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Barbara Riddle Taylor died at Kitty Askins Hospice Center in Goldsboro, NC on August 7th, 2023. Ms. Taylor arrived in Clinton as the summer music director of the First Baptist Church after obtaining an associate degree in music from Campbell College. She later married the late Edward Winfield Taylor, the band director at Clinton High School.
Ms. Taylor spent her life teaching and performing. She often gave classical recitals at the Victor Small Arts Center, and she felt blessed to have professional piano accompanists Lucile Wilson, Mary Britt, and Kathryn Whitley Jordan to work with her. In community theatre throughout the state, she performed many ingenue, comedy, and dramatic roles, such as Maria in The Sound of Music and later in life, Grizabella in CATS at Thalian Hall Theatre in Wilmington N. C. In a performance at Campbell University, she played the role of Elizabeth the Queen and received the “Best Actress” award for the role.
Ms. Taylor united with the Arts Council and Recreation Center to organize the Sampson Summer Children’s Theatre, and this expanded into a program for teens, later directed by various guest artists connected to the Artist in Residence program sponsored by Sampson Community College and the Arts Council; these artists included Tim Morrissey, who directed theatre in Clinton for several years.
Ms. Taylor served as Youth Director and Youth Choir Director at Graves Memorial Presbyterian Church in Clinton for eight years, directing plays and Joy Gift musicals throughout that time.
Ms. Taylor enjoyed playing softball, and she organized a women’s softball league in the 1960s which was composed of four teams: First Baptist, Immanuel, Grove Park, and The Nurses from Sampson Regional Medical Center.
She was appointed by the Arts Council to schedule musical, poetic, and artistic events at the Victor Small Cultural Center. These events were called “Sunday Happenings” and were free to the public.
Ms. Taylor’s ability to fill an auditorium for money-making variety shows was well-known. Such performances served as fundraisers for the CHS Band, the Junior Woman’s Club, the Study Club, and the Lions Club. The Lions Club and Rotary Club became well-known for their “Womanless Weddings” each year.
Ms. Taylor sustained a voice studio, Successful Singing, for sixty years, during which her students excelled often in performances at the National Association of Teachers of Singing Auditions and competed in other vocal competitions for scholarships. She received one of the first North Carolina Arts Council grants to perform classical music. Her Little Red Riding Hood Opera was a popular part of the program and was used as comedy as well as an example of opera. She recorded two gospel cassettes, Barbara Taylor Sings and The Old Country Church at Circle Sound Studio with Mark Golladay. She arranged the songs in four-part harmony and sang all the parts using multiple tracks. She entered the cassettes in a competition in Nashville and won, which allowed her to do a live performance there.
Ms. Taylor co-taught for almost twenty years with Suzi Faircloth Matthews at the Performing Arts School in Clinton, producing ensembles called “The Musical Footnotes,” song and dance groups that performed at a variety of venues in Sampson County.
Later in life, she fulfilled her dream of attaining a master’s degree in Vocal Pedagogy. For her thesis and performance, she teamed with Richard Faith, a composer from Tucson, Arizona, who wrote art songs for piano and voice. He was unpublished at that time, so the two musicians introduced their work in performances throughout North Carolina, and Faith dedicated one of his songs to Barbara Taylor in appreciation of her support.
In 2010, Ms. Taylor wrote and compiled a written history and scrapbook of theatre in Sampson County 1960-1990, including a flash drive with all the photos she had collected over the years. They can be viewed today at the local history museum.
Ms. Taylor expanded her voice practice to Dunn, North Carolina, at the request of Carolyn Dorman, the choral director at Triton High School; she opened a voice studio at the Small Business Center and taught there for fifteen years. Some of her most talented students came from that area, and many have continued to be active in the field of music. She also taught voice and piano for several years in Faison at the Arts Company, where she was hired by Leigh Philips Williams, owner at the time. In addition, Ms. Taylor taught Music Appreciation at Sampson Community College for twenty-four years.
Ms. Taylor was honored by the Clinton Rotary Club as a recipient of the Paul Harris Fellow Award, and she was chosen as the Sampson County representative to a competition held in Raleigh for “Woman of the Year in the Arts.”
Ms. Taylor is survived by three sons, Jeffery and wife Cathy and their children Andrew and Amelie; Barry and his children Blane and Baylee; Edward and wife Laura and their children Caroline and Jessica. Sisters Joan and husband Leroy Paris, Jeanette and husband Wayne Oldham, Sandra and husband Kerry Gibson, and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents Rev. Samuel Lee Riddle, Sr., and Mae Louise Smith; two brothers, Samuel Riddle & James Cooper Riddle.
There will be a small service for immediate family members. The family will receive friends on Saturday August 19th from 1:00 to 6:00 pm at 205 Tomahawk Trail, Clinton NC as the celebration of her life. In place of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Kitty Askins Hospice Center in Goldsboro, by mailing to 107 Handley Park Court, Goldsboro, NC 27534. Royal-Hall Funeral Home is honored to serve the Taylor family.