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.
– Evan McGurrin, student 2010-2015, 2017-2018
Allen was one of my dearest friends. One of my fondest memories was one early morning we were getting ready for a church service and we were sitting around a piano. We were waiting for everyone else to be ready to go, and if you know Allen, you know he was playing away. I had been having a rough time and asked if he would play a song for me to sing. He said "Of course, V. Which one?" It was "Through the Fire" by the Crabb Family. This morning I’m speaking of was a few days before he was diagnosed, and he got this look in his eye and started to play. Together in our pain, mine emotional and his physical, we had church together! Just he, I, and God were in that room that day. I still have the recording on my phone and will cherish it always. He was one of my truest and most loyal friends. I could always trust that he had my back and was praying for me. I will miss him terribly.
– Savannah Davis, student 2011-2013
I had the distinct pleasure of going through singing school with Allen for a good three or four years, during which we had the opportunity to train together under Tracey Phillips. Now, Tracey had a way of encouraging a healthy competition between her students, and I’d say that’s what happened between Allen and myself. We pushed each other to be better in ways that no one else could’ve pushed us, but in a good way. This shared drive between us is what I think started the bond of what ended up being a great friendship. It’s what gave us a mutual respect for each other. And that’s the biggest feeling I had, and have, towards Allen, respect. You see, Allen was someone who had every reason to walk around with a chip on his shoulder, but nothing took his mind off of whatever mission he was on. He was focused and driven. It’s hard not to respect a guy like that.
– Caleb Aultman, student 2013-2014
Allen’s talent and ability were impressive, but that’s not what made an impact on my life. The excitement and sheer joy that I saw ooze from him while played piano gave evidence of someone who believed the message of the songs he played. In group singing he’d punch me and tell me to sing the right notes when I missed, and he’d get blessed over the songs, and it would make me stop and think about the lyrics, and I’d get blessed too. He was an excellent musician and an excellent Christian, and I’m thankful for the Godly example he lived every time I saw him. I want people to see Christ in me when I sing or talk or anything that I do - like I saw Christ in Allen.
- Caleb Sauvageot, student 2008, 2010-2017
When Allen just found out he had cancer, Emily, Savannah, my parents, and myself drove down to Louisiana to be with him, and we sang at his church that Sunday. We ended up singing the whole service, and Acy and Sheree spoke. Right before I did a solo, which I didn’t know I was going to do, Allen gave this speech, and it was tough trying to sing “My God is Enough for Me” after it:
“No matter what trials come in this life. I don’t care if it’s health because He’s the Great Physician. I don’t care if it’s money because gold to him is street pavement. I don’t care if it’s relationships because He’s the healer of all men. Whatever your problem is, as long as you have that promise of Jesus, you can live to fight another day. I know I’m going to be healed. Whether it be in this body or the next, I don’t know, but let me tell you something. I can walk though this trial unafraid because my God is enough for me. Unashamed I can cry, for on his strength I can rely. This isn’t my strength. This is His strength. I’m scared. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but on his strength I can rely because my God is enough for me.”
– Jacob Deerman, student 2012-2015