The History of the BHS Contest & Judging System
Join Kevin Keller on a journey through BHS contest and judging history. Each episode of this 11-part video series is approximately one hour long, with new episodes releasing every few weeks over the coming months.
Longtime judge and barbershop historian Kevin Keller shares his meticulous research into the history of contests and judging in the Barbershop Harmony Society. Kevin invites us into a deeper understanding of our past, and the powerful impact that the contest experience has on so many barbershop singers.
Part 1: The Dawn of SPEBSQSA Contest and Judging, 1939 - 1943
We take a look at the earliest society contests from 1939-1943 and how quartets were judged. We will look at the criteria (or lack thereof) that quartets were judged upon and the struggles the initial judging systems encountered.
Part 2: The Early Years, 1944 - 1950
We look at the myriad of changes as our society grows and interest increases in quartet competition. No matter what is tried, we’re not hitting on success yet.
Part 3: Finding the Formula, 1951 - 1960
We examine the complete overhaul of the contest and judging system which miraculously takes root and works. The infrastructure is the same as we use today. Chorus contests first appear and changes are made at the International contest scene.
Part 4: The Calm Before the Storm, 1961 - 1970
We examine the rules and policies of the 1960’s. Although there is never a period within the history of C&J that is calm, we actually find some stability before the changes that will happen in the 1970’s. We learn about the trends and issues that led to the most restrictive time of defining the barbershop style.
Part 5: A New Era, 1971 - 1980
A new era has come to barbershop and contest and judging. New categories are introduced in every facet except Secretary and is driving behaviors on the contest stage.
Part 6: A Change is Gonna Come, 1981 - 1993
We examine the 1980’s and early 90’s in terms of what is going on in judging and how competitors are reacting. We see many attempts to improve the system but the system will show that overhaul is required.
Part 7: The “New” Categories, 1993
We will explore why the entire judging system needed to be revised. We will look at what the new categories are judging and how it all integrates.
Part 8: A New Era, 1993 - 2000
We will look at what happened in the first few years of the implementation of the “New” Categories of Music, Singing and Presentation. We will discuss the growing pains of moving from a restrictive, prescriptive judging system to a fluid judging system.
Part 9: The Maturing Phase, 2001 - 2009
We will examine the period of time post-SEC implementation where all of the categories begin maturing. There are still some struggles within all categories of where they want to be once they mature. Then the applecart is turned upside with the implementation of penalties in 2007.
Part 10: Is Change Gonna Come? 2010 - 2015
We examine the controversies in 2010. We look at the changes made in the first part of this decade – we approach the 20 year mark where usually the categories will change based upon history.
No Archive materials for Part 10
Part 11: 2016 - 2020 and Beyond
We close out the history of judging series with the final five years, reflect on the journey, and then look forward into the future.
No Archive materials for Part 11
About the Author
Kevin Keller has been a member of the Barbershop Harmony Society since 1978. A certified Music Judge since 1998, he served as Music Category Specialist from 2008-2010 and Chairman of Contest and Judging from 2012-2015. He has a rich history of both chorus and quartet experience. He was an assistant director with AoH as it rose up the ranks to winning gold, as well as taking small choruses to higher levels. He has won two district championships as a quartet singer and finished as high as 6th place internationally with Cheers! in 2003. He coaches quartets and choruses of all calibers. He is recognized throughout the barbershop world as an accomplished arranger, teacher and coach. Kevin was recently inducted into the BHS Hall of Fame.