Newnan draws singer home
“There is definitely something wonderful about Newnan,” opera singer Courtenay Budd said.
Budd is overseeing the first “Friends of Wadsworth Concert - The Legacy Continues” on April 26. Budd grew up in Newnan. As an adult, she experienced the special nature of the community both personally — after her brother Bryant’s death — and professionally — when she first appeared on stage with Wadsworth almost 20 years ago.
“I was floored by the support,” she said.
Her childhood in Newnan and her experiences returning as an adult have brought Budd “a sense of family” locally.
Recalling her first Wadsworth concert, Budd remembered “people I hadn’t seen since childhood” being there and being supportive. “It made me want to come back every time I can,” she said.
It is an experience that her husband, Anthony Caramico, and their sons have also known. Caramico said to Budd that there are a few places near their Poughkeepsie, N.Y., home — among them a deli they frequent — where an employee or the owner may speak to him.
When the family visits Newnan and Caramico stops in at Redneck Gourmet, so many locals greet him and call him by name.
When Budd was growing up in Newnan, she was known as “Becky” to family and friends. Her parents, Warren and Courtenay Budd, moved to Newnan with their family when their daughter was four-years-old.
“What an amazing place to grow up,” Budd reflected.
“I have strong memories of the downtown businesses,” she said. She and her sister, Dorothy, would walk around the downtown court square. Budd remembered enjoying a grilled cheese and malted milkshake at Lee-King and taking in a movie at the Alamo.
A favorite stop was Scott’s Bookstore. Store owner Earlene Scott “never talked down to us” and treated the girls as if “we were intelligent and (she) wanted to know our opinion.”
The gothic sanctuary of First United Methodist Church was a center of life for the Budd family when the future opera singer was growing up. They were there three times a week most weeks.
She has “so many good memories of being there and of how comfortable we felt there,” Budd said.
The natural beauty of Georgia is also something Budd misses — and which draws her back to Coweta County. “I really miss that,” she said. She recalled family outings — running around outdoors with bare feet and “a lot of storytelling.”
Budd stays in touch with friends from growing up in Coweta County. She has fond memories of Jubilee Week at the Heritage School, where she matriculated through eighth grade - then going to Central High School and Newnan High School.
Among her high school friends was Joe Beamon, who shepherded her through AP biology at Newnan High. She remembered Richard Smith’s English class at NHS - and Smith relating that his former student, Lewis Grizzard, always would like to write about RC Colas and Moon Pies.
Many of her school experiences continue for today’s Coweta County high school students. “I remember the football games - the Newnan Cougars. Everybody in town was there,” Budd said.
After finishing Newnan High, Budd went to the University of the South, starting as an English major, but switching to music before graduating in 1990. Two years later she finished her graduate degree in vocal performance and pedagogy from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J.
Coweta County is likely to continue draw Courtenay Budd — and her family — back to the unique place she grew up. Sons Asa Caramico, 8, and Alexander, 6, have been “coming home” as long as they can remember.
“They love, love, love Newnan,” their mother said.