Grad makes a name for herself in musicPublished 2:45pm Thursday, January 21, 2010
By JESSICA SIEFF
Edwardsburg graduate Barbara Barton has had quite the ride since her days as a high school student back in 1976.
Since then, she has cultivated a career in wildlife biology, working with endangered species from environmental work for the Michigan Department of Transportation to spending time underground with bats in the caves of Pennsylvania.
All along the way, Barton was also developing her musical career as an independent folk/rock musician and with the release of her latest album, “Turtle Dove,” Barton said she believes the music to be her best yet as she turns her full attention to her musical career.
Barton graduated from Edwardsburg High School with the class of 1976. “When I graduated I went to Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor,” she said in a phone call to the Argus.
On an athletic scholarship, Barton studied in Benton Harbor and played several sports. Eventually she left the school and moved to Three Rivers.
She worked as a disc jockey for the city’s small radio station, as well as in a floral shop before choosing to complete her education, moving to Centerville.
She received an associates degree in science, then attended Michigan State University where she received a Bachelors degree in fisheries and wildlife management.
“I’d always been interested in nature,” Barton said. “I didn’t know at that time that you could actually get a job, studying animals or doing biology in terms of wild life.”
Even as she furthered her career in biology and wildlife, Barton, who said she’d been playing guitar since the age of five, had experience in performing and playing a band she’d been in during her high school and younger years. She wrote her own music and performed original songs.
With MDOT, Barton was busy “doing environmental work,” she said. “Wetland permitting primarily and endangered species work.”
She began playing music a lot more, releasing two full-length CDs in 1991 and 1992.
The relationship between her two careers, she said, is an even one.
“The music didn’t make me much money but it was certainly my passion,” Barton said. “The wildlife was also my passion but it paid the bills.”
Through her musical career, Barton has won several accolades including winning best vocalist in folk music through the Metro Times Music Awards.
Barton moved away from Michigan, taking a job with the Nature Conservancy and moving to Harrisburg, Penn.
“I worked exclusively with endangered species out there,” she said, conducting a specialized study on the Regal Fritillary butterfly species.
“I did mark and recapture studies,” she said, chasing after and writing numbers on wings to get an idea of population and understand more about the butterfly’s way of life.
“I also did a lot of surveys for other rare and endangered animals,” Barton said. “I was particularly fond of doing surveys for bats. I spent a lot of time underground in caves.”
Barton was working with the Michigan Natural Features Inventory when she said her position was eliminated due to budget cuts. Since then, she’s turned her focus solely to her music career.
“Right now I’m pretty much devoting myself to the music part of things,” she said. “I spent the last six months working on a new CD, called ‘Turtle Dove.’” A release party for the album was held in Lansing earlier this month.
“I’m working with a band again which is something I haven’t done since I played in the rock band all those years ago,” she said.
Barton also has a new manager.
“We’re just sort of in the beginning stages of launching the efforts to promote the CD,” she said. “The music is very rhythmic; it’s acoustic,” and her songs definitely have “a folk rock edge to them.”
Barton describes the music on this album to be “all about relationships with other people. And there’s a song on there about endangered species,” among other subjects.
“I think it’s a reflection of where I’m at in my life personally,” she said. “I’ve heard once you get past 50, life gets easier. You come into your own.”
Coming into her own is what Barton seems to be doing.
“For me this year has been overcoming the last of the really deep personal hurdles that I’ve dealt with in my life and I feel like I am just absolutely on top of my game right now,” she said.
Calling herself a “perfectionist” in working on “Turtle Dove,” Barton said she had performed all the engineering, producing, mastering and recording of the album.
“Something magical happened with it,” she said.
Right now, Barton plans to put all of her focus on her musical side, something that’s a “full-time job in an of itself,” she said, as she’s kept busy working contacts and scheduling bookings.
“And then there’s rehearsing and writing as well,” she said. “It’s kind of fun to see how a song evolves and grows.”