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A Letter from the CEO: 2018 in Review

December 19, 2018

Everyone in Harmony

The speed of transformation can be terrifying or exhilarating. In 2018, the Barbershop Harmony Society has taken giant steps forward in launching our Strategic Vision, “Everyone in Harmony.”

EIH - poster

We’ve always known that what we do is special.

We’ve celebrated it, perfected it, shared it in small doses to a relatively small circle of family, friends, and fans. We’ve always wanted to grow that number, and in recent years, we’ve seen increases in awareness, thanks to our outreach efforts, social media, and the broad reach of our music on YouTube. But it has been only incremental growth, not the life-changing growth we’re capable of reaching. And life-changing is the key: we know our impact stretches beyond just brief amusement for our listeners, or even our weekly pleasure of singing. Again and again, we see that barbershop profoundly makes lives better, builds stronger communities, makes better people.

That realization brings with it a desire to make those tremendous impacts of singing together possible for not just a few thousand more people each year, but for millions of people. Of course, it’s not enough to merely say, “Let’s go!” Getting there is not a solution of a year, or two years, but a long-range rethinking of our entire operation. How do we effectively engage members and all people interested in barbershop? How do we provide value to our singing communities -- chapters, quartets, students and educators -- and to audiences and others? There is SO much to do -- where do we start?

The first step achieved this past year has been to develop a Roadmap and Milestones for Everyone in Harmony that defines the work necessary to carry us through 20 years of execution, toward a world of 1.2 million people involved in barbershop. It helps us make these the long-range goals a part of our daily operations. How do we help our local chapters become more successful? How do we encourage new chapters to form? How do we aim technology at new models for chapters and quartets? How do we start delivering education to new customers/members? What kinds of revenue make this sustainable?

Scaling up our support for the existing barbershop experience comes first.

The growth of chapters making use of the Healthy Chapter Initiative to understand themselves and their place in the community has been a success in itself. More than 100 chapters have already undergone self-analysis supported by Certified Chapter Facilitators, and many more are booked for next year.

Deep self-knowledge guides those chapters that wish to make the men’s barbershop experience their core and exclusive activity. We support and celebrate them! It also positions chapters to explore new frontiers by welcoming women into their chapters. We support and celebrate them as well! We knew this historic decision would be both exciting and controversial. We knew it would create as many questions as answers. We’ve been excited that many chapters have confirmed our belief that this step reflected their lives already, saying, “Hey, thanks for catching up to what we’ve already been doing for years!”

The chapter implementation aspects of this will continue to develop under the guidance of the Healthy Chapter Initiative. Before the end of January, chapters will have the option to welcome all people into full membership, in whatever configurations make sense for each organization’s mission, skills, goals, and resources. Each person, each quartet, each chapter can find the best mix of singers, songs, and settings for singing together.

There is room for every kind of barbershop experience in our Society.

There’s room for change and status quo. Both equally represent “preservation and encouragement.” The most important thing is to know what you are and what you wish to be, and then be your very best at it. It’s always your choice -- so make it a choice of intention, not of inertia.

As we move toward our expansive vision of Everyone in Harmony, we will always be guided by measuring the impact of what we do: Are more people singing together? Are individuals and singing communities healthier, cultures and groups coming together, generations working together, are young people addressing life challenges -- simply, are people better off because of what we offer in the Barbershop Harmony Society? Is there a lifelong singing journey for everyone who comes in contact with us? While opening barbershop to new communities, are we also preserving the men’s singing experience that is our 80-year history?

Like many of you, we are very excited about moving into execution versus just talking and planning. Now, in 2019, we can begin executing and realizing to a greater detail our aspirations of healthier and more barbershop singing communities around North America -- Everyone in Harmony.

A great barbershop arrangement is just dots on a page until we open our mouths and sing them, with passion and connection with listeners. At that point, the singing is a journey, not a destination.

Come along. Sing with us.

Marty Monson, CEO
Barbershop Harmony Society