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Harmony University scholarship winner pays it forward

A peak music education experience inspires gift for a future director

Steve O’Connell knew Harmony University would be a tremendous boost to his directing skills, and the full scholarship award made it easy to attend. What he hadn’t expected was how moving the week would be -- or how he would be driven to pay it forward.

What he hadn’t expected was how moving the week would be -- or how he would be inspired to help someone else experience the event. Steve is music director of Northshoremen Barbershop Chorus in Beverly, Massachusetts received a full director’s scholarship funded by Harmony Foundation International to attend Harmony University in 2019 -- his first year at the week-long event. The Northeastern District sweetened the deal with some funding toward his travel expense.

Steve shared a few of his Harmony University highlights, his advice to other music directors, and how he wants to impact the future.

Get on the next plane! You just... learn so much. You feel very safe taking chances -- standing in front of the classroom and collaborating. You know there will be criticism but it’s constructive and encouraging. A few notable coaches and instructors include Elizabeth Davies, Shannon Jeffries, Steve Tramack, and Dan Wessler. They all had ideas you haven’t thought of or forgotten about that you could revive. Each instructor was incredibly skilled and welcoming and allowed us to feel confident and safe."

To Steve, the most impactful part of Harmony University was “being absorbed in a week of barbershopping - not only the music, but fellowship, new, and renewed friends. We were and are very supportive of each other. Some of the things you learn but you’re reminded of, for example, ‘Rehearsals for all learning Styles’ with Jennifer Cooke. She reminded us to use the leadership you have within the chorus. I have a 4-time champion in my chorus and I would be silly to not use him to conduct.”

He was so moved by these gifts, Steve decided to give back to Harmony Foundation International and to his district as a way to, “Fund the next guy... It’s so important to give back when you can. I remember how wonderful I felt when I got the full scholarship. So I did what I could for now. The skills you gave me at Harmony University made me a better director. Thank you.

About the author

Jernie Talles Millán

Marketing Assistant

Barbershop Harmony Society