About This Annual Report
On April 11, 1938, 26 men gathered on the roof of a Tulsa hotel to sing, and they unwittingly gave birth to a movement. Today, close to 80,000 male and female singers regularly sing barbershop harmony in more than a dozen nations.
The Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS) is reaching a tipping point. This is the moment when we are ready to leverage our rich musical history, geographic reach, organizational infrastructure, and dedicated corps of passionate artists to make an impact that was previously no more than a dream. We are a group of intergenerational singers who demonstrate every day how singing together in harmony transcends anything that may divide us.
Most of the good we do as a Society takes place far away from our headquarters. Across North America every week, thousands of male Members and an increasing number of female Associates not only enjoy singing for our own sakes, but also share the joy of singing in our communities. Together, we’re building A Better World. Singing.
“I’ve gained so much from being a Barbershopper. Touching the hearts and minds of young people keeps me going and gives me so much joy.”
Brian O’Dell (center), Columbus, Ohio
Bass, 2016 Quartet Champion Forefront
Member, Harmony Foundation President’s Council
Each generation benefits from mentors, then gives back to the next generation
Many know Brian O’Dell as a 2016 quartet champion and as one of the Society’s finest basses. Brian, on the other hand, sees himself as someone who has been greatly blessed by his 34 years of membership in the Barbershop Harmony Society; like many Barbershoppers, he enjoys the honor and privilege of giving back.
As a teenage member of a barbershop chapter in Ohio, Brian’s formative years were filled with rewarding work and musical thrills among mature peers and mentors. The discipline he gained from trying to master a challenging art form brought him interpersonal and life skills that he still uses every day. It’s why for the past 17 years, he has served as a coach, director, counselor, committee member and performer at youth outreach events.
“All the giving and friendships helped me be the best I can be,” Brian said. “The connections and discipline they learn will carry them throughout their lives.”
A mentor’s legacy can live forever
After joining in college, professional musician Ray Schwarzkopf’s barbershop mentors such as Bill Just profoundly shaped his musical worldview and taught him more than any professor—about music and about life. It’s why Ray keeps going back to expert Barbershoppers for training, and never stops sharing what he’s learned. It’s the least he can do for those who changed his own life.
“It’s a debt that I’ll never be able to repay, so I just keep sharing and sharing,” Ray said. Whenever he hears an overtone from a group he is coaching, “It’s like Bill Just is looking down from heaven and saying, ‘Raymond, they’re doing it right!’”
“I’m taking from the mentors who taught me, and I pass it along. It’s my way of giving back the debt I will never be able to repay.”
39-year Barbershopper, Chicago
Member, Harmony Foundation President’s Council
What can we do better?
“In the past, we missed opportunities to leave a lasting impact in the cities where we host our conventions. Moving forward, this must and will become a high priority.”
Most of the Nashville residents who attended the finale show and the Quartet Finals at the 2016 International Convention said it was their first barbershop event.
91% of the Nashville residents who attended wanted to attend more barbershop events in the future.
“This has been an absolutely life-altering experience for my boys, and it has brought more guys into my school music program!”
Sky Harris, Liverpool, N.Y.
The Youth Chorus Festival and Youth Barbershop Quartet Contest change lives
Harmony Foundation International donors sponsor both the Youth Chorus Festival and the Youth Barbershop Quartet Contest. Since its inception nearly 25 years ago, participants of the YBQC have become the who’s who of the artform, both on-stage and off-stage. The newer Youth Chorus Festival more than triples the number of annual participants, and has become a breeding ground for enthusiastic young singers and supportive music educators. Several youth choruses have since become successful chartered Society chapters.
“We do try to entertain, but the BHS is more about what we do as a community.”
Jacob Campbell, Denton, Texas
Jacob Campbell, 23, always excelled in music, but struggled during high school. A few years after graduation, in a new town with no friends, he was looking for a change. He had loved singing in a barbershop quartet as a high school senior, so in October of 2015 he called the nearest BHS chapter. By the end of the call, he had a new friend and a ride to the next rehearsal of the Town North Plano, Texas, Chapter.
“They took me in with open arms,” said Jacob, now a student majoring in music education. The chapter decided to send him to the 2016 Harmony University on their dime. “That meant so much to me,” said Jacob. There he found dozens of young peers as enthusiastic about four-part harmony as he was. He also discovered that generosity pervades the barbershop culture.
“It’s like the ‘Iowa’ lyrics from The Music Man: ‘We’ll give you our shirt, and a back to go with it,’” Jacob said. “Through all my mentors, now I’m a mentor. The torch has been passed. Barbershop isn’t just four-part singing, it’s really a way of life.”
Leaders do more than talk about service—they seize the moment
At the 2016 Leadership Forum, chapter and district leaders gathered to explore how singing can improve lives in their respective communities. To ensure talk was balanced by action, activities included a scheduled sing-along with residents of a nearby assisted living home. At the sing-along, one of the residents told Forum attendee Dennis Ritchey that the residents rarely sang together anymore, as the owner of the facility’s only piano had moved away. After leaving, Forum members discussed this challenge and opened up their own wallets to take a collection. One week later, a permanent piano was delivered to the facility, ensuring that singing will boost residents’ spirits for years to come.
“Most music educators are women, so it was great for my male singers to see manly men, loving music and singing.”
Melbourne, Fla. music educator
Barbershop Harmony Society grants are Keeping the Whole World Singing
The Society’s grant program is state-of-the-art, with methods that help grant applicants plan more effective outreach events, and create grant requests that are attractive to local funding sources. Versus 2015, the 2016 grant recipients collectively reported:
- higher diversity of participants.
- participation from a greater number of schools and community organizations.
- stronger community relationships.
- more participants than anticipated.
- venues commonly filled near or at capacity.
2016 grants awarded by the Society and supported by Harmony Foundation International donors
Music educators’ perception of barbershop is rapidly changing
One of the biggest challenges music educators face in introducing barbershop harmony into their music program is a practical and tactical issue: how does one insert another music form into a crowded and ongoing learning and performance curriculum?
Society staff surveyed educators at ACDA and NAfME conferences to better understand what they needed in their programs. The answer: music charts, money, and more male singers. This led to the creation of fun, self-directed tools that use the best available BHS materials to introduce barbershop music into an ongoing curriculum. Educators received more than 11,000 copies of sheet music at music educator conferences, as part of hundreds of music educator packets distributed.
The biggest factor influencing the perception of barbershop among music educators? It comes from the superior performers (Crossroads, Great Northern Union, Ringmasters, The Fairfield Four, and others) who represent the BHS at these conferences!
A global choral arts community
Like many BHS chapters, the Alexandria Harmonizers actively pursue outside engagements in order to be part of the larger arts community. Frequent meetings with other community arts groups led to diverse engagements throughout the Washington, D.C. area. After one such performance, they were contacted to perform a major role in prestigious oratorio performances of “I Am Harvey Milk” with Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth.
“Whatever you have in the water in Nashville, keep on drinking it!”
Dave Jackson, chapter president, organizational psychologist
The Healthy Chapter Initiative is already making an impact on chapters
Beginning in 2016, a full-time staff member has been leading dozens of trained chapter facilitators who together help chapters understand where they are, identify where they want to go, and then acquire the tools needed to successfully reach their goals.
David Jackson, president of Ontario’s Newmarket Chapter, is “really pleased” with the way HCI leaders are servicing his chapter’s needs.
“It’s about understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each of us and using what we know to address each problem,” Dave said. “We are developing a plan to increase our membership by 10% each year, improve our performance ability, and to work with music educators in our region. We have good published materials and have received a lot of good advice.”
BHS Member Community
What can we do better?
“We need to constantly create and refine our tools and offerings to better serve our communities of artists at all levels of participation.”
Director of Membership
The options for engaging with the Society continue to expand
At the end of December, 2016, there were 210 Society members who had no district or chapter affiliation. An additional 181 had joined the BHS with no other affiliation but later joined a district or chapter.
Today’s customers expect organizations to not only meet their needs and passions, but also to have flexible and transparent participation options. We believe this new outlook on membership will lead to mutually beneficial successes for chapters, districts, the Society, and most importantly, the members!
20,969,504 minutes of videos watched
Top viewed videos for 2016:
1. Main Street “Pop Songs Medley” (released in 2015) – 712,304
2. Kentucky Vocal Union “Footloose” – 549,328
3. Old School “Gold Medal Set” (released in 2011) – 237,312
2016 was the first year ALL International Convention performances were published exclusively on YouTube – 562 total videos
Our community charts its future
Beginning in 2015 and throughout 2016, the first major formalized BHS strategic planning process since 1954 continued in earnest among Society staff, the BHS board and dozens of other volunteer leaders and committee members. In 2016, we gathered a massive amount of input and data from our members and other constituents and studied the external environment. We learned that:
- our members embrace the joy of singing together and want to share it.
- they enjoy their current barbershop experience, but have an appetite for change as well.
- the full generosity of their time, treasure, and talent is still largely untapped.
- the choral world looks to us not just to keep people singing, but to get the whole world singing. many methods and structures for organizing that brought success for our founders aren’t necessarily the methods that will work best in the future.
People are discovering our music
Music educators and others are discovering barbershop music through non-BHS channels. The world’s largest sheet music publisher, Hal Leonard, markets and distributes more than 100 BHS titles that includes arrangements for male, female, and mixed voicings. Many have reached out to the Society after learning about our organization by way of this partnership.
Harmony Mercenaries: A collaboration that boosts the profile of six chapters
Many chapters regularly get together for informal singing or an occasional concert, but the Harmony Mercenaries go far beyond that. This army of volunteer singers from Michigan’s Grand Rapids, Lansing, Muskegon, Holland, Battle Creek and Kalamazoo chapters have learned the same package of songs, and travel to each other’s communities for certain performances, helping strengthen the profile and impact of chapters within their respective communities. Developed by Grand Rapids Chorus Director Jamie Carey, members of the six chapters are available to support each other’s chorus or quartet performances whenever needed. Their respective chapter choruses often more than double in size when joined by fellow Mercenaries, who form an ad hoc “superchapter” at both performances and at occasional practices to refine their repertoire.
“It’s a powerful learning experience.”
Kathy Stokes Esterhazy
President of Saskatchewan Choral Federation
“I’ve learned things at Harmony U that I never learned in all the conferences I’ve attended during my career.”
Dr. Christopher Quinn, 34-year music educator,
Director of Music, Westminster College
Harmony U: gaining a reputation among music educators
Teach one music educator how to love and use barbershop harmony as part of their choral program and you’re teaching the joys of four-part harmony to all their present and future students as well. Music educator interest in Harmony U continues to explode, thanks in part to Society scholarships that utilize funding from Harmony Foundation and other sources. Adherence to professional best practices receives high marks among educators and Barbershoppers alike.
What not to do, and what to do instead: replacing “barbershop movements” with universal principles
In fall 2016, Society judges began to apply the new Performance category, accounting for 1/3 of each competitor’s total score. The Society’s Contest & Judging community exerts a heavy influence on performance norms in the barbershop community through defining and rewarding the pursuit of barbershop artistry. The new Performance category discourages some common legacy elements of barbershop performances seen by general audiences as confusing or inauthentic. Judges, Harmony U instructors, and performance coaches have instead emphasized universal principals that help performers connect with all audience types.
“The rest of the a cappella world would die
to have what you have.”
Godfather of A Cappella
Harmony University: Not a single event anymore—and a growing online library
While the premiere one-week Harmony University experience continues to expand, HU is becoming a larger part of each Midwinter and International convention. In 2016, Harmony U programming included more than 100 courses as part of convention registration, with up to 10 courses at a time running in parallel. Many courses were captured on video and are available to all at www.barbershop.org/hu.
District events see improvements over 2015
What can we do better?
“We need to continue developing more and better director training for our leaders. If we don’t sharpen the skills of the musical leaders of our organization, we stop growing in quality and new singers are not attracted to what they see and hear.”
Director, Harmony University
Working as one Society, we are stronger and better equipped to advance and scale our mission and impacts.
“I could have written a book about our love of singing. I met Wanda in high school choir in 1950. Alzheimer’s took her, but memories still live in my heart … the gift was in her honor.”
Gene Clements on his increased giving to Harmony Foundation
Harmony Foundation 2016 Contributions to Society Impact
From small contributions collected at BHS chapter meetings, to annual gifts to large legacy gifts, endowments, and bequests, HFI and its donors provided mission-critical funding to support the Society’s mission and impacts.
A greater impact through partnership
The Barbershop Harmony Society and Harmony Foundation International are separate legal entities, yet philosophically function as one Society supporting the programs and outcomes that demonstrate the impact that music and singing has on lives. Through the generosity and support of donors to HFI, the outstanding work of the Society and many of its chapters and districts is made possible.
In 2016, HFI contributed $843,445 to BHS to support youth programs such as the Youth Chorus Festival, camps and workshops, and the Youth Barbershop Quartet Contest. For all chapter members, the Healthy Chapter Initiative aims to make each BHS chapter the very best it can be, based on its members’ needs. The impact of Harmony University is perhaps the greatest ripple effect of all, teaching music educators and directors from all over the world who in turn pass along that knowledge to students and thus their present and future peers. And, partnerships with national singing organizations such as NAfME and ACDA place barbershop-style harmony in the national forefront and BHS on the national stage to collectively build A Better World. Singing.
The Donor Choice Program, which allows donors to HFI to designate up to 30 percent of their gifts to districts or chapters of their choosing, distributed $432,000 back to the discretion of those districts and chapters. These funds are often used in communities to enhance opportunities for singing and music education.
“The Society’s revenue streams are highly diverse, with only one-third [34.5%] of our revenue coming from membership dues. The remaining two-thirds comes from our social enterprise and other revenue-generating activities.”
Erik Dove, BHS CFO
Barbershop Harmony Society Revenues: $6,533,000
More than 89% of BHS expenses directly support mission-critical programs and program operations.
Annual Dues Breakdown
Together, we made 2016 a great year. Thank you to our wonderful staff and the countless volunteers at every level who give for the joy of giving. Thank you to all the charitable donors, the committee members, the top craftsmen of the artform, and the Joe Barbershoppers who give so much.
Thank you to the impromptu coach who helps a new quartet feel ready for its first public performance. To the singers who linger with grateful patients in the hospital long after the performance is over. To those who hang up fliers on behalf of a local school choir, to the members who sold tickets to give those young singers a bigger audience … and their school a bigger donation. To the members who made the local connections to the men who carried the risers, selected the music, booked the venue, and balanced the checkbook.
Thank you to everyone who simply worked hard at their craft so they could touch more hearts and change more lives. The BHS has given me so much joy. I know it has given you joy, too. Keep doing all you can to make A Better World. Singing.
2015-2016 BHS President