When Amanda Watson Bailey joined the Capital City Girls Choir (CCGC) during her middle school years, she couldn’t have imagined the possibilities – musically and otherwise – that the experience would provide.
“My time in the Chorale and Cantabile with Capital City Girls Choir is really where my love of singing ignited,” says Amanda.
It was a foundational experience. “I just loved the way that it made me feel and I hoped that the audience would feel the same. That’s still with me today.”
From Disney World to the Governor’s Mansion, Amanda had many memorable performance opportunities with her fellow CCGC singers. The performances were surely memorable for the audiences too.
“I am confident in saying, if you put us at that time against another college or professional choir, I don’t think you could have heard the difference,” she states.
The quality of the music was a product of deep commitment and indelible mentorship from CCGC founder, Dr. Fran Page.
“Dr. Page was a great mentor as far as being very serious about music and prioritizing it in our lives. She loved us and made it magical. She was strict, in a good way.
“It was very clear in her direction when we auditioned that if you are in cheerleading, if you are in dance, if you are doing something outside of this group, this is probably not the group for you.”
The intensity was initially off-putting to a 14-year-old who wanted to explore other activities. (As her private vocal coach Liz LaBelle can attest, Amanda was not always a serious musical student.)
“But now as an adult, I see the value of this focus. As a musician you cannot be on the cheerleading squad ruining your voice Friday through Monday and then come to rehearsal with your voice completely gone. I really respected Dr. Page for that and appreciated her for making me set boundaries.”
After a brief stint studying biology nursing, Amanda went on to receive undergraduate and master’s degrees in music from UNC-Chapel Hill under the direction of Dr. Daniel Huff. It was a real challenge, even though “people sometimes have the misconception that it is not a difficult degree,” she explains.
CCGC provided many of the fundamental skills she needed to make music her life’s work.
“Sight reading was probably one of the top three things that we learned that really helped us, whether we were going to go into music or not. If we auditioned for the Honors Chorus or a college music program, we had to be able to sight read.”
The prospect of spending five minutes with an unfamiliar piece of music, then singing 10 bars can be intimidating. “I feel like we got a great foundation for being able to sight read both Solfège and rhythmically. And Dr. Page did a wonderful job of helping us know that yes, it’s scary, but we can do it and it sets us apart.
“There are a lot of women that can sing beautifully, but it’s really difficult to find someone who can sing beautifully, sight read well and be a great choral member, not just a soloist.”
Looking back, “singing with other professionals on the collegiate level solidified what I thought in high school: That CCGC really did sound and work together as well as any professional group, which is so crucial,” Amanda says.
Beyond the musical education she received, Amanda learned many life lessons that she has taken into leadership roles. The experience instilled discipline and an emphasis on collaboration toward a greater purpose. Rather than seeking solos or personal accolades, choir music is about teamwork.
“We knew that if Dr. Page assigned us to sing harmony for a song, there was a reason for it. Or if she wanted us to switch to melody, we didn’t question that. We always just went with it, and I think that’s why we sounded so intertwined with our harmonies. Because we respected her choices and then we worked together to try to make it sound really, really tight.”
Amanda’s choral music experience set her up for many successes. She sang her way to become Miss North Carolina 2008, dedicating a year to traveling the state to perform and advocate for ALS, a cause near to her heart. She became the music specialist at Barwell Elementary, transforming the program with the support of Elizabeth Grimes Droessler, then Art Director for Wake County Public Schools. The school was selected to perform in the Pieces of Gold talent showcase, a shining moment for Amanda’s students and an example of why she was awarded with the Diane Kent Parker Teacher of the Year Award.
After the birth of her first child, she opened Amanda Bailey Studios, where she carries on the legacy of her mentors. “It has been so gratifying to see one-on-one instruction with my voice and piano students come full circle to what Dr. Page taught me and then Dr. Huff and Elizabeth Grimes Droessler.
“I’m taking all of my favorite pieces of their amazing leadership and compiling it to create my own teaching style,” which she calls “meaningful and enjoyable, filled with passion and purpose.”
Amanda extends a heartfelt thank you to Meredith College and CCGC “for believing in me and providing a family to us in pivotal years of our lives. Of all the activities we could have been involved in, none of them would have been quite so edifying. Middle and high school are difficult years and being part of something so wonderful, stable, and beautiful helped us formulate who we wanted to be.”