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Guest Post: Remembering Bob Whitledge

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Brian Philbin (Metropolis) shares this loving tribute to friend and fellow singer Bob Whitledge, gold medalist with Gentleman’s Agreement and long-time director, coach, and Society member:

On August 2nd, we lost a true hero of the barbershop medium, Bob Whitledge. Bob was a giant of a man in every sense of the word. He was an amazing Bass singer, a gifted musician, a wonderous champion with the Gentlemen’s Agreement, a leader in every choral group he directed or sang in, a servant of the Lord, and a tremendous and loving, gentle man who was all about encouragement. In addition to my first quartet, The Ivy League, he encouraged countless barbershoppers and quartets throughout the years and he was one of the first people who ever took any interest in me as a barbershop singer.

During my first or second year of barbershopping, I was sitting next to him at a contest & watching a quartet who was, shall we say, experiencing difficulty with regularly locking chords. I’d been wincing internally during the performance and Bob smiled throughout the performance and, once they’d finished, applauded with the same enthusiasm as he had for the quartet I’d thought had won the contest. During the break, I said “Your ears are more well developed toward the craft than mine, so I know that had to have disturbed your sensibilities.” He didn’t deign to address the remark and instead mentored me by saying: “Every man that crosses the stage today has invested untold hours of work and dedication to come and sing for this audience today. Sitting in that auditorium, we really don’t know their story. The best thing we can do from the position of an audience is to support them – find something you enjoy about their performance and focus on that, rather than anything that might disturb you. Provide the encouragement as a member of the audience that’s been promised as part of the name of our society. The judges will teach them what they need to do in order to improve – it’s our job as their audience to see that they don’t give up on something they love.”

He was teaching me what it meant to be a champion long before I’d ever won a contest.

We loved you, Bob. Godspeed.

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