Meet Annie Fain Barralon, Our Programs Development Manager

From childhood memories of sleeping under the piano in the Community Room, to almost 20 years of teaching and performing at the school, to a 5-year gig as Music and Dance Coordinator, Annie Fain Barralon has a long and rich history with the Folk School. After dedicating time to her professional art as a painter, bookmaker, and musician, she has recently rejoined the Folk School staff as Programs Development Manager. Along with her experience as an artist and instructor in Brasstown and beyond, she also brings a deep love of the Folk School’s history and mission to her new role. 

JCCFS: Welcome back! You have such an incredible history with the Folk School so for the readers who don’t yet know you or as a refresher for the ones who do, tell us a little bit about you.  

AFB: Well, when it comes to the Folk School, there are actually multiple stories. So many members of my family have been involved here so there is a generational connection. My great-grandfather was buddies with Fred O. Scroggs. Fred was a local storekeeper who originally donated land to establish the Folk School and my great-grandfather pledged money to the school “upon commencement of building.” He and my great-grandmother came dancing here in the Community Room of Keith House sometimes. Later, my grandmother took dulcimer making and playing classes at the school and would come to the auctions and concerts. She was also secretary of the board at one point.   

JCCFS: That’s one story and a lot of history! What about another story? 

AFB: It is! When I was a kid, I didn’t even realize that this was generation after generation. I just knew this place was part of our life. My mom came to Little/Middle in the 1960s when it was a really small program. In the 1980s, when I was still a kid, she started as the Creative Program Advisor (formerly Resident Artist) for spinning, knitting, and natural dyeing. My dad worked here in Development and raised money for the Olive Dame Campbell Dining Hall. He was also president of the board later on. They were always involved in music – playing for dances and concerts. Sometimes Lindsey (brother), Emolyn (sister), and I would fall asleep on the couches in the living room or under the piano in the Community Room.  

Annie Fain & Bethany Chaney

Annie Fain & Bethany Chaney 

Annie Fain @fall festival playing with Mother Martha and Sister Emma

Annie Fain playing at the Fall Festival with her mother Martha & sister Emolyn 

Annie Fain in Kentucky Fiddle Tunes Class

Annie Fain in Kentucky Fiddle Tunes Class

Annie Fain with her group Blue Eyed Girl who has performed at the Folk School for years and will be performing a Friday night concert and Saturday night dance this August.
Annie Fain with her group Blue Eyed Girl who has performed at the Folk School for years and will be performing a Friday night concert and Saturday night dance this August. Photo by Southern Highland Craft Guild
Annie Fain at age three with Rural Felicity Garland Dance Team 1983

Annie Fain at age three with Rural Felicity Garland Dance Team 1983

JCCFS: It sounds like you grew up here.  

AFB: Yes! I went to Little/Middle every year from age seven to seventeen. I danced, played music, and started assisting in banjo classes when I was 22, then teaching solo when I was 24. Those classes were in music, dance, and book arts. I also worked as Little/Middle Coordinator, have been selling and performing at the Fall Festival for years, playing for Morningsong, and from 2013-2018, I was the Music and Dance Coordinator. I’m still dancing with the Dame’s Rocket Morris Dance Team and now I’m back on staff, doing something new! 

JCCFS: How do you think your history and experience will play a role in your new job? 

AFB: The variety of different ways I have interacted with the school for my entire life gives me a deep knowledge of the school’s history and mission, as well as how things work behind the scenes from a practical point of view. I know what it’s like to book performers here and to be a performer here. I know what it’s like to be a Little/Middle student, teach as a Little/Middle instructor and to run the program. I know what it’s like to schedule instructors and to be an instructor, to teach in different studios for different mediums and to be a full-time working artist. I also attended a Folk School in Denmark for six months and my undergrad degree was in Appalachian Studies. I can pull from all of these experiences to understand and complete my duties as Programs Development Manager. 

JCCFS: And what will you be doing in this new role? 

AFB: Well, I build the classes in our database (what students see on the website when they are browsing classes), compile and edit class descriptions for catalog printings, and manage hundreds and hundreds of instructor contracts, among other things.  

JCCFS: You’re also working with folks who have been with the Folk School for a long time and others who are newer to Brasstown. How do you see those experiences influencing each other? 

AFB: That’s so true. We have master craftspeople here who have been building the school’s programs for decades. Their style and approach has been created over years and years of teaching and making their own work. Their knowledge is invaluable. So are their connections. Our newer folks are bringing so many creative ideas to the table. They want to mix things up and help figure out ways to continue these traditions while also engaging in new initiatives. The great thing is, everyone can learn so much from each other. It’s a really fun time to rejoin the staff. 

JCCFS: How does it feel to be back? 

AFB: It’s so good! There’s a familiarity, a comfort. I don’t know life without the Folk School. And at the same time, it’s invigorating to learn yet a new and different angle to the inner workings of the school. I think I’m supposed to be here, in this exact position.  

Annie Fain Dancing with The Dame’s Rocket 

Cards like this one of “Blue Jay” made from Annie Fain’s original paintings can be found in the Folk School’s Craft Shop.
Cards like this one of “Blue Jay” made from Annie Fain’s original paintings can be found in the Folk School’s Craft Shop.
Annie Fain with her art

 Annie Fain in her Studio Photo by Terri Clarke

JCCFS: Can you tell us a little bit about what’s going on in your artistic life? 

AFB: Music, dance, and art have always been there. They will always be there. I spent a lot of time as a self-employed artist and I’ve been honing how I want to create, share, and teach. My creative life remains part of my daily life. I even practice new songs in the car!  

JCCFS: And what’s something fun you want people to know?  

AFB: I was married on this campus and our boys have fallen asleep under the piano, just like I did when I was a kid. There are all of these different touch points here spanning five generations, and not one of them is the complete story. It’s like the parable about the elephant, about how different people feel different parts and think, “Oh, that’s definitely what an elephant is.” Maybe it’s the trunk, maybe it’s the tail, but it’s a part, not the whole thing. That idea gives everyone who comes here permission to have their own, unique experience and to know we’re all a part of the whole. A lovely thing indeed. 

Support the Folk School with Fund-A-Need!

By donating to our Fund-A-Need program, you help the Folk School fulfill its mission of bringing people together for experiences in learning and community life that spark self-discovery. Donation options include our annual fund, our program areas, scholarships, or specific items. We have a variety of specific needs, from painting easels and woodcarving workbenches to cooking studio shelves and golf carts.

You can browse your favorite studio/program area or check out projects and upgrades around campus at the right gift level for you. By donating, you become an enduring part of the Folk School and ensure a better experience for yourself and other learners

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