Allen Barber attended the Stamps-Baxter School of Gospel Music from 2010 to 2014. He received the Anthony Burger Scholarship in 2013. He passed away from Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of childhood cancer, on July 13, 2018.
Allen touched the lives of everyone he met. Through the four years he battled cancer, Allen’s infectious optimism, Facebook posts tagged #LifeIsAGift, and traveling music ministry encouraged his friends and even people he had never met.
Allen was a brilliant musician. He wrote many songs and recorded two CDs of his piano arrangements. He had the opportunity to accompany southern gospel groups such as Barry Rowland and Deliverance, Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, and Scott Fowler’s Old Friends Quartet.
Allen loved singing schools and attended many throughout his life. He even started his own singing school, the Louisiana School of Gospel Music, which he ran for two years.
Besides being an outstanding musician and inspiration, Allen was also a great friend. His encouragement and sense of humor endeared him to many. Below are some of his friends’ greatest memories of him.
Allen Barber will be greatly missed, but if he were writing this article, he would want you to know that he is with Jesus, the person his whole life centered around. He would also want you to know that you too can know for sure that you will live with Jesus forever. #LifeIsAGift
Allen was so excited and so eager to learn and perfect his musical abilities. We sang his song in 2014, and I remember how amazing it was to be sitting beside the person who wrote the song. He loved southern gospel music more than anyone I know. He faced this past year with a “winner either way” mentality that we as Christians should have during any situation.
– Cody Green, student 2014-2018
Allen loved southern gospel music so much and would give me in-depth southern gospel history lessons whenever we drove somewhere. I remember one drive where he talked about the Kingsmen for at least an hour and a half! Allen’s sense of humor was one of my favorite things about him. I was never scared to crack a joke with him about anything. His optimism and sense of wonder even in times of trial often made me forget he even had cancer! He would encourage me musically, and I always knew he was being completely honest about it. There’s nobody I trusted more to tell me the truth about anything. I strive to live everyday with the optimism and hope he found in Jesus.
– Ashley Perham, student 2016-2018
Allen was very encouraging and helped me build my confidence. When we first practiced for a duet we played together, I told him that he intimidated me, and then he laughed at me. He would laugh at my mistakes and jokingly make fun of me, but then he’d turn right around and help me fix my mistakes.
I remember one day we were practicing and we had been practicing for hours. We were both getting a little irritated with one another. All of a sudden, my phone rang and it was on full blast. My ringtone was that song that goes like “If you like piña colada... and gettin caught in the rain.” He absolutely LOST it, and then naturally I laughed too. That laugh was much needed that day for us.
ASGM 2016 created such a strong bond between me and him that turned into an amazing friendship I wouldn’t have traded for the world, even though he still somehow intimidated me...
– Brooke Sutton, student 2015-2017
A small group of friends and I went to see Allen in the hospital just a few days before he passed away. At that point, he was very weak and not talking much at all. He had a little Clavinova in his room, and I played as his friends began to sing to him. He perked up a little, but mostly just kept his eyes closed and listened. I started (trying) to play the intro to an upbeat song he had written for his Christmas cantata so we could sing it for him.
All of a sudden, I heard this weak voice: "Hold on a second. Stop!"
I turned around and looked at him, as he had opened his eyes and started to sit up.
He looked at us and shook his head and weakly said, "Some things you just gotta do yourself." And he made us pull the keyboard over to the side of the bed so he could play instead.
He was the same old Allen to the end! Always critiquing my piano skills!
I will miss him greatly, but I know he wouldn’t trade that world for this one, now that he’s played and sung for his Savior face-to-face.
– Tess Milby, student 2009-2011
I had the honor and privilege of singing in the final two groups Allen accompanied during singing school this June. It was then I realized that God used Allen in my life for my own personal trials. Allen was one of my dearest friends, and it’s through his witness to me that I now understand what it means to have faith. I have true, undeniable knowledge of faith.
– Christopher Smith, student 2003-2006, 2008-2015
He was probably the closest thing I had to a musical soulmate. I couldn’t play the piano all that well, but I could sing, and there was just this spooky chemistry when you put us together. It was very similar to Tracey and Tom, but still different in its own way. He challenged me to try new vocal runs and riffs, and when I would do that he would try to add a new piano lick. It was like we fueled each other’s abilities. I’m not saying I’m the closest friend he had because he had several, but our friendship was special.
– Emily Deerman, student 2011, 2013-2015
It’s impossible to choose just one memory of Allen. It seems as though every memory of singing school I have, seems to have him somewhere in it.
I think of him at every group singing at Alabama, where I’d glance over to the tenor section and Allen’s thoughts of the song we were singing would be all over his face - pure joy. I think of Stamps-Baxter 2014, where Allen was playing for our quartet, and criticizing all of our tiny mistakes (with love, of course). But my favorite memories of all, are the ones that didn’t seem so important at the time - the cafeteria talks during lunch hour, the water fights in the parking lot on the hot days, sitting on the stairs of the auditorium on the morning of recording days; the countless Sonic trips, or even the five-hour car ride to my very first year of Alabama in June 2013, where Allen looked into the backseat and told me, “Your life is about to change, kid.” And it certainly has, for a million more reasons than one. Because of the school, because of life-long friends......because of Allen.
I cherish these moments the most: the priceless conversations that built our friendship.
To Brother Acy and Ms. Sheree, thank you for sharing him with us. Aside from his God and his family, nobody loved him more than his singing school family. And we love you all also.
- M’Kayla Duncan, student 2013-2017
I first met Allen at music school eight years ago. He was a pianist, and I had always wanted to be a pianist, but I didn’t really get to know him that first year. Fast forward a few years to a small music school in West Virginia. I signed up for private piano lessons, and he was my teacher. He told me to focus on my basic fill patterns, and showed me how to put fills in a basic “boom-chuck” pattern. I use those patterns now in my job of playing for a quartet. Not long after this, Allen was diagnosed with cancer. Through his trials, he encouraged others and showed what life is really about. Last winter, I was going through a rough patch in life, and I got a message from Allen pointing me to a Facebook post he had written. It had the message I needed at that moment. It was a very monumental turn in my life, and I still read that message when I need encouragement. I am very grateful to have met Allen, and to have had the chance to hear him say that life is a gift.