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Every Voice Matters: Add Your Story to The Harmonizer

October 4, 2019

Honor your heroes in the Nov/Dec issue of The Harmonizer

Theo Hicks

Theo Hicks' moving 2019 Midwinter Keynote Address highlighted several people whose lives were changed forever by the unselfish actions of Barbershoppers and other singers. The Nov/Dec Harmonizer will highlight some of the people who made all the difference in Theo's life -- and we'd like to feature some of your stories as well.

What were the musical turning points that made all the difference for you or someone you know? Read two excerpts from Theo's address below and add your story in 300 words or less by Oct. 19. Either add your story in the comments area or send to harmonizer@barbershop.org.

Please reply by Oct. 19. Full size pictures are highly recommended!

Excerpt: High school student Theo Hicks learns that Barbershoppers are more than great musicians

Because of Craig Pollard’s enthusiasm for barbershop, we were all sucked right in. There was only one issue - both Wayne and I wanted to sing baritone. We rock-paper-scissored it. That is the reason, to this day, that I sing the lead part.

As Craig introduced us to the Pioneer District, we heard 2003 champ Power Play for the first time, who had just won International the year before. Mike Slamka, with his absolutely beautiful voice, became my idol as a lead singer. He was a rock star, and when we first met the quartet, I was shocked. Here are these four guys, the best quartet in the world, talking to a few high school students and giving us the time of day. It wasn’t that fake “Hi, nice to meet you,” and then walk away -- they invested in us, and made us feel like our voices were important.

I started to realize throughout the convention that we received the same kind of treatment everywhere. All of these people were experienced barbershoppers, so well-rehearsed in their artform, but no one held their skill level above our heads or said, “Well, they’re just a bunch of kids!” Everyone was so kind to us, so courteous and generous. You are one of the most welcoming group of people on the face of the planet…that’s why we continued singing.

We experienced it outside of the District as well. The Slamkas would continue to encourage us and offer us coaching, and invited us to their summer barbershop event “Harmony Hideaway” where Mike said, “Guys, there’s this amazing group that I want you to meet. They just won the college contest with the highest score ever.”

There had to be a catch. Perhaps Power Play was the exception, they’re just nice guys. These record-setting college kids were going to have nothing to do with the likes of our puny, little high school quartet…

While I prepared myself for the worst, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Despite having to sing on the show that night, Tim, Eric, Jonny, and Chris of Vocal Spectrum sang tags for HOURS with us. It was then that I realized that these barbershoppers are just good people. It doesn’t matter where you come from, what you look like, how old you are...our voices matter. Their voices made a difference for us.

Excerpt: Music Educator Theo Hicks sees barbershop events change his students' lives

I’ll tell you the story of two students of mine from Madison-Grant High School:

Student A was a freshman when I overheard him tell friends, “Are you kidding? This class isn't for me, I can’t sing.”

I hate that excuse. Do you take Spanish class because you already know Spanish? It’s all training and experience. I have always believed that if the attitude is in the right place, anything is possible. After twisting his arm a bit and challenging him, I convinced him to sign up for choir.

… And boy, did I regret it. The first day he came into class, I handed him his folder and he scoffed at me, saying, “I don’t read music, brah. Never could, never will.” He was hardly ever confident on his part, he had low self-confidence, and he was a nuisance and disturbance to the rest of the class. He was always very vocal about all the songs I gave to the choir, insisting that I had an older taste in music than Moses.

Student B was one of my class leaders in his senior year. He was the class president, bass section leader, was the lead in our musical the previous year, went to solo & ensemble and got gold at both the district and state levels, and had started coming to Circle City Sound with me on Monday nights and served as our Membership VP for a time. He was a leader to his fellow students, and an inspiration to me as a teacher.

The only thing that separates Student A from Student B is one experience at a Harmony Explosion camp. In fact, in case you haven’t already put it together, Student A and B are the same student, two years apart. His name is Kevin Kellogg.

Kevin is still a dear friend to this day, and his life was changed after attending a barbershop event and meeting people like you. And you know what? He wasn’t the only one. Taelor Eads, Lucy Holland, Kenzie McKee, Lizzy Whybrew, Mason Meranda, Alex Thompson, Carson Brobst, Lukas Malone … these kids all formed barbershop quartets after life-changing experiences at Harmony Explosion, and served as some of the strongest student leaders my program had ever seen.

Your voice made a difference to them. Barbershop changes lives.