Be Yourself

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Not all youth enjoy only the company of other youth.  Most greatly respect older men and want to be accepted and even liked by the “establishment”, the existing cadre of men in an organization (in this case a chapter)  who represent what these younger folks want to be some day.  Pictures of a very young Cory Hunt, Jim Henry, or Rick Spencer, singing with their Dads, reveal big smiles and enjoyment of both the youngster and the oldsters around him.

The solution we see across the Society today, even highlighted by Harmonizer articles on tacos and tags, or the Northwest Vocal Project, is to create youth choruses that sing to their own muse and encourage their members through like-minded activities.  Westminster is a shining example of this strategy, and this post is not meant to disparage that approach.  Certainly that is one good way to encourage growth in our Society.  It’s just not the only way.

When I joined the Society, many years ago, I was young.  I was just recently married, had my whole life in front of me, and wanted to establish certain behavior patterns that would last a lifetime.  (No, honey, I can’t get home any earlier on Tuesday night, I have to sing tags at the afterglow!)  I looked to the older guys in the chapter to stand as examples, to help me get to and stay at conventions in JAD, and reveal some pieces of my future in Barbershop.  I enjoyed the company of my fellow chapter members and remember thinking what a great hobby this was (is); they admired my youth, vigor, and abilities, and I admired their success, experience, and, (oh my!) the stories they told.  I shamelessly took their assistance, slept on many floors and couches during contest, and rode in many carpools to practice or to convention, because I needed help and they needed voices.  What fun it was.

We take great pride in this organization in knowing very little about our riser mates.  We seldom know their economic status, or even what they do for a living.  We just know that they sing.  Quartet mates are a little closer, in that they often practice at one another’s houses, but even there it is not important what they do so much as how they sing.  That was as true when I came in as it is now.  But there’s one thing you can bet on: most young singers can use help with things like food, lodging and transportation.   And they’ll never forget it.

It is critically important that chapters welcome younger singers, put faith and confidence into dealings with them, recognize them for what they are, and deal with them at that level.  They might not universally meet every challenge, but they also won’t universally let you down.  And they don’t always think of you as a bunch of old fogies.  Be proud of your experience, and overcome your tendency to ignore the young – welcome them and they’ll reward you greatly.

Don’t try to be them, just be yourself and help them as you can.  They’ll look up to you and admire you for your skill and experience, and you’ll both be better off – and so will the chapter and the Society.

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