Our three incoming Board Members bring over 60 years of barbershop experiences to the table.
We interviewed Maria Christian (Directs SAI Song of The Lakes Chorus; Sings with First Class Quartet), Mark Fortino (Sings with Harmonium, 2016 CSD Champs), and Christian Hunter (Sings with Somerset Hills, MAD) asking to share some of their barbershop beginnings, why they fit on the Board and a few fun questions along the way.
What’s your “how I got into barbershop” story?
Maria: Invited by a friend, I went to a Sweet Adeline Shoreline Sound chorus rehearsal and never looked back. I’ve since been a part of chorus management teams and boards, and served as Marketing, PR and Costume chairs and liaison work at the regional level. As a certified front-line director, I currently direct the Song of The Lakes Chorus in Davison Michigan. In addition, I’ve been honored to compete several times on the international stage in both quartet and chorus. My community work includes working with our Young Women In Harmony music camps, and organizing fundraisers for choruses throughout the Mid-west and Florida. It has been a privilege to serve as a founding member of the Sweet Adeline International DE&I Task Force and Visioning team. I’ve been a part of BHS for the past 11 years, an avid fan of Harmony University, and have engaged and trained in the DE&I work that BHS has sponsored.
Mark: I've been attending barbershop shows since I was 6 years old back in 1972. Two basses in my church choir sold tickets to the shows to my Mom every year. When I was a senior in high school in 1984, I finally decided to attend a chapter meeting and I was in a quartet within a couple of weeks, After Class, 1984 CSD Novice Champs, and I was hooked!
Christian: My wife, Tracey, was tired of hearing me whine that I had to find someplace to sing. She mentioned it to a friend in the driveway one day and it turned out that her husband was in a local chorus and was performing that weekend. One mini-concert and one amazing tag later (“Ring, Ring the Banjo”) and I have been “all in” ever since.
What was your first big barbershop event?
Maria: My first quartet regional win (my father was there in the audience) and my first “Most Improved Chorus” as a director. Harmony University was a barbershop game changer for me.
Mark: 1984 Internationals in St. Louis. Karl Koos a bass singer in the Joplin Tri-Statesmen Chorus gave my brother John and me his tickets to the convention and his headquarter hotel reservations. We were hooked for life!
Christian: 2009 Mid-Atlantic District Northern Division Convention. My first contest and experience with the world of barbershop outside of my home town. Turns out one of my old fraternity brothers was a district barbershop legend (here’s looking at you Sean Feyrer!)
Maria Christian is an incoming 2021 Board-Member-at-Large with 12 years of service in the barbershop community.
She directs Song of The Lakes Chorus (SAI) and sings with First Class Quartet.
Maria: "Falling Leaves" is my absolute favorite tag.
Mark: "Behind"...only because it was the first tag we sang and I'll never forget the experience!
Christian: “Like Leaves Will Fall” arr. Jake Tickner. Will never forget singing that in a hush in the Parthenon the Sunday after my first HU and then hearing applause from an audience we had no idea was there
What opportunities do you see coming from the “Everyone in Harmony” Strategic Vision?
Maria: There are so many opportunities such as community outreach, music selection education, and development of the BHS brand to enhance our recognition not only as a leader in DE&I, but a platform for excellence in music education and performance to outside choral associations.
Mark: The Barbershop Harmony Society is an amazing organization that provides a unique opportunity to experience Barbershop Harmony in a way that no other musical organization in the world provides. Everyone In Harmony will provide greater access to BHS programs and activities which will result in more people interested in Barbershop. In 1972, I became a person interested in barbershop (PIB) by attending shows by my local chapter. I was a PIB long before I became a member in 1984. The future possibilities for our society are powerful and significant!
Christian: Breaking down false barriers to entry. “I can’t sing.” “I don’t belong.” Now we have an answer for everyone – yes, you CAN sing and you DO belong. BHS groups that truly embrace the opportunity can achieve successes that they haven’t experienced for quite a while.
Mark Fortino is an incoming 2021 Board-Member-at-Large with 36 years of service in the barbershop community.
He has sung in various quartets in the Central States District including recent CSD district champs Harmonium Quartet.
Pitch pipe: reed or electronic?
Maria: I only own reed pipes.
Christian: Tombo all the way. Someday I’ll get one of those cool Phly Pipes!
Why did you want to serve on the Society Board of Directors?
Maria: It was an opportunity that presented itself at the right time. You can’t be a part of the solution if you’re not willing to jump in and do the work. It’s an easy thing to beat your chest and shout what is wrong. Takes a lot more to listen and make decisions that may not always be popular in the moment but will serve for the greater good for the long term.
Mark: The Society is going through what may be the biggest transition in its long and storied history. I felt called to serve at this time to lend a helping hand to get us through this transition and set on a path for success for the future.
Christian: To give back and make a difference. Might be the answer for most people that step up to serve, but in a time where so much of life is volatile and uncertain, I hope my contributions will help the BHS navigate the stormy weather.
Christian Hunter is an incoming 2021 Board-Member-at-Large with 13 years of service in the barbershop community.
He currently sings in the Somerset Hills chapter, in Hunterdon County of the Mid-Atlantic District.
Who is your Barbershop Hero?
Maria: Jeff, Jim, Jack, Brian, Mo, Patti, The Bonnies, Cindy, Diane, Linda
Mark: Mike Slamka, he's been a coach and mentor for decades, but more importantly a great friend.
Christian: Not trying to score points here, but my newest barbershop hero is the amazing Tracey Hunter. A testament of Everyone in Harmony – she had never sung in public and was inspired to join Somerset Hills Harmony with me. Amazing courage to take the leap, and what a voice! Now she’s showing me how membership is done right!
What are you listening to right now?
Maria: Cassandra Wilson, India Irie, Coltrane, Basie, Ella, Nancy, Mel; Ringmasters, Vocal Spectrum, Crossroads, MaxQ , Diamond Cuts; Rumors, A Cappella Gold, Spotlight, the Buzz, Fanatix, Cracker Jills; Legend, Sting, Motown, Alicia Keys, Garth, A. Judd, K.D. Lang, McFerrin, Adele, Marley, Third World, Beres Hammond, Calypso, Fred Hammond, Yolanda Adams, CeCe Winans, Donnie McClurkin, Israel & New Breed... Just to name a few…
Mark: My favorite quartets of all time: Gas House Gang, RR4, Vocal Spectrum, Crossroads, OC Times, Midtown.
Christian: Currently looping a lot of Peter Hollens a capella covers. SO much fun and incredibly well arranged and sung.