Jan. 27, 2014
If you are looking for Sarah Beth Barnette, there are two places that should top your list of likely hideouts. If she is not in the gym, practicing her shot on the court or working in the weight room to improve her strength and endurance, she is probably sitting at a picnic table in a Charlottesville park, a pen in her hand for scribbling thoughts and poems into her journal with her guitar at her side.
"I have always loved music, but the reason I wanted to start playing guitar was because I have always loved writing poetry and I thought it would be cool to put the two together," Barnette explained. "I'm not a good singer, but I can carry a tune. It would be awesome if I could sell my songs one day and be a songwriter, but I know that people in that business have done it like I have done basketball. It is just for fun, to be able to put the two together."
Barnette first started playing the guitar when she was in fourth or fifth grade, but stopped taking lessons on a consistent basis when her AAU basketball schedule made it impossible to keep doing both. However, this summer the 2010 Kentucky High School State Player of the Year and Miss Kentucky Basketball honoree used her free time in July to refocus on her six string.
"By the end of July, I was learning songs that I knew, which helped me have a better concept of how things go together, timing-wise," Barnette said of her musical progression. "It's a lot easier to learn with an expert teaching you in person rather than with self-teaching books or online courses. You can ask questions. On YouTube, you can't ask questions."
On the other side of the equation, Barnette has been journaling nearly everyday since the sixth grade, filling up one or two journals a year with a variety of writings. She first got the taste for written expression in the second grade.
"I can remember my teacher giving us all Veggie Tales journals and encouraging us to use them," Barnette said. "I remember being the only kid who took her seriously, so I filled it up as quickly as I could with poems and I would turn them into songs and sing them to my family with one of my best friends."
Barnette's musical taste and styles are highly varied, from alternative music to John Mayer to country acts, but there is one artist that ultimately inspires her.
"I just love that Taylor Swift writes her own songs, though I would love to co-write with her," Barnette confessed. "I started admiring her the summer after my freshman year in high school. We were on the way back from an AAU weekend of practice and someone was playing it in the car. The first time I heard her first album, some of those songs really resonated with me because I was immediately struck that I had felt that exact same way before. I think that really shows how honest she is and I think honesty is one of the most endearing qualities in anyone. Taylor Swift has a ton of fans and they're fans because she has captivated their heart in one way or another so to me that is genius."
Barnette had the opportunity to meet Swift in person when the Red tour came through Charlottesville in September.
"To have someone who has really inspired me and touched my heart and be able to meet her was it was unreal," Barnette said. "It inspired me even more just because she was so down-to-earth and genuine in the five minutes we got to talk to her. It also made me think `Wow. She actually did this.' All of her songs now seem like they came from a real person. It made me feel like I could do something like that."
As much as Barnette has returned to music, it hasn't been at the expense of basketball, though there also hasn't been a crossover between the two.
"Basketball and writing are outlets for each other," Barnette said. "If I have been writing or playing for a really long time, I will suddenly think `I want to go shoot basketball now.' If I have been in the gym for awhile or I've had practice, then I will want to go to Shenandoah Joe and just write."
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A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.
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