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Frequently Asked Questions

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FREQUENTLY
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A note on inclusive language: The Barbershop Harmony Society values and respects people of all genders, identities, orientations and expressions. Throughout these materials, the general terms “men and women” should be understood to encompass and include all people, without intent to exclude anyone.

The Strategic Planning Process and the path to this decision

The Society’s Strategic choice

 

Why is this change being made now?

Our Strategic Vision calls for us to bring Everyone in Harmony. We believe that the experience of singing together in harmony is meaningful to all people, and should therefore be accessible to people in all combinations. Providing more choices for everyone — options for women to be a part of BHS, options for chapters to include women in ensembles — make it possible for more people to find a home in the barbershop community.

What kind of research has the Society undertaken to determine the level of interest in a mixed-harmony Society, or BHS with female chapters/quartets/participants?

Our strategic plan research phase looked at this question from many different perspectives. We see rising participation in mixed events at district events, in the global barbershop scene, and in chapters that already include women as chorus singers in public performances outside competition.

Many of our findings have been posted over the last three years, including our foundational Member Satisfaction Survey, and a summary of all our findings. Some of the data was quite complex and nuanced. It didn’t necessarily give us definitive answers, but it certainly informed our judgement. Regarding the specific issue of women’s and mixed harmony, we have recently compiled a summary of the research in order to give you a transparent glimpse into the data. You can download the EiH Research Background report here.

By embracing all kinds of participation, we expand our ability to be inclusive and impactful in all communities. Ultimately, success will not be defined solely by specific numbers of members by gender, but by access for all people to all our ways of making a difference.

 

 

Representation, listening, and decision-making

 

When BHS was creating its Strategic Plan, it did a bunch of surveys. What did our current members say about adding women as members?

Surveys demonstrated widespread support for many ways of making music together, with roughly even proportions of members on each side of the question of expanding membership options. A specific action of removing gender restrictions on BHS membership was not addressed as a distinct, measurable choice, and the surveys did not directly address the question from a chapter perspective, i.e., would your own chapter wish to add women as members. We have recently compiled a summary of the research in order to give you a transparent glimpse into the data. You can download the EiH Research Background report here.

Members will always be free to choose their own barbershop happiness. We are committed to helping all people experience the joy of singing together in many configurations. If you want to sing only with men — great. If you want to sing only with women — great! If you want to sing mixed barbershop — go for it. All chapters, quartets and members can choose their favorite ways to live the barbershop life.

Why not decide this by a vote of all members?

We recognize that this is a big step. Analysis of our own survey results and awareness of cultural norms moving toward a more inclusive environment indicated that the long range vision of Everyone In Harmony is in step with society in general, and our mission in particular.

Organizationally, direct voting by the membership at large has not been part of Society governance for many decades. Under BHS bylaws (Articles 4.03-4.04), the Society Board of Directors is “responsible for the furtherance of the purposes of the Society and the attainment of its objectives, as well as the preservation of its ideals and the extension of barbershop harmony throughout the world…. As the governing body of the Society, the Society Board shall have full powers in all matters affecting the affairs of the Society, including regulation of the admittance, suspension and expulsion of chapter members and the suspension and revocation of chapter charters and licenses, and in every instance the action of the Board shall be final.”

The Board takes this obligation very seriously indeed, and has invested thousands of hours of time, research, and professional analysis in pursuing the Strategic Vision. It should be noted that every member of the Society Board of Directors is a barbershop singer, a chapter member, and a long-time volunteer, constantly interacting with Barbershoppers at all levels. Our all-male organization has changed in a number of ways over the decades, but always with the intent to enhance and expand the opportunities and enjoyment of the hobby.

 

Timeline for decision and implementation

 

Why is this change effective immediately?

As detailed in the January 2018 Strategic Vision Update: Roadmap & Milestones, the four major strategies of the Strategic Vision speak to scaling Participation and Engagement, Impact, Assets, and Inclusion, all with the aim of supporting more communities of artists. Growing these activities across a wider community will allow for greater variety. Greater variety and greater scale can make a better experience for all current and future members.

Following several years of strategic planning, including two-way member communication through publications, blogs, videos, town hall forums and listening sessions at international and district conventions, we are ready to take this next step forward in realizing the vision of Everyone in Harmony. Welcoming women to membership in the Society today is a leading step toward accomplishing all these goals.

The conversation will continue, as existing chapters work toward understanding their individual strategic goals, service to their communities, and resources available. For chapters that are considering adding women to their ranks, the months leading to January 2019 allow time for discussion, reflection and planning. No chapter will be required to make any change.

Meanwhile, women who join the Society today can enjoy being part of the inaugural class of members. Some may begin planning toward the day when they are part of founding new chapters, or becoming part of existing chapters.

Why will chapters need to wait until January 2019 to begin admitting women as members?

Many technical details relating to amending chapter bylaws need to be developed and implemented. There are questions still to be resolved before expanding these options, and it’s important to ensure we provide accurate and legally compliant solutions and guidance to our chapters.

The decisions made about chapter membership options will be up to each chapter. Understanding a chapter’s vision, its place in its community, and its resources to thrive, is not an overnight process. At the very least, the process of examining, understanding and affirming or altering its mission should prove healthy and productive, regardless of whether it leads to changes or results in deciding to continue with existing membership options.

Beginning January 2019, chapters will have expanded choices available for the kinds of ensembles they wish to support. A chapter might choose to stay exactly the same as it is today. A chapter might choose to add a mixed chorus, or a new, distinct women’s chorus. New chapters might form — male, female, or mixed. More choices means more freedom for chapters to develop experiences that reach more people.

 

BHS relationships with other organizations

 

Last fall, it was stated that discussions were taking place with Harmony, Inc. What is our current relationship with them?

BHS leadership and staff have engaged in discussions with the top leadership of Harmony, Inc. throughout the course of the Strategic Planning process. No official proposal has come before the Society Board at this time. The Society continues to collaborate with other organizations and will continue discussing ways to expand barbershop options for all, such as welcoming Harmony, Inc. Directors First students to Harmony University. The option for women to join BHS does not depend on any other relationships with other organizations.

How will this impact Harmony, Inc. or Sweet Adelines International? Why doesn’t BHS just merge with one of them?

While all three organizations work to support barbershop singing, Sweet Adelines and Harmony, Inc. have their own missions, culture, and governance. The member experience in each is quite distinct from the others, and not interchangeable.

The expansion of BHS membership to fully encompass all people should not be interpreted as encouragement to leave Harmony, Inc. or Sweet Adelines International. Offering more ways for more people to enjoy barbershop does not mean anyone should leave their existing ensembles. BHS is not and will not be the only place for people to engage in barbershop, and we count it a win when anyone sings anywhere, whether with us or in another barbershop organization. Just as they are now, people may be members of multiple organizations!

How do we preserve our friendly relationships with our local Harmony Inc. or Sweet Adelines International groups?

BHS members and chapters should maintain our good relationships with other barbershop groups the way you have always done: by being good neighbors, mutually supportive, and respectful of differences and common goals. The expansion of BHS membership options is not aimed at other organizations, but at the vast number of people who have never been part of any barbershop organization. Many singers hold multiple memberships in various organizations, and there is no reason that they would need to choose one over the other.

Should we approach our local Harmony Inc. or Sweet Adelines International counterparts about merging?

If your chapter is interested in expanding participation in this way and establishing an equal partnership, you might consider starting a conversation. As discussed further in the “chapters” section, the process of making decisions about membership options for a chapter should always include understanding who you are today, who you wish to become, and what path best leads you there. See section on “Chapters” below, and the forthcoming Chapter Considerations Guide for a more in-depth discussion.

How were barbershop groups outside of BHS involved in this plan and announcement?

As a courtesy, the leadership of Sweet Adelines International, Harmony, Inc., and Mixed Barbershop Harmony Association (MBHA) have been apprised of these decisions and timing of the announcement, so they may clearly and effectively communicate with their members. Similarly, leaders of some affiliated organizations have also been apprised along the way. That said, all barbershop organizations are self-directed and maintain autonomy to direct their own futures. We will continue to engage in partnerships and collaborative efforts with all our affiliates, subsidiaries, and fellow harmony advocates.

Do our international affiliates have both male and female members?

Some affiliate organizations, such as Barbershop in Germany (BinG!) have both male and female members, as do the Irish Association of Barbershop Singers (IABS), British Association of Barbershop Singers (BABS), Ladies Association of British Barbershop Singers (LABBS), and Holland Harmony (HH). Other global men’s organizations collaborate closely with corresponding female organizations and may co-host conventions and schools.

What is our relationship with the new organization that is springing up to preserve men’s barbershop?

The Society does not have any official relationship with any new organizations. The Society will always value and support the men’s barbershop experience, and affirm that every person should pursue barbershop happiness in every channel available. Find people you want to sing with, and sing with them! Trying new things in new ways makes the barbershop world more accessible to more people. The Barbershop Harmony Society will continue to offer and expand its unmatched services, events, publications and educational opportunities, and make these available to everyone as members, customers, and fans.

 

Legal, Structural and Pricing
Membership definitions

 

How will this affect the Associate Program?

As of June 19, 2018, the BHS Associate Program will be open to everyone. Associates receive many of the same benefits as members, but may not participate in chapters or quartets, compete in BHS contests, or serve as chapter or district officers. All people, including Associates, are eligible to participate as chapter Open Board members. NOTE: Revisions to the current Associate Program will be announced and implemented later this year.

Current associates who would like to become members before their renewal date may do so by signing into Member Center or contacting Customer Service. The membership fee will be calculated as the difference between the price originally paid and the current member rate, and can be purchased at any time. You will retain your current Years of Service.

In recognition of our inaugural class of female members, and as a thank-you for your years of service, all current Associates who become members between now and September 30, 2018, will receive a $25 discount. This discount applies to current Associates only. Further revisions to the current Associate Program will be announced and implemented later this year. Learn more at Barbershop.org/join.

How do I change from an Associate to a member?

Any current associate who would like to become a member before their renewal date may do so by signing into their Member Center account or contacting Customer Service. The membership fee will be calculated as the difference between the price originally paid and the current member rate, and can be purchased at any time. You will retain your current Years of Service.

In recognition of our inaugural class of female members and as a thank you for your years of service, all current associates who join as members between now and September 30th will receive a $25 discount. This discount applies to current associates only.

Can female/mixed quartets register with BHS?

We are working out the details and implications of registering female and mixed quartets with BHS and expect that this option will be available in Fall 2018.

Will women be able to join Districts?

Yes, but not currently. Women will be able to join districts once they have become members of a chapter, which we expect to be available beginning January 2019. More details will be provided.

Are female frontline directors now required to be members instead of associates?

Yes, female directors will eventually be required to be members, with the effective date to be determined.

 

Chapters

GENERAL
As of this announcement and release date of June 19, 2018, many details relating to chapter structures, changes to bylaws, legal requirements, and so on are currently being developed. This FAQ does not intend to have complete answers to questions still to be determined.

 

Chapter structure options in brief

On June 19, 2018, the Society Board of Directors voted unanimously in favor of making revisions to the BHS bylaws that remove the prohibition of women becoming members. All people are now welcome as members of the international Barbershop Harmony Society.

So what has changed? In short: one word. As of June 19, 2018, the word “male” has been removed from the bylaws of the Barbershop Harmony Society 3.01(a): “ Qualifications of membership — Any male person of good character and reputation may be considered for membership….” All people are now welcome as members of the international Barbershop Harmony Society.

While in the future we anticipate chapters may choose to admit all persons to chapter membership, they are not compelled to alter existing membership admission policies. BHS bylaws 3.01(b) remains unchanged: “a chapter in which application is submitted shall have full and absolute discretion in approving or rejecting for membership the person making such application.” Though the Society has announced these forthcoming changes, the steps toward implementing them at the chapter level are still being developed in cooperation with chapter leaders. Society leaders, including volunteer leaders and Harmony Hall staff, are working toward these solutions and will share more information with your chapter when available.

Chapters may choose to host any or multiple singing ensembles: all-male, all-female, and mixed voices. Chapters will not be compelled to alter existing singing ensembles.

Discussing and deciding

The process of determining future membership options for a chapter is not a simple yes/no choice. Chapters will need to undertake an inventory of their goals, aspirations, and resources. The Society is currently working with passionate volunteers to publish and implement the Chapter Considerations Guide. The goal is to provide chapters with an opportunity for focused conversation on a number of topics with a designated volunteer leader who can offer guidance and support during your chapter’s journey of self-discovery.

An existing library of resources is also available at barbershop.org/healthychapters, or you can email chapters@barbershop.org or leadershipopt@barbershop.org to speak with a Leadership Facilitator about the journey ahead for your chapter.

The Chapter Considerations Guide offers guidance on what factors chapters should be discussing as they move forward. The guide will prompt conversation among your chapter members and leadership so that you can decide what is best for your chapter’s future.

Are all choruses/chapters now open to women?

Chapters and choruses may make their own decisions regarding membership. The principle of local control is central to our Strategic Vision of Everyone In Harmony. Every barbershop unit — chapter, quartet, and any other communities of artists we support — must be free to pursue its own mission and place in its community. Each chapter has the option to define its membership and support men’s, women’s, or mixed ensembles — or operate as a combination of these. We anticipate the Society will create standard Chapter By-Laws that a chapter can adopt based upon its self-defined mission.

What if women visit our chapter as guests?

Most importantly, acknowledge the interest in your chapter! Not all visitors plan to join, and many women may stop by your rehearsal to share their enthusiasm, connect with other local barbershoppers, or ask questions about your plans for the future. Kindness and patience will go a long way in explaining what may be a new or confusing situation, especially to interested parties who were not familiar with your chapter or the Society before the announcement.

SET THE SCENE

Provide context about the recent changes that have been announced. Each chapter in the Society has its own mission, and it’s up to those in the chapter to determine whether expanding its membership opportunities would increase the chapter’s ability to achieve its mission. Share your chapter’s mission and values with prospective members, telling the story of how your chapter fulfills it. Prospective members will appreciate that the chapter leadership takes its membership seriously and is carefully considering who comprises its membership and how they will work together toward achieving a shared goal.

Acknowledge that you have been and are still an all-male chapter, and that the Society has just recently expanded its membership to include women but that each chapter, yours included, will have the option to choose whether or not it will expand its membership in the future. This would be the appropriate time to communicate that your chapter could choose to welcome women members in the future, but you may choose to preserve your all-male experience.

GUIDE THEIR EXPERIENCE

Your chapter probably already has a standard way for managing guests during your chorus rehearsal. It is your choice entirely whether you want to allow female visitors as participating guests on the risers while your chapter is determining its membership policy. It is OK to politely decline requests from female or male non-members to join on the risers as guests. It’s also OK to invite all guests or select groups up for all or part of a rehearsal, when communicated in advance. The choice is yours, and any choice you make with transparency and honesty will be met with understanding. Decide if you will invite all guests to sing on the risers or participate in the entire chapter meeting.

You may want to try some new ways of singing in different combinations during your rehearsal. Clearly communicate that you have not made a decision about future membership policies, and take the opportunity to listen to member and guest feedback. Inviting a variety of guests to participate in new ways may help your members better understand their preferences and create opportunities to test some of the options.

LEARN MORE

Collect information from anyone interested in your chapter — potential new members, female or male, can provide valuable perspective as your chapter works toward a decision. Have a few questions ready to ask women interested in your chapter, such as:

  • What experience are you looking for as a member of our chapter?
  • Why are you interested in our chapter instead of/in addition to other groups in the area?

FOLLOW UP

Collect contact information for any women who express interest in chapter membership, and keep them in the loop on your chapter’s decision-making progress. If your chapter ultimately chooses to welcome women as members, you’ll have a rapport with prospective members that was established with honesty and transparency.

Recruiting and accepting members

Your chapter’s decision, no matter what it is, will require consideration toward your membership and recruitment practices. Whether you ultimately welcome women as members to your chapter or decide to preserve your all-male experience, evaluate your chapter’s current operations to ensure the environment is welcoming and not intimidating to prospective members, male or female.

If you ultimately choose to expand your membership, the recruiting process remains the same! Reach out within your existing networks like social groups, churches, social media, advertising at singouts and other performances. Communicate excitement for the next phase of your chapter’s life and why any potential member should be eager to join. Open leadership opportunities just as you would to any eager newcomer to your chapter.

If you already operate as a mixed chapter

Keep doing what you are doing! Share the current status of chapter membership options for women, and the timeline — membership is already open to all people at the Society level, and BHS will be implementing the option for chapter-level membership by January 2019.

What should a woman do if she can’t find a BHS chapter that will include women as members?

If there isn’t a local BHS chapter that operates as a women’s or mixed chapter, you might wish to start one! Members of the Barbershop Harmony Society are encouraged to found and charter new chapters around participation models that best serve them. Although the exact timeline is still being determined, we expect that female members will have the opportunity and support to start new chapters beginning no later than January 2019. More barbershop in more ways in more places is great!

I’m excited about this change, and interested in both a mixed and all-male singing experience, but my chapter has decided to stay men only. What should I do? –or– I am not excited about this change but my chapter wants to move to a mixed environment. What should I do?

The chapter structure currently accommodates more than one kind of performing ensemble. Resources and personnel permitting, it may be possible to begin additional ensembles within the chapter.

Additional models may evolve, as nearby chapters individually and collectively determine their unique goals and wishes. We may very well see chapters host multiple performing ensembles of all varieties. Chapter A may end up retaining a men-only group, while Chapter B hosts its traditional men-only group plus a women-only chorus, and Chapter C is a mixed chorus that includes a few members from A and B, and so forth. Ideally, the most important part of all these models is to create satisfying musical and social experiences for everyone, and welcoming more singers from outside the existing barbershop sphere. We look forward to innovations and collaborations among nearby chapters! The forthcoming Chapter Considerations Guide will help your chapter navigate some of these issues.

Why are you waiting until January 2019 for women to be able to join chapters?

Many technical details relating to amending chapter bylaws need to be developed and implemented. There are questions still to be resolved before expanding these options, and it’s important to ensure we provide accurate and legally compliant solutions and guidance to our chapters.

Equally important, the decision to extend membership in your chapter to include women should flow from a strategic planning process that begins with understanding your chapter’s place in the community, its goals, and aspirations. Your chapter can access skilled guidance from the Leadership Operations Team and other resources of the Healthy Chapter Initiative. The forthcoming Chapter Considerations Guide will provide more information and guidance as your chapter enters this phase of what the future may hold for you.

Do we need to change our bylaws? How?

Many technical details relating to amending chapter bylaws need to be developed and implemented. There are questions still to be resolved before expanding these options, and it’s important to ensure we provide accurate and legally compliant solutions and guidance to our chapters. Guidance on if and how to amend your chapter bylaws will be provided in the forthcoming Chapter Considerations Guide. We anticipate the Society will create standard Chapter By-Laws that a chapter can adopt based upon its self-defined mission.

Can I start a mixed and/or women’s chorus in my chapter?

Yes, beginning January 2019, chapters may welcome women as chapter members and incorporate mixed and/or women’s ensembles.

Can there be BHS women-only chapters or choruses?

Yes, BHS members can found new chapters and set specific guidelines for admission. Beginning January 2019, those guidelines can include admitting women to chapter membership.

Are there resources available to me about recruiting female members for our chapter?

Not yet, but we’re working on it. Recruiting best practices should remain the same regardless of whether you’re recruiting men, women, or both to be a part of your chapter. Information about recruiting prospective members will be included in the forthcoming Chapter Considerations Guide.

Can my existing HI or SAI CHORUS also become a BHS Chapter under its same incorporation?

This and other legal and technical issues still need further development. Details will be forthcoming in the coming months.

My existing non-BHS chorus uses a name identical to an existing BHS chorus. Do we have to change to be part of BHS?

Maybe not. Organized groups in BHS have both a chapter and chorus name. BHS chapter names must be unique and contain a geographic element. BHS chorus names are not required to be unique, and this is usually the more widely-known name, logo, and brand that the group is known by. (Example: Dallas Metro Chapter, Vocal Majority Chorus.) If you have a concern, contact chapters@barbershop.org for assistance.

Where can I learn more?

Further education opportunities will be rolling out in coming months, including at the 2018 International Convention in Orlando, at the 2018 Leadership Summit preceding Harmony University in Nashville, and more.

 

Quartets

 

Can female/mixed quartets register?

We are working out the details of registering female and mixed quartets with BHS and expect that this option will be available in Fall 2018.

Can an existing Harmony, Inc. or Sweet Adelines International quartet also register as a BHS quartet under its same incorporation?

Details regarding the quartet registration process will be developed in the coming months, with implementation targeted at Fall 2018.

My existing non-BHS quartet uses a name identical to an existing BHS quartet. Do we have to change to be part of BHS?

Possibly. Details regarding the quartet registration process will be developed in the coming months, with implementation targeted at Fall 2018.

 

Pricing

 

Will opening up membership to everyone mean my Society, district, or chapter dues will increase?

There are no specific forecasts regarding chapter and district dues. Chapter dues are determined by chapters, and district dues are determined by districts. Society dues are not changing with this change in membership.

BHS just raised dues in May 2018, and said it was because of inflation. Was it really to finance this change?

No. The 2018 dues increase was the first in more than four years, and reflected only normal inflationary growth of existing expenses. The entire Strategic Vision project over the past three years has been funded using Society cash reserves and investment growth accumulated over the preceding six years. We continue to make these investments for the future because we are prudent in maintaining a balance of annual operating income and expense management, growing philanthropy and leveraging the growth in Society asset valuations.

What do women get as members that they can’t get for less money as Associates?

Female members of the Barbershop Harmony Society will enjoy the following added benefits and resources:

  • The opportunity to be a member/singer in a BHS-registered quartet (implementation date TBD, expected Fall 2018)
  • The opportunity to be a member/singer in a BHS chapter and chorus (implementation date TBD, expected January 2019)
  • The opportunity to be elected or appointed to Society committees and Boards Bonding as an officer of a chapter or Society

 

Change management in the chapter

 

How can I help my chapter members who might be fearful or upset about this change?

Encourage them to read through the detailed Frequently Asked Questions on our website. If they are not familiar with the Strategic Vision, help them learn more about the various updates that have been shared over the past year. Most importantly, listen. This is a big change and it is helpful to talk with your friends and chorus-mates.

As a chapter, take your time. The new opportunities ahead do not have an expiration date, nor a choose-by date. No one is required or compelled to make any changes immediately, or ever. A careful and searching process of understanding your chapter’s current needs and desires, and its future goals, does not require an overnight transformation. Although the earliest planned date for admitting women as chapter members is January 2019, it may well take chapters much longer to make any decisions. Be patient.

Do you have any advice on how our chapter can go about the process of deciding whether or not to include women?

We are currently preparing some resources for chapters. It starts with using FREE tools from the Healthy Chapter Initiative (HCI). Your chapter may also pursue advanced facilitation and guidance by trained volunteers of the Leadership Operations Team (LOPT).

What will be the mechanism for a chapter to decide? Will it require a simple majority vote of a quorum of members, or a simple majority vote of a quorum of its Board of Directors… what?

Many technical details relating to amending chapter bylaws need to be developed and implemented. There are questions still to be resolved before expanding these options, and it’s important to ensure we provide accurate and legally compliant solutions and guidance to our chapters. Guidance on if and how to amend your chapter bylaws will be provided in the forthcoming Chapter Considerations Guide.

Our chapter might want to change but we don’t think we can take or act on that decision by January. Is that going to be the only opportunity available to us?

There is no deadline for adopting new participation and inclusion models. January 2019 is the earliest anticipated start date, not a completion deadline. You should move along a path that makes sense for your resources, chapter culture, and market.

 

Legal

 

What are the legal implications?

As part of the Board of Directors’ ongoing review of the Society’s operations and policies, particularly around the “Everyone in Harmony” strategy and implementation, the Board was briefed by outside counsel as to how federal, state, provincial, and local laws—particularly anti-discrimination laws—may apply to non-profits like BHS. Much of this advisory work covered evolving social norms, analysis of organizational changes being implemented and/or considered at other non-profits and across campuses around the country, and the resulting potential risks facing the Society. Ultimately the Board asked the direct question: Under the current legal landscape, what is an optimal organizational structure that can preserve and protect the ability of BHS members to form, meet and/or perform as a group, including remaining as a single-gender group?

These challenging discussions helped inform the Board as to the range of approaches available to the Society and led to the decision to admit women as Members of the Barbershop Harmony Society. The Board believes this move will open up the world of possibilities ahead of the Society, while also preserving the Society’s rich legacy and support of single-gender singing.

Does the Society’s decision to welcome women as members make it more likely that a male-only chapter will get sued?

While no competent lawyer would guarantee that you won’t ever get sued (frivolous lawsuits are unfortunately filed all the time), the Society’s current membership structure will significantly reduce the likelihood of a lawsuit if your chapter decides to support male-only singing. Based upon applicable law, an organization may face legal risks if it discriminates, on the basis of gender or otherwise, in allowing open access to its services (e.g., membership).

But open access to membership does not require that all Society members have open access to participate at all local (chapter) levels. The Society will provide supportive services to empower anyone interested in a local experience the opportunity to form a new community, such as a single-gender or mixed quartet, chorus, or chapter. As a result, the local chapter can make its own decisions around the members it serves, just as in the past, rather than being forced to accept anyone who applies.

While increasing public scrutiny of single-gender organizations placed the Society’s membership policies at risk under anti-discrimination and public accommodation laws, we are confident that the Society’s expanded membership policy not only supports our vision of Everyone in Harmony, but also supports and provides appropriate defenses to our local chapters who decide to continue supporting and promoting all-male (single-gender) singing.

The Society Board of Directors and the Society remain committed to supporting and defending a chapter’s decision to provide single-gender programming, regardless of which gender, at the chapter level and, if necessary, will participate in the chapter’s defense of legal challenges it may face.

If we decide to remain a male-only chapter, are there steps we can take to make it less likely that we might get sued?

Yes. If a woman visits your chapter and inquires about membership, treat her with respect (see “What if women visit our chapter as guests?” question above) just as you would any other barbershop-loving visitor. Greet her enthusiastically. Thank her for her interest. Explain that you have decided to continue as a male-only chapter. Point her towards female or mixed barbershop groups in the area. Help to connect her with other barbershoppers who might want to sing in a quartet with her. Refer her to BHS (chapters@barbershop.org) for the process of starting a new chapter. If she decides to go that route, support and mentor the new chapter, do shows together, have a joint afterglow… the opportunities for more barbershop in your local community are endless! Who knows, if enough women inquire, perhaps in the future you will decide that you’d like to add a mixed chorus under your chapter umbrella after all.

Anyone — male or female — who is treated with kindness and respect is much less likely to engage in some kind of litigious action.

 

Musical experience, contest and education
Contest

 

When will we have women’s/mixed contests?

As of this date, there is not a specific implementation timeline for official Barbershop Harmony Society contests for mixed and female ensembles. Most likely, the Society Board of Directors will direct the CEO/staff and Contest & Judging community to undertake a process of study and recommendations for this, but no specific target date has been set yet.

Will BHS Contest Judges receive any new guidelines/training in judging women singers?

Any required training will continue to evolve from study and recommendation of the Contest & Judging community. The Society’s existing artistic methodology has been used by the women of Harmony, Incorporated and the Ladies Association of British Barbershop Singers (LABBS) for many years. Qualification under the Society’s system using certified judges has been required for entry into the BHS International Quartet and Chorus contests, and most affiliates have employed it for mixed ensembles as well.

How will the decision of BHS to include female and mixed ensembles impact the World Mixed competition that has been held at the BinG! Barbershop Music Festival?

The new development at BHS has no impact on the World Mixed competition. In official communication from BinG! leadership to BHS, BinG! has stated that the World Mixed competition will continue to be held every two years at the BinG! Barbershop Music Festival.

Will an international mixed competition replace the World Mixed competition?

So far, no proposal has been made regarding an international mixed competition at the BHS International Conventions. The World Mixed is set up for groups representing their countries; each country can send one representative to the World Mixed. In contrast, the BHS International Contest has invited competitors as representatives of their parent organizations. Therefore, the two events are not mutually exclusive.

Will BHS now be sending World Mixed participants?

Under World Mixed rules, each country has sent a representative. If there is more than one barbershop organization in a country, then those organizations should come to an agreement on whom they want to send.

 

Education

 

When will educational materials be geared for women’s voices?

For the most part, good singing is good singing, good performance is good performance, and good chapter life is good chapter life, for men and women alike. Many women have enjoyed the week-long Harmony University for years, and are using online resources to expand barbershop knowledge. The range of barbershop instruction will continue to evolve through the years, and appropriate budget and staffing will be developed to serve all members.

When will educational materials be geared towards changing from a male-only organization to mixed?

The newly created staff position of Chapter Success Manager will play a role in this process. The Leadership Operations Team (LOPT) and resources of the Healthy Chapter Initiative will play a role. Budget and staffing are being developed for coming years. Further education events will be rolling out in coming months, including at the 2018 International Convention in Orlando, at the 2018 Leadership Summit preceding Harmony University in Nashville, and more.

 

Musical style and musical experience

 

Where do I find barbershop music for mixed or women’s ensembles?

Our Marketplace offers music for all voices: 7,524 arrangements for men (TTBB) 1,024 arrangements for women (SSAA) 96 for mixed voices (SATB) In the past few years, to expand distribution to the education market, we have moved toward publishing most new titles in all three voicings.

Will you change the key of “Keep The Whole World Singing” so women can sing too?

The Society theme song, “Keep The Whole World Singing” previously has been arranged for SATB voice. A new publication will soon be made available.

When will you make a Polecat book for women only? When will you make a Polecat book for mixed only?

In our publications program, we have moved toward releasing most new titles as TTBB, SSAA and SATB. Polecat books for SSAA and SATB are great ideas and will be considered. Please submit your music publication ideas to musicpubs@barbershop.org.

Will you phase out offensive language of our music, so all people are appropriately respected and included?

Every performer needs to consider the suitability of material to audience. Does the artistic gift build a bridge and communicate with the audience? Does it meet generally accepted standards for good taste? In recent years, the Society has been working to heighten awareness of material which does not honor racial sensitivities, attitudes toward women, and gender roles. This probably will not be a single point of action, but an ongoing process of education and growth.

 

Culture and social experience

 

What does this mean for my barbershop experience?

It means that more people can find more ways to sing more barbershop. You might find that you enjoy singing in a chorus with women, and a quartet with men, or with both your son and your daughter, and so forth. You have the freedom to craft the combinations that meet your social, musical, and family needs.

How will we preserve the all-male experience upon which the Society was founded?

The Barbershop Harmony Society will continue to support men’s choruses and offer contests for all-male quartet and choruses. We will continue to publish music and maintain our current catalog of thousands of arrangements for men’s voices. The value and impact of men singing together is well-documented, as articulated in a recent guest blog by Debra Lynn. Click here to read more.

The principle of local control is central to our Strategic Vision of Everyone In Harmony. Every barbershop unit — chapter, quartet, and other communities of artists we support — must be free to pursue its own self-defined greatest happiness and impact. Chapters will continue to create their own criteria for forming and admitting members to their own ensembles. The process of understanding and planning a chapter mission will guide this.

The all-male experience is of particular value as an intergenerational passage for young men to have strong adult male role models. How will this change if we are mixed?

The BHS is committed to support and encourage the benefits of single gender singing experiences as well as mixed gender experiences… none of which are mutually exclusive. Each chapter will have the opportunity to determine its capacity for providing this culture as part of its overall mission in its community. Part of that evaluation might include considering what role gender plays in this experience. Is it a unique same-gender experience, or is it “involved, compassionate adults mentoring young people” that is the core experience being offered? What will be the implications of adults now having new avenues to sing with their kids of all genders?

For years we had a policy that men’s chapters should not meet at same time/place as women’s chapters, to prevent any inappropriate fraternization. How will you safeguard against this?

Our barbershop world is no different from any other setting that mixes people of all ages and genders. One should expect appropriate behavior in barbershop settings just as in the workplace, school, volunteer life, church, at the gym, or as soccer parents and playdate organizers. Life is life. Barbershop is no different.

As a woman, I like the invitation to be included, but I am not comfortable with being one of few women in the company of a larger group of men. What safeguards will you put in place?

The Barbershop Harmony Society is intended to be a safe home for people of all ages and all genders. Chapter leadership needs to be mindful of creating an environment that is safe, respectful of all present, and welcoming. Both personal safety and social comfort are meaningful concerns for all who enter our door. The same measures you employ in daily life should be part of barbershop life, including bringing a friend for additional security and social comfort when in unfamiliar surroundings, keeping friends and family aware of your location and schedule, etc.

What safeguards will you put in place for young women (under 18) in this situation?

In addition to these cultural norms, every member is charged with complying with the BHS Youth Policy. It does not specify different behavior toward men or women: Society members shall conduct themselves as… [people] of good character and good ambassadors of the Society, being careful to avoid the use of inappropriate language and actions either directed to, or within the sight and/or hearing of Youth. All persons attending any Activity are expected to comply with all laws of the jurisdiction in which the activity takes place.

 

Harmony Foundation International

 

I have made donations to Harmony Foundation understanding it supported programs of the all-male Barbershop Harmony Society. Does this mean my gift is now supporting women?

All members benefit from scholarships to Harmony University for BHS chorus directors, for high school music educators, and from our continuing work to make make a lifelong activity for all. Your underwriting via Harmony Foundation continues to make all this possible.

The Harmony Foundation recognizes and appreciates the fact that a donor’s resources belong to the donor, and is grateful for the chance to steward those gifts in a manner that fulfills the donor’s wishes. The donor is the Foundation’s first priority, and HFI will continue its commitment to fulfilling the goals of our donors. If you have specific questions about your directed giving, please contact the HFI Donor Care Center at (615) 823-5611 or (866) 706-8021.

 

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