By Diana Matthews
Mt. Olive native Jamie Faulk has spent 22 years teaching music in Columbus County since graduating from Appalachian State University. He has also served as a church musician and used his gifts in volunteer work. He is now preparing himself for some major professional challenges that he describes as “exciting.”
Invited to compete
Two weeks ago, Faulk received word that he has been selected to participate in the Washington International Piano Artists Competition in Washington, DC. The selection committee chose him among the finalists based on recordings that he submitted along with an application. “I go in August to compete against pianists from all over the world,” he said.
Once Faulk gets to Washington, there will be three rounds of competition. The pianists “get to choose their selections from the standard Classical repertoire,” he said. “My first round will consist of the Opus 10 Ballades by Johannes Brahms and two selections by Claude Debussy, Dr. Gradus ad Parnassum and the Valse Romantique.”
Faulk’s second-round selections are by Mozart, Franz Schubert and Bela Bartok. For the third round he will play a suite by Johann Sebastian Bach and varied pieces by Schubert.
In all, it amounts to an hour of music, some of which he will perform from memory. “I practice about four hours a day,” Faulk said.
Talent plus hard work
The performer-educator got his start in a “very musical” family.
“I grew up in the church music program and took music classes all the way from elementary to high school then to college,” Faulk said.
Faulk took two years of piano lessons from his grandmother, Audrey Faulk, beginning when he was 9 years old. He was self-taught for five years, from age 11 until his junior year of high school. At that point, “I started taking from Mrs. Peggy Cates and then went to college on a piano scholarship,” said Faulk.
While a student at ASU, said Faulk, “I entered the piano competition at Southeastern Community College. That was how I was introduced to Columbus County.”
He competed in the Radford University Bartok/Kabalevsky Competition during his early teaching days. “I really enjoy performing and maintaining my skills, as well as developing my musicianship,” Faulk said.
Faulk has found ample opportunities to do both of those things in his teaching work and as organist/choir director at Grace Episcopal/Christ the King Lutheran Church in Whiteville, where he plays for both denominations’ services.
Church member Lisa Richey described Faulk as “a genuine Renaissance Man.” She said that she and the congregations are “grateful for and humbled by all the ways he shares his gifts as a musician, vocalist, composer, teacher, leader, collaborator, community concert organizer, gardener, and don’t even get me started on his culinary skills.”
Faulk sings in the Southeastern Oratorio Society, alternating between bass and baritone parts as needed, and for the past two seasons he has been the group’s assistant director. He runs rehearsals in the absence of the choir’s regular director, Dr. Tim Koch, and he has conducted some of their community outreach performances.
Koch, who teaches at Coastal Carolina University, called working with Faulk “a great joy and privilege.” In addition to Southeastern Oratorio Society, said Koch, “He and I also collaborated on the annual Columbus County High School Choral Festival. Jamie is a superb musician, who is dedicated to the highest artistic standards, and he approaches music as a vehicle to convey his great love for humanity.”
Last year, Faulk organized an organ recital at his church to raise support for Matthew 25 Center of Tabor City. The volunteer organization was completing a fund drive to build overnight lodging for families visiting loved ones in the local prisons.
Vestry member Susan Wood recalled that, “We wanted to do a fundraiser, and we wanted to make it fun. We asked Jamie if he could plan something musical.” Faulk enthusiastically agreed and made the event a reality.
Faulk brought together two other performers to play pieces on the organ. A 15-voice choir with a soprano soloist performed Faulk’s original Matthew 25 Suite, based on the Scripture passage that is the theme of the ministry.
The first concert raised $2,200, and a second program featuring some of the same musicians in Clarkton this spring raised “almost $3,000,” Faulk said. “There’s going to be another one this fall.”
“The choir is crazy about Jamie. He has so much talent and is so loyal to our church,” Wood said. “We don’t feel like we deserve him.”
ECHS students have honored Faulk in their yearbook by voting him “Teacher Most Likely to Say Something Crazy.”
Band student Rachael Bullock said that Faulk was, in fact, “really fun, and he taught you well. He was always there to help people with problems. He made sure you had all your music under control. He’s just a good teacher.
“I was on the beginning side,” when entering the ECHS band, Rachel said. Faulk patiently trained her to produce the right sound on her baritone euphonium, or “baby tuba,” as she called it.
“He never gave up on me,” she said.
After 22 years in the classroom, Faulk went back to school last year to earn a master’s degree and qualify for an administrative post. He took a heavy load of courses at UNCP in fall 2017 while teaching at Evergreen Elementary School. He then took part in the Sandhills Regional Education Consortium Leadership: Principal Development Program. Faulk described the program as offering “amazing opportunities. I feel that it has challenged me and helped me develop into a highly motivated and ready school leader.”
During the second half of the school year, he served an internship at Acme Delco Elementary School and West Bladen High School while still taking 12 hours of course work. “They worked us hard,” he said. He has another semester of graduate school to go.
Faulk’s vision as a potential school administrator is that, “Our schools need dedicated, qualified school leaders who are advocates for the students, the teachers and the profession of Education.”
He added that, “Janet Hedrick and the staff of Acme Delco Elementary School were amazing, and I learned so much from them.”
Faulk is also embarked on the personal challenge of improving his overall wellness; during his internship at ADES he joined martial arts classes in February after reading The Urban Monk by Pedram Shojai.
“I am currently at Orange belt and I am preparing to test for Green,” Faulk said. A running joke between him and his colleagues, he said, “is that I took up taekwondo because elementary school students were scrappy and I wanted to be ready. I really started it as a way to challenge my body, mind, and spirit, and to grow on a personal level.”
As part of that same commitment, “I am considering taking the lake again this year. It is definitely a challenge,” Faulk said. “This is an exciting time for me and I feel that good things are on the way.”