Concert pays tribute to band director
Surprise event spotlights influence Barfield has had on students, community
Ray Barfield, former band director at Bedford High School, thought he was helping the current director Devon Lybargerat organize and repair donated instruments, but when he showed up Saturday, July 9, he found the high school auditorium filled with a band and an audience waiting for him.
Barfield said he was confused when he was greeted by applause from about 100 audience members and the 20-piece band.
“When I walked in, Devon handed me a program and it said a tribute concert for me,” Barfield said.
He was surprised and overwhelmed by the gesture.
The band was made up of his former students, his friends and friends of Andrew Smouse and Todd Goodman, former students who organized the event.
Goodman, resident composer for the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center near Pittsburgh, wrote a new piece for the occasion — “Incandescent.”
“It relates to how we as teachers get you people to shine,” Barfield said.
Goodman said there was supposed to be more people, but a lot of the performers were not able to attend because of COVID-19.
Smouse, who was back in a corner until he went up to the conductor’s podium, did not get to see Barfield’s reaction.
“I didn’t get to see him till the end, but I know he was very emotional, overwhelmed and thankful for everything,” he said.
Goodman said when Barfield walked into the auditorium, it was jaw-dropping.
“It took him the first two pieces to figure out what was going on,” he said.
Barfield addressed the group at the end and was very emotional, Goodman said.
“He was blown away that we could even consider doing the concert for him,” he said.
“After what we lived through, it is really important to tell others how important they are, and I’m glad we got that chance,” Goodman said.
This tribute concert came about because Smouse wanted to find a way to tell Barfield how much he meant to all his students.
During quarantine, he began to listen to Goodman’s works and decided to reach out to him.
After some talking, they came up with the idea of holding a concert where people who cared about Barfield could participate, and creating a brand new piece in honor of him.
“I thought it was a great idea,” Goodman said. “As a band director, Mr. Barfield spent his whole life influencing people. He really deserved something like this.”
Goodman was on track to pursue a medical career, until his senior year when Barfield showed him that music could be more than a hobby — and a lucrative option.
“He was the teacher who saw the potential in yourself before you did,” he said.
Now, thanks to Barfield’s influence, Goodman is an internationally award-winning composer.
Between finding a venue, the performers and writing the new song, it took 18 months to plan the concert.
They got a hold of Lybarger, who made the arrangements for the auditorium.
Goodman said writing the song was more of a challenge over the pandemic.
“Writing it then was a whole lot harder than it normally would be, but I would say it took three to four months to finish,” he said.
Barfield’s wife, Elaine, also played a big part in the planning by letting them know it was OK to have the concert and making sure her husband was not suspicious about anything.
“Mrs. Barfield had the hardest job out of all of us,” Smouse said. “We had to connect her to make sure it was all right to have the concert and then get him there without being suspicious.”
The band had their first rehearsal just 24 hours prior to the surprise concert.
The 45-minute concert was conducted by Smouse.
“It was an honor to conduct the concert, because it is teachers like Mr. Barfield who inspire us to be our best,” he said. “Mr. Barfield always saw the best in me, and he tirelessly encouraged me to live up to it.”
Barfield influenced Goodman as well, by helping him realize music was more than a hobby.
“I enjoyed it, but it was never really something I was thinking about as a career,” he said. “It was Mr. Barfield who helped me turn on the light to illuminate my path so that I could see my potential.”
Lybarger said he thought it was amazing to think about all the lives Barfield touched.
“An impact and legacy like his is something that all teachers strive to have,” he said.
Smouse said the auditorium would have been packed if they did not have to keep it a secret.
“If we could have publicly announced this celebration of his life and work, it would have been standing room only,” he said.
Barfield was the band director at Bedford High Area School for 21 years, starting in 1991 and retiring in 2012 when he was 60.
He was also the chairman of the PA Lions Band, a band of high school musicians from all over the state sponsored by the Pennsylvania Lions Club.
Barfield said he worked as a substitute teacher for the district for about five years after retiring.
“After a while, I decided to stop doing it because I got tired of the 7 a.m. wakeup calls,” he said.
Sometimes, Barfield will still help out in the district if they really need it and will visit to see what is happening, and he said he does miss his students.
“I had some really great students at Bedford,” he said. “They wanted to do well and it was just a matter of showing them the right path.”
Since Barfield retired, he has spent his time repairing instruments, gardening and yard work, and doing other little things around the house.
“Music is in your blood, so you never really stop doing it, but right now the grandkids take up more attention,” he said.
Mirror Staff Writer Cati Keith can be reached at 814-946-7535.