Bringing fresh talents to the Board
The two newest Board members reflect a Society that values new perspectives, expanded opportunities for sharing barbershop—and a commitment to enhancing every chapter’s experience.
When Blair Brown stepped to the lectern to address the Society Board of Directors, she knew she stood on the edge of history. The first woman ever nominated wasn’t going to let that define her, though. “Please don’t vote for me today simply to appear inclusive,” she exhorted. “Electing one woman to our otherwise homogeneous Board will barely move the needle in what we could do to become a more inclusive organization.”
Jeremy Brann also praised the diversity of nominees, noting that his unique blend of skills didn’t make him “better,” just distinctive in a strong field of candidates. A self-described Joe Barbershopper from a large/mid-size chapter, Jeremy believes “we’re doing well in terms of representing people from big districts, small districts, competitors, hobbyists, and aspects of what can make someone’s barbershop experience.”
In a Society that reveres history and experience, yet yearns for youthful energy, these emerging leaders look a lot like our growing Society: younger professionals who are loving and stretching barbershop in their own ways.
On Seeking the good
Blair: It seems that every young person that interacts with us benefits from having this great adult presence in their lives. Barbershoppers become guiding stars in their lives, who help them figure out how to be good people and to live on planet Earth harmoniously.
Jeremy: I hear a lot of positive comments about the number of younger quartets at Salt Lake City. I have heard only positive comments about mixed and female quartets. Some people seemed pleasantly surprised that they liked the sound of four women singing. Surprise!
Pitch pipe: reed or electronic?
Jeremy: Electronic. I’ve been too lazy to actually buy a pitch pipe, so I have an app on my phone.
Blair: Manual. Analog. Reed. You know.
What opportunities do you see coming from the Everyone in Harmony strategic vision?
Jeremy: A good steward of any organization has to look around and figure out how you’re going to stay relevant. That, to me, was absolutely critical to the future of this organization. There are only positives from it. We’re committed to offering the different experiences that different people want. Anyone can sing with anyone; you can be in a quartet or chorus, in any combination you like. It’s all wins.
Blair: My personal path into barbershop was as a mixed quartet singer. The four of us were all college choral students of Jim Henry, and our quartet of two couples went from casual fun to this wonderful experience singing in front of audiences around the world. We all have variety in our barbershop lives: Nathan medaled with Quorum, Michaela won in Sweet Adelines with ClassRing, and Ravi and I are in a mixed chorus in La Jolla, so we get to enjoy all the flavors of barbershop. Everyone in Harmony puts BHS in a position to share that entire range of activity with more people
Member since: 2011
Sings with: Kentuckians Chorus, Lexington, KY
Who would be in your fantasy quartet?
Jeremy: I’d really like to jump into Forefront when they did “Sweet and Lovely” with Mike Rowe. I like the idea of a celebrity quartet with Jimmy Fallon and some good tenor. Or Ringmasters. Or Main Street—I’d love the challenge of tap dancing.
Blair: Wow, anybody I want? I’ve never even given myself permission to dream. Okay, I want Mike Slamka to be involved in it somehow—don’t know which part he’s on. Tim Waurick, probably Jim Henry. I know this is just Crossroads with me in it, but I think they’re the best, so ...
“First Hello” tag: high or low?
Jeremy: Low tag.
Blair: Low tag. It’s the first tag I learned. That’s so barbershop to say, “That’s the way I learned it, so that’s the right way!”
What’s in your CD player?
Jeremy: I play Ringmasters in the car when I’m driving my son back and forth to daycare, and he sings “Java Jive” at the top of his lungs. A four-year-old screaming barbershop is the best way to start your day, right?
Blair: The only CDs in my car right now are the last three Crossroads albums.
Member since: 2018
Sings with: Double Date quartet & Pacific Coast Harmony, La Jolla, CA
On What the Board actually does
Jeremy: I had heard rumors that the Board just needs to rubber stamp things, that they’ve already made up their minds on everything. I don’t know where that comes from. I have seen discussions on this board take a winding path ending in spots I don’t think any of us expected. It’s through thoughtful, purposeful, respectful dialogue that we arrive at decisions.
Blair: I am heartened to know how much actual time and energy our Board members spend thinking hard about what our members want from barbershop. They’re at it literally 24 hours a day discussing the big issues that are going to affect our members. Our task is to be looking at every issue that we face from 50 years in the future and 30,000 feet up and thinking not how does this affect me and my chapter, how will this affect a Barbershopper 30 years from now? How will this affect someone who’s never even heard of barbershop yet?
Where do you stand on the risers?
Jeremy: I’m a little bit taller than a lot of guys in our chorus and I tend to have more resonant sound. We do riser positioning based on resonance, so I tend to be in the center second row. We stand in a shotgun approach, not sections, and I love being surrounded by resonant voices from other parts. It helps me sing better.
Blair: It depends on the plan dreamed up by our wonderful performance team.
Great chapters are the core of great barbershop
Blair: The biggest takeaway that I’ve gotten from all of my interactions with members so far is that chapter health is super important. I asked one member, “Has your chapter had The Talk? How do you feel about Everyone in Harmony?” And he said, “I can’t even get anyone to respond to my emails—how could we possibly have a talk about Everyone in Harmony and what that means to us or our future when I have a music team meeting, and nobody shows up?” The good news is that people do care. They’re going to Roadshows and thinking about it, they’re using Leadership Training from BHS, they’re making sure their local experience is good.
Jeremy: How do we enable chapters to have great meetings? How do we enable new chapters? We need to be thinking as a Society and as a Board how we can give startups the best chance of success. What are the features of the BHS that we need to preserve and keep intact to keep the most people happy, while also adding features that attract new and different audiences?
About the Author
Brian Lynch is the Public Relations Manager at the Barbershop Harmony Society. This article originally appeared in the Nov/Dec issue of the The Harmonizer magazine.