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FAQs | Revised International Contest Expansion Proposal

September 24, 2019

Frequently Asked Questions

Revised International Contest Expansion Proposal | Awards and Medal Options

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Timeline Overview

How was the proposal developed?

The BHS Events Team was tasked with the initial draft of the proposal. It was then reviewed and discussed by a number of stakeholders, including Society Contest and Judging leadership, BHS Executive Team and staff, and volunteer advisory groups such as the Impact Alignment Team, Women’s Advisory Group, and BHS Convention and Production Teams. Version 8.2 was shared and public feedback requested in June 2019.

The proposal underwent many revisions based on this specific feedback from a wide variety of viewpoints, resulting in the version presented in September.

Feedback will be gathered on the three options for determining awards before a final recommendation is made in November.

Why wait to expand International Contest participation until 2021?

The process of qualifying quartets and choruses begins more than 9 months ahead of International, and the preparation even further in advance. In order to give events teams and competing groups ample time to prepare, it was felt that 2021 was the earliest achievable date. With some districts already holding local contests, new-to-BHS quartets and choruses will have time to acclimate to the process before launching into International prep. Additionally, our venue for the convention in Cleveland is just right for this expansion.

District Conventions

Will this minimize the importance of District conventions?

No - District events are a vital component of contest participation! District champions should continue to be celebrated and recognized by their local barbershop community. The goal is to maximize the number of participants at local events -- more singing groups will come in and compete at the District level, increasing the impact and excitement at these events.

Districts will have the opportunity to expand their convention offerings and local impact. More kinds of contests means more competitors, plus their friends and families, greatly expanding the market and potential reach. Districts can site contests where and when it makes sense for maximum participation and design events to include other convention activities in addition to contests. Districts will be able to develop more ways to deliver on their mission to help all groups become their best selves.

How has District representation been addressed?

Based on feedback, the current system of District representation will be continued. The District representative will be the highest scoring quartet or chorus, regardless of classification, and must still meet the minimum qualifying score. For 2021, the minimum score is 74% for choruses; 76% for quartets.

Conduct of Contests and Evaluations

Why present men's alongside women's alongside mixed groups? Why not separate events?

The order of appearance at International will be mixed among the three classifications during all contests. Simplicity – this is how most of our districts are handling the order of appearance, currently.

Equality – an open draw ensures that preferential performance time slots will not be given to a particular classification.

How can judges switch gears between Men’s, Women’s and Mixed Harmony ensembles?

Our judges are highly trained. And smart. And it’s not different -- it’s the same rules, approach, and criteria for everyone. Each performer is already unique and all are judged each on their own merits. Adding different classifications of quartets and choruses will not change that -- good barbershop is good barbershop.

You can read more on this topic here.

Can a chapter be represented in all three classifications at a District event?

Yes, but only one chorus per each classification (maximum of 3) per contest cycle.

Will women’s and mixed harmony contests be added to Next Generation Varsity events?

Yes, both classifications would be incorporated in the NextGen Varsity Quartet Competition. Varsity choruses are already being piloted and would expand to include all three classifications.

Both the Next Generation Junior Quartet Competition and Junior Chorus Invitational are currently open to women’s, mixed harmony, and men’s ensembles.

Can a District limit the number of outside quartets participating in a Prelims contest to avoid the necessity of a third judge on the panel?

In some cases, the increased number of event registrations could offset the costs of increasing the size of the panel. In order to expand participation, some District Prelim contests have chosen to cap the number of quartets that would receive an onsite evaluation, on a first-come, first-served basis.

A variety of options for evaluations is being explored by the Society Contest and Judging Committee, particularly focused on addressing the financial and logistical concerns around increased participation at District Prelims.

Qualification Process

When will groups know that they’ve qualified for International?

QUARTETS: All BHS quartets achieving the qualification score would immediately know that they’ve qualified. Wildcard invitations (if any) would be issued in May 2021, after all qualifying events have been completed.

CHORUSES: All BHS choruses achieving the qualification score would immediately know that they’ve qualified. Wildcard invitations (if any) for choruses would be determined and extended in early November 2020.

How are wildcards selected?

For quartets and choruses, the ensemble with the next highest score, regardless of classification, would be invited. The number of wildcard spaces available is determined after the conclusion of qualifying contests each year.

Why raise the qualifying scores for choruses?

We had 31 choruses achieve an 80.0%+ in the 2019 chorus preliminary competitions (men’s classification). This change is needed to expand the International contests to all classifications and keep our International contest the “best of the best.” Typically, the wildcard invitees to an International contest have scored 81.0% or higher in a given year. This baseline was set using that level.

Can a chorus make a second attempt to qualify for the International contest?

Yes, both quartets and choruses can make a second attempt at qualification if desired. Access to venues for a second attempt is subject to capacity of other preliminary contests. Once an ensemble makes a second attempt, the earlier qualifying attempt score is discarded and cannot be used for qualification.

Can a chorus or quartet participate at a District Prelims event for evaluation only without counting that as an attempt at qualifying?

Yes! Absolutely. Be sure to complete your entry form correctly to indicate your intentions.

How does this affect qualification for ensembles in global Alliance organizations?

The scope of this proposal does not affect how any BHS global Alliance organizations (formerly known as Affiliates) qualify for International.

International Contest Process

How is it determined which groups will be in the Semifinals and Finals?

The revised proposal retains our practice of having 20 quartets in the semifinals, and 10 quartets in the Finals.


Click here to review the three identified options for awards.

We are actively seeking feedback about this. Click here to access our feedback form and share your opinion.

Could an individual member take part in more than one quartet contest at international, if they were to qualify at prelims with both groups?

Possibly, depending on the awards structure that is adopted.

One Overall Champion, with or without Classification Awards: No, a competitor may only enter as a member of one quartet, regardless of classification. This is the same as our current practice.


Three Classifications, Five Medalists Each: Yes, if an individual qualifies to compete at international in more than one classification, they may compete in both ensembles. For example, if a person qualified in a men’s quartet and mixed harmony quartet or a women’s quartet and mixed harmony quartet, they could participate in both at International. An individual may not participate in more than one quartet per classification, for example, two mixed quartets.

What if a classification doesn't make it to the finals?

This is yet to be determined. If classification awards are added (see link below), we will give awards in each classification based on where they finished in the contest regardless of how many rounds in which they performed. This is how we currently handle the Dealer’s Choice award at International, as well as various awards at the district level.

Click here to review the three identified options for awards.

We are actively seeking feedback about this. Click here to access our feedback form and share your opinion.

How will awards be determined and given? Where can I provide feedback about the options?

Three different options for how awards will be given have been identified, and we are seeking your feedback before making a final recommendation to the Society Board. The identified options are:

Three Classifications, Five Medalists Each

  • Champions and medals awarded in each of the 3 classifications -- men’s, women’s, and mixed.
  • With this option, men are competing only against other men, women against other women, and mixed groups against mixed groups. Three champions and sets of medals will be recognized and no overall winner is declared.
  • This is similar to the first proposal that we shared in June.

One Overall Champion, Five Medalists

  • One champion and set of medals awarded to the top 5 scoring ensembles, regardless of classification.
  • With this option, all the groups are competing against each other.
  • The BHS International champion is the highest scoring ensemble regardless of classification -- men’s, women’s, or mixed.

One Overall Champion, Five Medalists + Three Awards

  • Combination of the options above: One champion and set of medals awarded to the top 5 scoring ensembles, regardless of classification, with 3 additional awards recognizing the top-scoring ensembles in each of the classifications -- men’s, women’s, and mixed.
  • With this option, the groups are competing within their classification (men’s, women’s, or mixed) while also competing against all other groups for the overall championship and top spots.
  • This is the most similar to how districts handle awards today, with multiple contests occurring at the same time.


Click here to share your feedback on the options above.

Will there be an overall champion named?

This is yet to be determined. Click here to review the three identified options for awards.

We are actively seeking feedback about this. Click here to access our feedback form and share your opinion.

Do championship quartets that do not win the overall award retire from competition?

In the 3 classifications x 5 medals option, all three gold medalists would be retired. In the other two options, only the overall championship quartet would be retired.

Quartet and Chorus Classifications

How does BHS define a Mixed Harmony ensemble?

Definition of eligibility for mixed harmony ensembles, which will be clarified in the official rules: “A quartet or chorus is considered mixed if more than one gender is represented.”

What if people misrepresent their gender to manipulate the system and qualify in a different classification?

Gender identity is deeply personal, and not something that people casually switch for convenience.

Individuals describe for themselves how they gender identify, and that description is stored as part of the member record. The Barbershop Harmony Society strives to treat all individuals equitably and with a presumption of good character and integrity in accurately maintaining their own member records.