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A young member’s big barbershop moment

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Submitted by Andrew Shackleton, chairman of the Society’s membership committee.

I have a great little story to share with you. I was working with the Operations Team a few weekends ago at headquarters in Nashville. It was lunch time and we were just finishing our box lunch and chatting. Apparently Ed Watson was looking out the window and noticed a young couple peering into the front windows. Ed asked Patty Leveille (his executive assistant) to pop down and see if they would like a tour or if she could answer any questions they might have. This was the start of a fantastic barbershop moment for 19-year-old Michael Pugh and his girlfriend, Apryl. They were in town from Evansville, Indiana, and he wanted to show her the home office of the Barbershop Harmony Society, which he joined the summer of 2009.

Patty took them for the grand tour, showing them where all the staff works, some of the neat design in the office layout and meeting rooms, and showed them the Wall of Fame. At this point, Michael was blown away that he and Apryl had been invited in to the office, on a Saturday afternoon when nobody should be around to notice them. Quoting Michael:

“That day was really something for me. As a young barbershopper, still learning and discovering the wonders of what the Society and the art of barbershop itself can present, I was very excited to see the headquarters. I saw it as somewhat of a homecoming. It’s where everything is centered for our passion. I didn’t expect to actually be able to get to go inside, just being there, and seeing it was enough. But when Patty Leveille opened the doors and offered us a tour I was so excited. It was dream coming true right in front of my eyes. She showed us all over telling us about the past present and future of the Barbershop Harmony Society headquarters. I was amazed.

There was one particular point in the tour that was very touching. She took us to the top of the Champions wall and started to talk about the different quartets, and was pointing out ones I knew and some I didn’t. She reached The Gas House Gang and started talking about Rob Henry’s passing. Of course, I already knew about it — The Gas House Gang is my favorite quartet. But at that moment, I felt like I wasn’t just another barbershopper, I was part of something big. All of those men up on that wall were my brothers, along with every man in the Society and every woman my sister. Barbershop really does bring people together like I’ve never seen. I’m not ashamed to admit that I did tear up a bit at this point.”

Just as they were finishing the tour of Ed’s office, Patty brought them into our meeting. She introduced Ed and the Operations Team to them, and at that point you could see that Michael couldn’t believe is eyes. He was standing next to the CEO Ed Watson! Needless to say, Michael was a bit overwhelmed when he noticed not only was Ed Watson standing next to him but Shane Scott, tenor of the funny quartet Lunch Break was also at the table.

Now everyone knows we are a singing organization — RIGHT! So we had to ask Michael if he wanted to sing something. Now, he had a monetary look of panic, fear, nervousness … and said, “Sure.” The pipe blew and we started to sing “My Wild Irish Rose.” All of the sudden, this young fella stepped up and sang with one of the nicest bass voices you will ever hear. WOW! We all turned slightly to face Apryl and sang to her. Quoting Michael again:

“After that, she took us up to the third floor and I was so excited to see where everyone worked. I was even more excited to meet the Operations Team. I felt even closer to the Society when I was invited into the conference room. I wasn’t expecting to meet such inspiring members of the Society, and though I didn’t see it coming, I know I should have. I was never going to leave that place without singing something. So the trip ended with singing “My Wild Irish Rose.” Unfortunately I was so excited I might have made some mistakes, but that isn’t the important thing.

I was there, and now I know if I didn’t know before, my place is in the Society. My girlfriend, Apryl, is not a barbershopper, but I believe that after that trip she finally understood a little better my passion, and maybe one day we can make a barbershopper out of her as well. It also gave me a great yearning to work in that building someday. I’m currently a theatre major at the University of Evansville, but I decided that day to change my path. I hope to be going to school in Nashville soon and making my way to the Society headquarters. I want to help as much as I can to keep our Society growing, and to make it bigger than ever. It was by far the best experience of my life visiting the Barbershop Harmony Society headquarters.”

At the end, Apryl was smiling ear to ear and Michael had this huge grin on his face. The others at the table enjoyed it just as much as they did. Patty heard her say on the way out of the building “OMG did you see that … they were all singing to me! That was so cool!”

Now that is a Barbershop Experience!

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