmer has concertized primarily in the Southeastern part of the country as an accompanist, harpsichordist and organist over many years.


Throughout all of his travels and accomplishments, Dr. Farmer recognizes the importance of the solid educational and life foundation he received at Mitchell. “At Mitchell, we were part of a family community no matter our background or what part of the country we were from,” he noted. “Friendships were formed, bonds were made, couples were wed, couples broke-up and lessons learned, but we all were at the threshold of our educational journey.  Even though we went our separate ways in 1963, each of us has impacted those around us because of our days of study and experiences we had at this small Presbyterian school in Statesville, NC.” He encourages others to form their own foundations at Mitchell and to continue a lifelong journey of learning and exploration.


Learn more about Mitchell's unique, nationally accredited Associate in Fine Arts–Music program. Explore degrees, diploma and certificate programs Mitchell offers and find out how to apply. Gain a new skill or expand your career opportunities through our short-term Continuing Education programs. For additional support, speak to our Admissions staff at (704) 978-5493 or  

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