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Everyone in Harmony FAQs

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A note on inclusive language:

The Barbershop Harmony Society values and respects people of all genders, identities, orientations and expressions. Throughout these materials, the general terms “men and women” should be understood to encompass and include all people, without intent to exclude anyone.

The Strategic Planning Process and the path to this decision

The Society's Strategic Choice

Why is this change being made?

Our Strategic Vision calls for us to bring Everyone in Harmony. We believe that the experience of singing together in harmony is meaningful to all people, and should therefore be accessible to people in all combinations. Providing more choices for everyone — options for women to be a part of BHS, options for chapters to include women in ensembles — make it possible for more people to find a home in the barbershop community.

What kind of research has the Society undertaken to determine the level of interest in a mixed-harmony Society, or BHS with female chapters/quartets/participants?

Our strategic plan research phase looked at this question from many different perspectives. We see rising participation in mixed events at district events, in the global barbershop scene, and in chapters that already include women as chorus singers in public performances outside competition.

Many of our findings have been posted over the last three years, including our foundational Member Satisfaction Survey, and a summary of all our findings. Some of the data was quite complex and nuanced. It didn’t necessarily give us definitive answers, but it certainly informed our judgement. Regarding the specific issue of women’s and mixed harmony, we have recently compiled a summary of the research in order to give you a transparent glimpse into the data. You can download the EiH Research Background report here.

By embracing all kinds of participation, we expand our ability to be inclusive and impactful in all communities. Ultimately, success will not be defined solely by specific numbers of members by gender, but by access for all people to all our ways of making a difference.

The Decision-Making Process

Representation, listening, and decision-making

When BHS was creating its Strategic Plan, it did a bunch of surveys. What did our current members say about adding women as members?

Surveys demonstrated widespread support for many ways of making music together, with roughly even proportions of members on each side of the question of expanding membership options. A specific action of removing gender restrictions on BHS membership was not addressed as a distinct, measurable choice, and the surveys did not directly address the question from a chapter perspective, i.e., would your own chapter wish to add women as members. We have recently compiled a summary of the research in order to give you a transparent glimpse into the data. You can download the EiH Research Background report here.

Members will always be free to choose their own barbershop happiness. We are committed to helping all people experience the joy of singing together in many configurations. If you want to sing only with men — great. If you want to sing only with women — great! If you want to sing mixed barbershop — go for it. All chapters, quartets and members can choose their favorite ways to live the barbershop life.

Why not decide this by a vote of all members?

We recognize that this is a big step. Analysis of our own survey results and awareness of cultural norms moving toward a more inclusive environment indicated that the long range vision of Everyone In Harmony is in step with society in general, and our mission in particular.

Organizationally, direct voting by the membership at large has not been part of Society governance for many decades. Under BHS bylaws (Articles 4.03-4.04), the Society Board of Directors is “responsible for the furtherance of the purposes of the Society and the attainment of its objectives, as well as the preservation of its ideals and the extension of barbershop harmony throughout the world…. As the governing body of the Society, the Society Board shall have full powers in all matters affecting the affairs of the Society, including regulation of the admittance, suspension and expulsion of chapter members and the suspension and revocation of chapter charters and licenses, and in every instance the action of the Board shall be final.”

The Board takes this obligation very seriously indeed, and has invested thousands of hours of time, research, and professional analysis in pursuing the Strategic Vision. It should be noted that every member of the Society Board of Directors is a barbershop singer, a chapter member, and a long-time volunteer, constantly interacting with Barbershoppers at all levels. Our all-male organization has changed in a number of ways over the decades, but always with the intent to enhance and expand the opportunities and enjoyment of the hobby.

BHS relationships

BHS relationships with other organizations

How will this impact Harmony, Inc. or Sweet Adelines International? Why doesn’t BHS just merge with one of them?

While all three organizations work to support barbershop singing, Sweet Adelines and Harmony, Inc. have their own missions, culture, and governance. The member experience in each is quite distinct from the others, and not interchangeable.

The expansion of BHS membership to fully encompass all people should not be interpreted as encouragement to leave Harmony, Inc. or Sweet Adelines International. Offering more ways for more people to enjoy barbershop does not mean anyone should leave their existing ensembles. BHS is not and will not be the only place for people to engage in barbershop, and we count it a win when anyone sings anywhere, whether with us or in another barbershop organization. Just as they are now, people may be members of multiple organizations!

How do we preserve our friendly relationships with our local Harmony Inc. or Sweet Adelines International groups?

BHS members and chapters should maintain our good relationships with other barbershop groups the way you have always done: by being good neighbors, mutually supportive, and respectful of differences and common goals. The expansion of BHS membership options is not aimed at other organizations, but at the vast number of people who have never been part of any barbershop organization. Many singers hold multiple memberships in various organizations, and there is no reason that they would need to choose one over the other.

Should we approach our local Harmony Inc. or Sweet Adelines International counterparts about merging?

If your chapter is interested in expanding participation in this way and establishing an equal partnership, you might consider starting a conversation. As discussed further in the “chapters” section, the process of making decisions about membership options for a chapter should always include understanding who you are today, who you wish to become, and what path best leads you there. See section on “Chapters” below, and the Chapter Considerations Guide for a more in-depth discussion.

How were barbershop groups outside of BHS involved in this plan and announcement?

As a courtesy, the leadership of Sweet Adelines International, Harmony, Inc., and Mixed Barbershop Harmony Association (MBHA) were apprised of these decisions and timing of the announcement, so they may clearly and effectively communicate with their members. Similarly, leaders of some affiliated organizations have also been apprised along the way. That said, all barbershop organizations are self-directed and maintain autonomy to direct their own futures. We will continue to engage in partnerships and collaborative efforts with all our affiliates, subsidiaries, and fellow harmony advocates.

Do our international affiliates have both male and female members?

Some affiliate organizations, such as Barbershop in Germany (BinG!) have both male and female members, as do the Irish Association of Barbershop Singers (IABS), British Association of Barbershop Singers (BABS), Ladies Association of British Barbershop Singers (LABBS), and Holland Harmony (HH). Other global men’s organizations collaborate closely with corresponding female organizations and may co-host conventions and schools.

What is our relationship with the new organization that is springing up to preserve men’s barbershop?

The Society does not have any official relationship with any new organizations. The Society will always value and support the men’s barbershop experience, and affirm that every person should pursue barbershop happiness in every channel available. Find people you want to sing with, and sing with them! Trying new things in new ways makes the barbershop world more accessible to more people. The Barbershop Harmony Society will continue to offer and expand its unmatched services, events, publications and educational opportunities, and make these available to everyone as members, customers, and fans.

Structural: Membership

Membership Definitions

How will this affect the Associate Program?

As of June 19, 2018, the BHS Associate Program will be open to everyone. Associates receive many of the same benefits as members, but may not participate in chapters or quartets, compete in BHS contests, or serve as chapter or district officers. All people, including Associates, are eligible to participate as chapter Open Board members.

Current associates who would like to become members before their renewal date may do so by signing into Member Center or contacting Customer Service. The membership fee will be calculated as the difference between the price originally paid and the current member rate, and can be purchased at any time. You will retain your current Years of Service.

How do I change from an Associate to a member?

Any current associate who would like to become a member before their renewal date may do so by signing into their Member Center account or contacting Customer Service. The membership fee will be calculated as the difference between the price originally paid and the current member rate, and can be purchased at any time. You will retain your current Years of Service.

Can female/mixed quartets register with BHS?

Yes! Women and mixed quartets can register with BHS by signing into their Member Center account or contacting Customer Service.

Will women be able to join Districts?

Women will be able to join districts once they have become members of a chapter, which we expect to be available beginning January 2019. More details will be provided.

Are female frontline directors now required to be members instead of associates?

Yes, female directors are required to be members of the BHS.


Options for men's, women's, and mixed quartets

Must quartet members also be members of a district or chapter?

To register a quartet, all 4 individuals must be members of the Barbershop Harmony Society. In order to compete in a contest, all 4 members must meet the contest eligibility requirements, which may include being members of a district and chapter according to the contest rules. More information about entering contests is available here.

Why are we making this change at this time?

This timeline follows the Roadmap and Milestones progression shared in 2018, under the Scale Assets and Scale Participation and Engagement workstreams. You can view that detailed information and video here.

Everyone in Harmony is all about getting more people singing barbershop. The Strategic Vision document states: "We will re-invest in and revitalize quartet singing." This means being able to grow our quartet program from our current 1,200 quartets to 12,000... 20,000... 100,000 in the future. The goal as identified in the Strategic Vision Roadmap and Milestones is that by 2028 there are 1.2 million people engaged in barbershop in the BHS universe. Imagine how many quartets that might be! We want to make it as easy as possible to get as many people singing as possible, without a lot of limitations and exclusions as barriers.

How do transgender and non-binary individuals locate themselves in this categorization?

BHS acknowledges self-identification by individuals, as each person chooses to list in the member database.

In general:

  • A men’s quartet consists of individuals listed as male.
  • A women’s quartet consists of individuals listed as female.
  • A mixed harmony quartet consists of any four individuals, who are not all listed as male or female as noted above.

However, as noted in previous questions, a quartet may reserve a name in more than one category if desired, as registering and reserving a name does not necessarily translate to contest eligibility. Current contest rules require that any quartet competing in the men’s contest must consist of four individuals who identify as male. More information about entering contests is available here.

When will mixed harmony and women’s quartets be able to participate in official BHS Division and District contests?

Many district conventions are already planning to include mixed harmony or women’s quartet awards as part of their 2019 quartet contest sessions. Specific contest award opportunities are determined by individual districts. In addition, most districts allow for quartets to perform on the contest stage for “score and evaluation only,” even when they are not eligible for any available awards. Reference the individual district website or contact the respective District Representative for Contest and Judging (DRCJ) for more information.

When will mixed harmony and women’s quartets be able to participate in official BHS International contests?

Still to be determined. BHS is working with the Society Contest & Judging Committee (SCJC) and other stakeholders to provide guidance in 2019.

How are the requirements for quartet registrations different than the requirements for contest eligibility?

Registration as a BHS quartet is one of the requirements of contest eligibility in an official BHS contest. The other requirements depend on the contest and might include achieving a qualifying score in a preliminary contest or other eligibility factors such as age. More information about entering contests is available here.

Can a quartet reserve a name in more than one category?

Yes. Any quartet who wishes to secure complete name exclusivity may register in more than one category if desired, assuming that the name is available in both/all categories. (See above for details and costs.)

The new quartet program guidelines do not specifically prohibit multiple quartets with the same name in multiple categories. However, in practice, BHS will endeavor to limit confusion that may be caused by more than one active quartet with the same name serving the same geographic area.

Does that mean that a women’s quartet could reserve a name in both the women’s and men’s categories?

Yes, if a women’s quartet wanted to reserve name exclusivity across categories, the quartet could reserve their name in the men’s category. However, reserving a name in the men’s category does not make a quartet eligible to compete in the men’s quartet contest -- the quartet must also meet the other eligibility requirements. More information about entering contests is available here.

If names can be duplicated between men’s, women’s, and mixed quartets within BHS, won’t there be confusion?

The new quartet program guidelines do not specifically prohibit multiple quartets with the same name in multiple categories. However, in practice, BHS will endeavor to limit confusion that may be caused by more than one active quartet with the same name serving the same geographic area.

BHS reserves the right to refuse to register quartet names that might cause confusion, such as a women’s quartet with the same name as a men’s quartet serving the same geographical area. By the same token, a men’s quartet wishing to register the same name as a current champion women’s quartet (even if not registered with BHS) is likely to be refused -- and has been in the past.


Music experience, contest, and education

When will we have women’s/mixed contests?

As of this date, there is not a specific implementation timeline for official Barbershop Harmony Society contests for mixed and female ensembles. Most likely, the Society Board of Directors will direct the CEO/staff and Contest & Judging community to undertake a process of study and recommendations for this, but no specific target date has been set yet.

Will BHS Contest Judges receive any new guidelines/training in judging women singers?

Any required training will continue to evolve from study and recommendation of the Contest & Judging community. The Society’s existing artistic methodology has been used by the women of Harmony, Incorporated and the Ladies Association of British Barbershop Singers (LABBS) for many years. Qualification under the Society’s system using certified judges has been required for entry into the BHS International Quartet and Chorus contests, and most affiliates have employed it for mixed ensembles as well.

How will the decision of BHS to include female and mixed ensembles impact the World Mixed competition that has been held at the BinG! Barbershop Music Festival?

The new development at BHS has no impact on the World Mixed competition. In official communication from BinG! leadership to BHS, BinG! has stated that the World Mixed competition will continue to be held every two years at the BinG! Barbershop Music Festival.

Will an international mixed competition replace the World Mixed competition?

So far, no proposal has been made regarding an international mixed competition at the BHS International Conventions. The World Mixed is set up for groups representing their countries; each country can send one representative to the World Mixed. In contrast, the BHS International Contest has invited competitors as representatives of their parent organizations. Therefore, the two events are not mutually exclusive.

Will BHS now be sending World Mixed participants?

Under World Mixed rules, each country has sent a representative. If there is more than one barbershop organization in a country, then those organizations should come to an agreement on whom they want to send.


Educational resources and materials

When will educational materials be geared for women’s voices?

For the most part, good singing is good singing, good performance is good performance, and good chapter life is good chapter life, for men and women alike. Many women have enjoyed the week-long Harmony University for years, and are using online resources to expand barbershop knowledge. The range of barbershop instruction will continue to evolve through the years, and appropriate budget and staffing will be developed to serve all members.

When will educational materials be geared towards changing from a male-only organization to mixed?

The newly created staff position of Chapter Success Manager will play a role in this process. The Leadership Operations Team (LOPT) and resources of the Healthy Chapter Initiative will play a role. Budget and staffing are being developed for coming years. Further education events will be rolling out in coming months, including at the 2018 International Convention in Orlando, at the 2018 Leadership Summit preceding Harmony University in Nashville, and more.


Musical style and musical experience

Where do I find barbershop music for mixed or women’s ensembles?

Our Marketplace offers music for all voices: 7,524 arrangements for men (TTBB) 1,024 arrangements for women (SSAA) 96 for mixed voices (SATB) In the past few years, to expand distribution to the education market, we have moved toward publishing most new titles in all three voicings.

Will you change the key of “Keep The Whole World Singing” so women can sing too?

The Society theme song, “Keep The Whole World Singing” previously has been arranged for SATB voice. A new publication will soon be made available.

When will you make a Polecat book for women only? When will you make a Polecat book for mixed only?

In our publications program, we have moved toward releasing most new titles as TTBB, SSAA and SATB. Polecat books for SSAA and SATB are great ideas and will be considered. Please submit your music publication ideas to

Will you phase out offensive language of our music, so all people are appropriately respected and included?

Every performer needs to consider the suitability of material to audience. Does the artistic gift build a bridge and communicate with the audience? Does it meet generally accepted standards for good taste? In recent years, the Society has been working to heighten awareness of material which does not honor racial sensitivities, attitudes toward women, and gender roles. This probably will not be a single point of action, but an ongoing process of education and growth.

BHS Culture

Culture and social experience

What does this mean for my barbershop experience?

It means that more people can find more ways to sing more barbershop. You might find that you enjoy singing in a chorus with women, and a quartet with men, or with both your son and your daughter, and so forth. You have the freedom to craft the combinations that meet your social, musical, and family needs.

How will we preserve the all-male experience upon which the Society was founded?

The Barbershop Harmony Society will continue to support men’s choruses and offer contests for all-male quartet and choruses. We will continue to publish music and maintain our current catalog of thousands of arrangements for men’s voices. The value and impact of men singing together is well-documented, as articulated in a recent guest blog by Debra Lynn. Click here to read more.

The principle of local control is central to our Strategic Vision of Everyone In Harmony. Every barbershop unit — chapter, quartet, and other communities of artists we support — must be free to pursue its own self-defined greatest happiness and impact. Chapters will continue to create their own criteria for forming and admitting members to their own ensembles. The process of understanding and planning a chapter mission will guide this.

The all-male experience is of particular value as an intergenerational passage for young men to have strong adult male role models. How will this change if we are mixed?

The BHS is committed to support and encourage the benefits of single gender singing experiences as well as mixed gender experiences… none of which are mutually exclusive. Each chapter will have the opportunity to determine its capacity for providing this culture as part of its overall mission in its community. Part of that evaluation might include considering what role gender plays in this experience. Is it a unique same-gender experience, or is it “involved, compassionate adults mentoring young people” that is the core experience being offered? What will be the implications of adults now having new avenues to sing with their kids of all genders?

For years we had a policy that men’s chapters should not meet at same time/place as women’s chapters, to prevent any inappropriate fraternization. How will you safeguard against this?

Our barbershop world is no different from any other setting that mixes people of all ages and genders. One should expect appropriate behavior in barbershop settings just as in the workplace, school, volunteer life, church, at the gym, or as soccer parents and playdate organizers. Life is life. Barbershop is no different.

As a woman, I like the invitation to be included, but I am not comfortable with being one of few women in the company of a larger group of men. What safeguards will you put in place?

The Barbershop Harmony Society is intended to be a safe home for people of all ages and all genders. Chapter leadership needs to be mindful of creating an environment that is safe, respectful of all present, and welcoming. Both personal safety and social comfort are meaningful concerns for all who enter our door. The same measures you employ in daily life should be part of barbershop life, including bringing a friend for additional security and social comfort when in unfamiliar surroundings, keeping friends and family aware of your location and schedule, etc.

What safeguards will you put in place for young women (under 18) in this situation?

In addition to these cultural norms, every member is charged with complying with the BHS Youth Policy. It does not specify different behavior toward men or women: Society members shall conduct themselves as… [people] of good character and good ambassadors of the Society, being careful to avoid the use of inappropriate language and actions either directed to, or within the sight and/or hearing of Youth. All persons attending any Activity are expected to comply with all laws of the jurisdiction in which the activity takes place.

Donations and financial giving

I have made donations to BHS understanding it supported programs of the all-male Barbershop Harmony Society. Does this mean my gift is now supporting women?

All members benefit from scholarships to Harmony University for BHS chorus directors, for high school music educators, and from our continuing work to make a lifelong activity for all. Your donation continues to make all this possible.

The Barbershop Harmony Society recognizes and appreciates the fact that a donor’s resources belong to the donor, and is grateful for the chance to steward those gifts in a manner that fulfills the donor’s wishes. If you have specific questions about your directed giving, please contact