Music begins where words end: The lowdown with Amanda Jolliff, director of the Berrien Elementary Chamber Choir

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Photography by Wenda Gaile Bailey /

The Berrien Elementary Chamber Choir premiered at the 2018 Alapaha Station Celebration festival in Alapaha, Georgia. In an exclusive chat, chamber choir director Amanda Jolliff cuts to the chase about how she turned up in Berrien and relaunched music education. “My husband is stationed at Moody, and we moved to Nashville from England in 2012,” says Jolliff.

“I got a job as a paraprofessional at Berrien Elementary School in 2013 then in December of that year our art teacher moved up to the high school. I was encouraged to create a music program to replace it. The following year BES kept music and brought back art as well with another teacher.

“There was no music program at BES in the five years before I was hired. The music room was actually filled with a bunch of workout equipment when I first arrived. Being born and raised in Ohio, us Yankees had never heard of an elementary school without a music program!

“Students gain so much from performing and learning about music. It just makes them a better person. Personally, I like country and rock from the early 2000’s. Linkin Park, Garth Brooks, and musical theater productions like Les Misérables and Rent are favorites depending on my mood. I’m kinda all over the place.

“I started the choir in 2014 when I was asked if I could get a small group together to do a performance in the community. I had such a huge response of kids that were interested that I decided to form the group every year. It is only open to 5th grade students and they have to audition in order to be selected. I usually have about 150 students who audition every year, and I was only able to choose 68 this year because of bus limitations.

“As the Alapaha Station Celebration falls during Veterans’ Day Weekend, the kids will be singing Lee Greenwood’s ‘God Bless the U.S.A.’ [aka ‘I’m Proud to be an American’] and ‘One Nation.’ We may throw in ‘The Armed Forces Medley.’ I really try to program music that has feeling to it and a message because I feel that that is what music was intended for — to help us convey our emotions. One of my favorite quotes is, ‘Music begins where words end.’”

© Jeremy Roberts, 2018. All rights reserved. To touch base, email and mention which story led you my way. I appreciate it sincerely.

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Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ someone fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email:

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