The next stop for Ashia Barnes: Manhattan School of Music.
When Ashia Barnes was 8 years old, she was singing to herself in her home when her mother, Bedie Barnes, thought the voice she heard was someone on the radio.
“When I looked around the corner, it was her,” Bedie Barnes said. “She saw me peek around the corner, and I said, ‘Is that you?’ And she stopped singing and started to cry, and I’m like, ‘Ashia, please keep singing,’ and she shook her head and she would not sing for me.”
Now at age 20, Ashia Barnes has been accepted into the Manhattan School of Music to study opera.
The road to New York City has been a long time coming since that day when her mom discovered her musical talent, she said.
The first time she sang in public was at the Buddy Taylor Middle School Idol in 2012, when she was in eighth grade.
“As soon as I got on top of the stage and all the lights hit me and I saw all of the people in the audience, I calmed down; I got very comfortable,” Ashia Barnes said. “That’s when I knew that performing was for me, because I was attracted to that stage.”
The cafeteria at BTMS holds a special place in her heart now, as the Idol was a catalyst for her musical journey.
“I found myself in this competition,” Ashia Barnes said of the Idol. “I was tired of just having my voice be heard just by me, and I felt like it was ready for everyone to hear it. I was ready to share it with everybody.”
She went on to attend Flagler Palm Coast High School, where she joined the FPC Formality Singers as an underclassman, performed in two school musicals and developed a love and appreciation for opera under the guidance of Amy Fulmer, who was the choral teacher at FPC and recently was named the new director of the Flagler Auditorium.
Fulmer taught her about opera culture and encouraged her to showcase her talent at community events around Flagler County, like those honoring veterans, at nonprofit benefits and more.
“She learned Italian arias at 14, and she must have sung the national anthem a hundred times out in the community,” Fulmer said about Ashia. “She has grown into an accomplished singer due to her hard work and years of practice. She and her parents are like family to me, so I cannot wait to see what she accomplishes next.”
Ashia Barnes estimated that she’s sang the national anthem around town at over 25 events throughout the last few years, which has prepared her for any type of audience, she said.
While earning her associate degree at Daytona State College, she and her instructor formed a jazz group called Shades of Blue, as well. Jazz helped her develop a wider vocal range, she said.
Ashia Barne said her dream is to “just to live my life in music.” She wants to sing at the Metropolitan Opera one day — and many other opera houses around the world.
“Opera speaks to the soul,” Ashia Barnes said. “I really feel like it speaks to the soul because of the type of characters that an opera singer has to portray, or the type of music that goes with it. You can play either a sad character, an excited character, a character in remorse or just a very goofy, fun-filled opera like Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute.’ The type of agility that an opera singer has to perform on top of that stage, it’s just amazing to me.”
Her parents each had their own musical passions through choirs and different groups, but when they learned Ashia wanted to pursue it professionally, their Palm Coast home became a rehearsal space where Ashia’s talent was consistently encouraged and challenged.
“To this day, if Ashia is into this music, we are into it wholeheartedly,” said Ramanus Barnes, Ashia’s father. “We have it playing on television, we have it in the house, she rehearses; this is her rehearsal studio, and we’re hard critiques.”
Bedie Barnes believes that music “saved” her daughter from the trials of middle and high school, giving her a vessel to express herself.
“Music is one of the things that has filled our house,” Bedie Barnes said. “It really gives us a purpose. Even on good days, bad days, we have music on.”
Ultimately, Ashia Barnes cannot imagine her life without music.
“Just being in the state of New York was just a dream of mine,” she said. “And for that to be a reality — that’s really amazing. I wake up every day just wanting to pinch myself, like, ‘Is this real? Am I dreaming?’”