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FAQ: Open Contests

Frequently Asked Questions: BHS International Contest Entry, Qualification and Awards

Explore operational issues emerging from the decision to remove gender classifications from BHS International Contests.

Read the full decision announcement and trace the decision process

The Contest Decision enacted by the Barbershop Harmony Society Board

What was the contest decision?

Effective immediately, starting with the 2022 International Chorus and Quartet Contests in Charlotte, all competitions pertaining to the BHS International championships will be gender-blind. There will be no divisions or awards based on gender and the champion of each International-level competition will be the highest scoring competitor.

This decision applies to all International qualifying competitions as well as the International competitions themselves.

Additionally, the Board removed the restriction on the number of quartets that an individual can compete in at the International level. A member may compete in multiple quartets but each quartet must be comprised of no more than two of the same members.

Read about the decision process and full decision announcement.

The Judging & Qualification Process

What changes have been made to the contest qualification rules published last year?

The Society’s 2022 International events will use the qualification rules published in August 2021, with one exception:

  • Qualification scores remain the same.
  • Qualification deadlines remain the same.
  • The section on “Ensemble Classifications” is eliminated.

How does the judging process accommodate multiple types of ensembles?

The BHS Contest & Judging system is well respected, time tested, and rigorous. All judging categories work diligently to score accurately regardless of ensemble type. The Society Contest and Judging Committee (SCJC) reports that the Singing category spent a great deal of time reviewing performances through the lens of its scoring tenets and standards. SCJC determined that a Singing judge’s analysis is neutral in regards to gender or mix of voices in ensembles. BHS certified judges will score all groups side by side and deliver an accurate and fair overall ranking. This has been demonstrated through the years by panels of BHS-certified judges scoring mixed quartet contests of Alliance organizations (BinG!, SNOBS), youth chorus festivals, and the Next Generation Varsity and Junior Quartet Contests.

Ultimately, judging ensembles of all types is no different from current practice. The same rules, approach, and criteria apply to everyone. Each performer and ensemble is unique, and all are judged on their own merits.

If an ensemble qualified as a single-gendered ensemble for Charlotte, can it change now and put a different type of ensemble on stage?

There are many factors that will need to be considered for this situation. If your ensemble type has changed since you have qualified, please reach out to the Society Contest and Judging Committee for review:

All-male ensembles in contests

How does this contest decision affect the all-male experience?

The Barbershop Harmony Society’s legacy was built on the all-male experience and it will remain an integral part of the barbershop world. The Board of Directors as well as BHS staff and volunteer leaders are committed to providing programming and resources to support and encourage the all-male singing experience — just as it will every type of singing community.

Participating in a contest is just one facet of the total barbershop experience. If competition is not part of your chapter’s life and aspirations, this decision has virtually no impact on you.

This decision does not force anyone to change; it allows for change where change is wanted.

  • Every person can join or create singing ensembles that allow full artistic and social expression, with any composition of singers. Each ensemble can choose to compete and be evaluated on its own merits.
  • Chapters that choose to be single-gendered will not be required to change their bylaws, structure, or add additional ensembles.

In a Society that supports all-male, all-female and all-voice ensembles, what is the objective of an International Contest that has no gender classifications?

It is important that the International contest honors and provides equal opportunities for all ensembles through open contests. Providing opportunities for all to sing and compete equally aligns with our values as a Society.

We honor and celebrate the uniqueness of ensembles, including all-male choruses, while also creating an environment where all people feel welcome. The experience at the local level will remain under the purview of the local singing community. The Barbershop Harmony Society encourages all members and people to find singing experiences they love.

District qualifying contests

Will all Districts hold International qualifying events for all quartet and choruses?

All International qualifying events must be open to all ensembles.

  • For the 2022 International Quartet Contest, quartets may still qualify for the International contest.
  • For the 2022 International Chorus Contest, the lineup of chorus entrants is set and all choruses that qualified will compete for champion status without gender classifications.

Districts may host and award other contest winners as they see fit, but International qualifying contests will welcome all ensembles.

Will each District still send its highest-scoring quartet or chorus, otherwise known as “guaranteed district representative”?

The current system of District representation will be continued.

  • The District representative will be the highest scoring quartet or chorus in the qualifying contest, and must still meet the minimum qualifying score.
  • For 2022, the automatic qualifying score is 78% for choruses; 76% for quartets.

Chapter organization and activities

Can a chapter be represented by multiple choruses in multiple voicings (men’s, women’s, all-voice) at a District or International event?

Yes! Chapters can send any number of distinct choruses to a District qualifying event and to International as long as they have qualified.

How does the contest decision impact a chapter’s programs and activities?

Participating in a contest is just one facet of the total barbershop experience. If competition is not part of your chapter’s life and aspirations, this decision has virtually no impact on you.

Every chapter should organize its chapter program, ensembles and membership along the lines that bring you joy and growth. Your chapter umbrella might contain many kinds of ensembles: all-male, all-female, and all-voice. It may include a daytime seniors chorus, a youth chorus, a preservation chorus for those who only want to sing songs from before 1940, a barber-pop chorus for those who want to sing songs written after 1975, a non-competition chorus that focuses on community, a Music Medics program, a veteran support chorus, a hospice care chorus for those needing comfort and harmony during a difficult transition. Truly, if you can dream it, you can do it.

What changes to chapter records in Member Center are required?

No changes to chapter records are required for entry to International Quartet or Choruses contests.

Some contests at other levels may require classifications for competing ensembles. Chorus or quartet records should reflect the makeup of the ensemble for the event being entered.

Chapter records for chapter membership admission should reflect the Standard Chapter Bylaws.

Opportunities for quartets and individuals

Could an individual member compete in more than one quartet or chorus?

Yes! A member may compete in multiple quartets but each quartet must be comprised of no more than two of the same members.

What if our group does not qualify for the International stage? Are there other opportunities to participate at International?

Yes! Starting this year, the Barbershop Harmony Society will host festivals that are open to ALL choruses and quartets regardless of affiliation, gender, or performance level. Choruses and quartets will perform two songs in front of an audience, get a score and rating (if desired), and receive world-class coaching from a BHS-certified judge. Festival participation spacing is limited. Please review the deadlines and information on entering the 2022 chorus or quartet festivals in Charlotte, NC.

What changes to individual records in Member Center are required?

No changes to an individual’s records are required for entry in the International Quartet and Chorus contests.

All registered members of the Barbershop Harmony Society may self-identify in the Member Center as male, female, non-binary, third gender, or prefer not to say.

Other contests

Will Next Generation Barbershop Varsity and Junior events follow the same open contest qualification rules?

Yes, all Next Generation Barbershop Varsity and Junior programs are open to all singers of specified ages.

Will the International Seniors Quartet Contest follow the open contest qualification rules?

Yes. The International Seniors Quartet Contest will be open just like all International-level contests.

Other organizations

Will the Association of International Champions (AIC) and the Association of International Seniors Quartet Champions (AISQC) admit new quartet champions to their organizations, regardless of gender?

Membership in these organizations is determined by their members, not the Barbershop Harmony Society. It is not the Society’s place to speak to AIC or AISQC plans.


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