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Varsity Quartets

Step up to your biggest stage ever

...and launch a lifetime of singing!

About the Varsity Quartet Contest

Since 1992, the Barbershop Harmony Society has launched hundreds of quartets through its national quartet contests for young singers. Five world champion quartets started here, plus dozens of medalists, directors, and musical leaders.

Thousands of fans will greet the finalists at the International Convention, in a showcase of the best singers between the ages of 18 - 26. Spend a week singing with hundreds of passionate Barbershoppers, and take your place in an honors chorus -- a peak experience that is a convention highlight for our singers.

Upcoming Events & Deadlines

2021 International Convention

Cleveland, OH | June 27 - July 4, 2021

Due to COVID-19, the applications and scholarship deadlines for the 2021 Varsity Quartet Contest in Cleveland are being moved to ensure quartets have ample time to prepare and can remain within compliance of local government guidelines for social distancing.

January 1 - April 15, 2021
| Register your quartet’s video.
April 16 - May 1, 2021
| Videos are screened for quality and submitted to judges.
May 3, 2021
| Qualifiers are announced and scholarship applications sent.
May 10, 2021
| Scholarship applications are due.
May 14, 2021
| Scholarship award letters sent.

Did you qualify for International 2020 in LA? Read our Next Generation Varsity Quartet Contest FAQs to learn about age limit extensions and re-qualification for Cleveland 2021.

The Basics

Easy video qualification

Sing two contestable songs in front of any audience, upload to YouTube, and your entry is complete.

Scholarships for performers advancing to finals -- including Honors Chorus guests!

Getting there is all the fun... and expensive. The Barbershop Harmony Society offers scholarship assistance to singers who participate in the Honors Chorus and quartets competing in the Finals. (See complete rules below for eligibility.)


  • The Varsity contest is open to all singers ages 18 – 26 at the time of the International Event.
  • A Quartet may have up to 3 members under the age of 19, as long as a parent or guardian accompanies the quartet at the convention.
  • There are no restrictions regarding membership in the Barbershop Harmony Society or any affiliate organization.
  • A quartet who is eligible to participate in both Varsity and Junior quartet contests may only register for one contest occurring within the same year.
  • Register by April 15, 2021

Watch the instructional video to learn more about qualifying for the Varsity Quartet Contest, and read the complete entry and qualification requirements below.

Learn how to qualify for the Varsity Quartet Contest

Entry & Qualification

  • Record your group singing. It doesn’t have to be a professional recording, so have fun with it.
  • Perform two contestable barbershop songs to qualify. (Not sure what to sing? View our suggested song list!)
  • Post your video on YouTube.
  • Register your quartet.
  • Quartets must have their quartet names approved, so as not to conflict with names already selected and reserved by other competitors and registered barbershop Society member quartets.
  • Certified Society judges will adjudicate all contests, both video preliminary and the live international competition, using standard contest rules (see page 3 "Contest Rules" in the Contest Judging Handbook).
  • All videos must be submitted by YouTube link within the registration form no later than April 15, 2021.
  • Video must be recorded and uploaded by April 15, 2021.
  • All quartets are required to participate in a pre-event and post-event survey.
  • All video/photo/audio submitted will be owned and used without restriction by BHS.
  • All quartets are required to participate in a pre-event and post-event survey to officially register their quartet and qualify for a scholarship.


  • An individual can sing in only one varsity quartet at a time.
  • All arrangements performed by quartets must be obtained in accordance with international and USA copyright law. Further information may be found here: Copyright Basics For Barbershoppers
  • Two (2) songs in the barbershop style must be sung. A quartet may use the same songs in the preliminary video contest and the live contest at the international convention.
  • The qualification video must be recorded in HD in front of a live audience without any edits or production enhancements. The live audience may be at public or private event or performance. **Due to various local restrictions and safe practices for COVID-19, varsity quartets will not be required to sing in front of a live audience. This amendment will only exist for the 2021 Varsity Quartet Contest.
  • Videos recorded at events with a live BHS certified panel of judges can submit their scores with their video and the scores will count for the video qualification.
  • Any singer competing in the varsity or open quartet contest is required to purchase a registration
  • A quartet who is eligible to participate in both Varsity and Junior quartet contests may only register for one contest occurring within the same year.
  • All varsity participants will be required to stay within the BHS convention hotel block at their own expense. Participants staying outside of the hotel block will forfeit any/all scholarship/financial assistance and be disqualified from all varsity participation.
  • Each varsity quartet will be required to learn two (2) mass songs to be sung during the convention on Friday or Saturday
  • Video and/or scores cannot be used from prior International or Midwinter contests.
  • There is a restriction on props during the performance. As referenced on page 28 of the Contest and Judging Handbook, if props and/or stage enhancements are to be used, they must be simple
    enough that at most two men can carry and set them up, and they must be freestanding.
    • Additionally, no props or stage enhancements can be used that may contravene local fire and
      safety codes (open flame, fireworks, open water other than in a glass or pitcher, etc.)
    • The full list of contest regulations may be found in the Contest & Judging Handbook.
  • Video must by recorded after August 1, 2019. **Due to the pandemic, quartets who submitted a video for the 2020 Varsity Quartet Contest may submit the same video. Quartets who re-submit their video cannot use the scores given for the 2020 Varsity Quartet Contest. Those videos will be re-scored under the 2021 judging panel.

The Barbershop Style

  • Basic characteristics of barbershop harmony:
    • Four unaccompanied voices.
    • Melody in the second voice down (lead, or second tenor). The melody lies within the good quality range for the average lead singer and is free of awkward skips that make it difficult to sing accurately.
    • Consonant four-part chords on all notes of the melody, almost completely in root position and second inversion.
    • Easily understandable lyrics that are in good taste.
  • A chief characteristic of the barbershop style is its wholesome, “G-rated” entertainment values. Forfeiture, though, may result from one or all judges for:
    • Anyone other than quartet members or the director appearing on stage during the performance.
    • Actions by any contestant that are deemed suggestive, vulgar, or otherwise not in good taste, as determined by acceptable, contemporary community standards. The two songs in the barbershop style must not be either primarily patriotic or primarily religious in intent.
    • Any spoken words deemed excessive or detrimental to the performance. Participating quartet should not introduce their selections.
    • Use of contestant’s own electronic sound equipment.
    • Instrumental accompaniment, including instrumental introductions, interludes, or conclusions.

Judging Criteria

  • Videos will be judged by C&J Score (100 points per song - see the Contest Judging Handbook)
    • Each video will receive scores from at least one certified judge in any scoring category
    • At least one judge will be required to write a brief, one-paragraph evaluation encouraging the competitor’s participation and improvement
  • Top 20 will be invited to compete at International based on overall combined scores
  • Non-qualifying quartets will be invited to participate in the Varsity Honors Chorus.
  • Medals will be awarded to the top 5 quartets


  • All Varsity quartet competitors are required to purchase a registration (even if participating in a varsity chorus)
  • All Varsity quartet competitors will be eligible for scholarship assistance based on distance from convention city, # of BHS members, # of times to competition, current student, etc. (assuming they are not also competing in the open quartet contest)
    • Quartets with 3 or more singers attending the same college/university to qualify for the international varsity quartet competition for the first- time will receive priority/additional financial support.
  • All Varsity participants will be given one complimentary ticket to the AIC Show
  • Any singer competing in the open quartet contest is ineligible for any level of varsity scholarship assistance
  • All non-qualifying quartets participating in the Varsity Honors Chorus will receive a free, full registration and an additional stipend to assist with additional expenses. (assuming they are not also competing in the open quartet contest)


Contact for more information.