Deb Barr’s story actually begins at two years of age, in West Texas, when she “figured out the piano”. If it had been “America’s Got Talent,” little Debbie Barr would have won.
Fast forward 64 years and Barr’s got a grand piano in the living room of her remote adobe home. She shares it with her husband, Jim Womeldorf, and three dogs. With only two other homes nearby, she has as much isolation as possible just 20 minutes from town.
She has piercing blue eyes and a charming Texas accent. Deb Barr, at 66, also has a smokey jazz voice and a writer’s creative mind.
She says she’s been singing all her life, growing up in a family where one side of the family played gospel music on the radio and the other side just played music. She took lessons in elementary school and studied music at the University of Texas, until changing her major to American Studies, which specializes in the history and development of the American West.
But she always played music. In Austin, she had her own successful jazz band.
She also worked as an administrative assistant with LBJ scholars who were writing 32 books for the LBJ School of Public Administration.
In 1978, her two best friends moved to Silverton and Durango respectively. Barr had camped in the area and had already decided that this part of Colorado was where she wanted to live. She was young, naive, eager, and wide-eyed when she arrived in Telluride in Nov. of 1982 with no money, no warm clothes and nowhere to live. But she was blessed, a word that pops up several times in her life.
“A lot of people helped me,” she said. “In 24 hours I had an apartment in the Miner’s Union and a job typing at Town Hall.” And she was asked to join the Telluride Jazz Quartet as a singer and pianist.
She started Deb Barr Business Services which has only two clients, the City of Durango and one other who prefers to remain anonymous.
She is very excited about two properties which she and Jim bought in Nucla after looking around the state for a number of years. “We bought then because of the price and because they have irrigation,” she said.
“We were looking for a place where we could walk to the grocery store, and that still had plenty of land around it.” Her eyes shine as she describes the town. ”There’s a whole arts community and non-motorized recreation.”
They won’t be moving for a few more years, but when they do, the grand piano will go on the stage in the 333 Arts building and Barr plans to offer piano lessons.
“We’re already planning events at the 333 Arts building. Musician concerts, poetry and an art gallery.”
How does she describe herself? Creative and curious.
“I’m the best musician I’ve ever been right now because I’ve put in my 10,000 hours and as a result I can think of myself as good.”
She is fortunate to be here today to say those words. in July 2017 Barr had an aneurysm, specifically, a RIND Reversible ischemic neurological disorder. This was followed by a stroke. At first she couldn’t write her name,and couldn’t sing. “Everything I do was at risk.”
She was blessed. She recovered completely. “It made me grateful,” she said. “It made me happy that I didn’t have to leave Jim, and my dogs. I wasn’t finished. It didn’t make me brave, but I didn’t fall apart.”