By Matt Seivert
Many people tout a "bucket list" of activities they will pursue sometime during their lifetime. Because my love of barbershop has offered me many opportunities, I felt like sharing the "Barbershop Bucket List" with you. While at first glance some may appear superfluous, they are all separate, landmark events or deeds that will enrich the life of anyone who participates in our wonderful hobby... er... lifestyle.
1. Donate something to Harmony Foundation. I'll let the Foundation staff enlist your kindness for their programs, but for all I advocate simply giving a gift, even if only a one-time gift. You can make a larger impact with Ambassadors of Song or President's Council (which includes some perks), but giving is what keeps the BHS moving forward and bringing new singers and audiences to the barbershop style. This philanthropic gift will change lives, even if you don't personally see the results right away.
2. "Sponsor" a young Barbershopper and/or provide a good model to someone. When someone goes out of his or her way to care about a young person and encourage them, that can change the course of their very lives. (Ask Mike Rowe about Freddie King's impact!) I wouldn't be where I am without the support of Barbershoppers who helped me grow both as a singer and as a person, and I can't thank them enough. You don't need to fund a full-ride scholarship - just show them how to contribute to the ensemble and give them some support every so often; take them under your wing and care for them a little. Young kids in particular lead busy, ever-changing lives, so if they miss a rehearsal, show your concern, care about them. You set the tone, and they can pay it forward as a mentor to another.
3. Encourage all to get better at singing or join the barbershop family. If we volunteer our time and spend our money for this passion of ours, we might as well perform to the best of our abilities. Strive to make this a reality for yourself, your section, the other sections, and the guests. Lead those outside the organization to understand the wonders of the art form. Most importantly remember that anybody can become a good Barbershopper. We need great singers and great leaders, and they frequently aren't the same people. But everybody deserves to get better on a weekly basis.
4. Purchase something from the Marketplace. Watch how often you'll get to talk about barbershop when the inevitable questions arise because of your shirt, pin, water bottle etc.. Wearing your passion on your sleeve or on your car will start conversations that may get you new audience members, new guests, or new singers because you shared something that is obviously important to you. Personally, I adore the Marketplace neckties, and they always get compliments.
5. Represent the Society positively. Sometimes, the label of "Barbershopper" can be even more visible than your political, religious, or other affiliation. All of our actions, both inside and outside the barbershop umbrella, reflect on the Society. Represent all of us in the way you respect Barbershoppers and non-Barbershoppers, online and in person, whether you have a single pick-up quartet to your name or an AIC membership.
6. Collect a Person of Note. However, there's no reason to stop at one! There are waaaay too many potential Barbershoppers out there that we don't know about, but you might know them. Few things are as rewarding as singing with a friend who has come to share your love of this art form. Some will stay for life, others will not, but try your best to have one recruit into this big family of ours.
7. Support a district-level international competitor. By this, I mean buy their stinkin' album. It may not be the greatest recording ever made, but it's always a labor of love, and an even bigger time commitment and leap of faith than the contest. Especially if they are your friends.
8. Chorus-supported groups ... go listen! If the chorus puts its time and capital to put a group in front of the chorus, be there when they perform. Especially if they are young kinds from an area school or novice quartetters. This isn't about whether you personally like their song choices or their singing- this performance may mean far more to them than to you. Support them with loud clapping in solidarity with your chorus. This is crucial if the group is a school choir, because they need to see the faces of those who are providing financial or other support.
9. Find your favorite videos and recommend them to all your friends. This can be a chorus video, a quartet video, or even a video of a quality group affiliated with barbershop. Finding them takes time but they are quick suggestions to someone with time to spare on YouTube or some other video site. Especially in this era, the power of Internet is incredible; and our next member may come from your recommendation or someone they pass it to.
10. Be an audience member for a barbershop broadcast. If you follow barbershop online, you know that Barbershoppers devote considerable effort to producing or appearing in podcasts. Like radio, and television, ratings matter. If you know how to use Google, you won't have a hard time finding a podcast that is worth your time to download and listen to in the car or while working in the yard. Everyone wins!
11. Hear an A-level quartet live. Recording technology may be advanced, but there is little that compares with being in the house as they rip a great chord! As entertaining as B-level quartets can be, do what you can to hear the top-level quartets in person. The cherry on top is when you ask them to sing with you at the afterglow.
12. Visit another chapter's show and socialize. Talk with the members after the show, introduce yourself and build a friendship, particularly if it's in the same district or region. Don't be afraid to sing a tag with the headliner- they'll enjoy it too! It's rewarding to just enjoy a show from the audience every once in a while, and the afterglow will likely be just as fun as it is after your own shows.
13. Expand your barbershop library with greats from every era. If you don't own songs from the great quartets of every decade, you are denying yourself some of the finest vocal recordings of all times. The old greats' charts have aged extremely well, and charts from the newer greats are backwards-compatible. Personally, I think it's fun to hear the evolution of barbershop. Get on iTunes or Google Play and broaden your horizons!
Here are a few things that you "should" do:
14. Sing in a chorus at contest
15. Sing in a quartet at contest
16. Go through evaluation process
17. Coaching session with your ensemble
18. Sing on an annual show AND a non-show singout (Singing Valentines, caroling, etc.)
19. Learn some choreography for an uptune
20. Sing a tag AND Barberpole Cat with a pickup quartet/group
21. Learn a tag that you can teach (even if it's just "Sleepy Time")
22. Learn some Barberpole Cats, preferably a lot.
23. Learn some Barberpole Cats on multiple parts!
24. Practice your craft with great materials outside rehearsal
25. Sing with a headliner at an afterglow
26. Volunteer for a committee in the Chorus or to the Board of Directors
27. Attend a joint meeting with another chapter. Obviously, this will take some planning. When I started out, I remember when a small chorus visited for a fantastic night of fellowship with new faces and old songs. I and others remember it as one of our favorite chapter meetings ever. Repertoire could take planning, but remember, Barberpole Cats exist for a reason.
28. Attempt woodshedding until you succeed. Until you succeed. Pretty much all the older barbershop arrangements were created by ear; and while anybody can woodshed badly, successful woodshedding can be very rewarding. You don't need to certify for AHSOW (Ancient Harmonious Society of Woodshedders) before you have a run where the singers are grinning silly with the chords you discovered. Sing a harmony part at least once. Keep trying new things.
Your budget may determine how quickly you can get to the following, but you owe it to yourself to experience all of the below at least once.
29. Visit a chapter when you travel. This is one of the big perks of organized barbershop: almost anywhere you go you can find a like-minded group of people doing the same thing that you love to do every week.
30. Attend a district convention. Obviously, the numbers of attendees and the mix of skill levels won't be the same as our International conventions, but the energy and fun at our district conventions can still put a huge smile on your face for a weekend. For quartetters, this is their shot to shine, and you'll discover many talented Barbershoppers who have earned great fame at both the district and international level. Of course, it's the non-contest offerings that make district conventions so important. Visiting the Marketplace, seeing the AHSOW room in action, mingling to sing tags with singers of all skill levels, genders, and ages. Prove that barbershop audiences are the best in the world by being a part of one at the District contest(s).
31. District Prelims/Divisional Contest. Some districts have the funding to do multiple conventions per year, and a Spring qualifying contest features higher level groups looking to earn a spot at the upcoming International Convention, including some prior international qualifiers and often several past district champion and medalist quartets. Add to that another excuse to get with your closest District buds and spend a weekend in a (likely) different locale. [For those that only have one convention a year, congratulations, you have even more reason to attend the one!]
32. Attend district/region/area/alliance conventions other than your own. Again, remember the inclusiveness of the greatest family/audience in the world, and use this as a chance to make new friends, male or female. Gender lines are blurring in tag circles more than ever. You can still find a pocket of Barbershoppers who want to sing tags, regardless of gender or gender identity. Why not take in what makes those different? You might even get some great ideas for your own gatherings, and our overseas alliances have a particularly high reputation for putting on great events.
33. Regional or Area convention. This is slightly different from previous, in that I'm recommending that men attend a local convention by Sweet Adelines or Harmony, Inc. in your own geographic area. The women's organizations have always been worth watching, particularly if you bring your female family, friends, or significant other. Perhaps they will be inspired to share your passion for four-part harmony. If not, you'll still enjoy your time among Barbershoppers that are every bit as talented and involved as their male counterparts.
34. COTS/Leadership Academy/Top Gun/HEP School. Your district has some training for everyone! Learn craft, learn roles- or better, do both! I like them equally for improving at the District organization level.
35. Board Meeting. I know, who doesn't love meetings? Except you know almost nothing about your chapter or district until you've attended some board meetings. At minimum, you'll appreciate all the behind-the-scenes work by your leaders, and maybe you'll be inspired to make a difference yourself. You may discover that a singer of average talent is actually your chapter MVP because of his efforts in leadership and administration. Even if you don't have a vote, drop in and perhaps offer input at an appropriate time. You don't always need a leadership position to be a leader.
36. Visit Harmony Hall! If you're near our HQ building in Nashville, TN, stop by and visit with the dedicated staff members who are working on our behalf. They love visitors and welcome all barbershoppers for a tour and a tag.
37. Women's International Convention. Spending time with either women's organization will be worth your time. Harmony, Inc. uses the same judging system as the BHS, so you may understand their contests better. Different system, but Sweet Adelines give equal weight to quartets and choruses with two rounds each. Tons of glamour and glitz with great choreography and ridiculously high overtones, plus some ideas you haven't seen before!
The Big Events
The previous 37 have not been ordered by priority, but I have listed these three in ascending order of recommendation.
38. Midwinter Convention. With events highlighting both youth and seniors, it's concentrated barbershop at its finest (in warm-winter climes!), plus some of barbershop's best shows. And with a more relaxed schedule, it's International Lite in the best way.
39. Harmony University. This is the pinnacle of barbershop education, with memorable classes taught by the who's who in barbershop, and it constantly evolves. A strong emphasis on casual singing throughout the week. So many options for singers, directors, youth, leaders, and Joe Barbershoppers to grow in their craft and enthusiasm. The best part is Harmony U, like "shop talk" about our hobby, is becoming year-round, at conventions, through webinars and video offerings.
40. International Convention. There's no substitute for attending in person, but the livestream will let you see what happens on stage. The best part happens offstage, including a full Harmony Marketplace, the AHSOW Room always open, HU classes, Association of International Champions Show, World Harmony Showcase, CD release parties, exhibiting booths, tag singing till all hours of the morning, usually a destination location, all the fellowship you want for a solid week with the greatest audience in the world, the largest family you'll ever be a part of, and the hobby that you must enjoy if you're reading all this. You make new friends, find some old ones, sing till you're hoarse, stay up until you can't help crashing, spend a ton of money on accessories and CDs and music and companionship throughout this adventure of a week that swims by too fast. Simply the ultimate barbershop environment. Three champions are crowned during the week, competitors travel from all corners of the globe to convene and associate with other great people. Do yourself a favor and start saving for your next one!
SO, that's the "Barbershop Bucket List." How many have you done? Did I miss anything? I'm certain this list is far from complete. My personal list includes winning each of the five contests at District level (got a while to wait for Seniors though!). Maybe you want to write a barbershop song, or arrange a pop tune into four-part close harmony? Go for it! Perhaps your interest lies in applying to the judging program and earning that certification? Great! Your dream is to conduct The Vocal Majority? Better start practicing!