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Varsity Quartets

Yeah, that's barbershop.

Tight harmonies, sung from the heart, with no autotune, no tracks, no instruments — just four voices, a song, and deep feelings of trust and teamwork. The music is both old-fashioned and contemporary, but always authentic, personal, and rich with emotion.

All voices welcome!

Upper voices, lower voices, mixed — every combination makes great harmony. Every singer has a place in barbershop!

The biggest stage... with the biggest prize!

New to barbershop? Your quartet might be eligible for the $10,000 prizeand you don't even have to win the championship!

Download and share the poster

Deadlines & How to Enter

Easy video qualification

  • Sing two contestable songs in front of any audience, upload to YouTube, and your entry is complete
  • The program is open to women’s, men’s, and mixed harmony ensembles
  • All quartets will need to qualify, regardless of previous qualification for prior events
  • Video qualification will be open from August 1, 2022 - February 1, 2023
  • The 20 highest scoring quartets will be invited to compete in the finals at the BHS International Convention in Louisville, July 3-8, 2023

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.)

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

Varsity Contest Rules & Eligibility

Eligibility

  • The Varsity contest is open to all singers ages 26 and under at the time of the International Event. All singers are eligible in all ensembles, regardless of gender.
    • A quartet may have up to three members under the age of 18, as long as a parent or guardian accompanies the quartet at the convention and accepts responsibility for the minors on the Youth Participation Form.
  • 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.
  • A quartet that has qualified and is eligible to participate in both the open BHS International Quartet Contest and the finals of the Varsity quartet contest may compete in only one of those contests in the same year.
  • An individual can compete in only one Varsity quartet finalist at a time.
  • An individual may compete in both the open BHS International Quartet Contest and the finals of the Varsity quartet contest in the same year; however, if the individual is competing in two or more quartets, each of those quartets must be comprised of no more than two of the same members.
  • See additional eligibility requirements for $10,000 prize.

Entry & Qualification Process

  • 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.
    • 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.
    • Video and/or scores cannot be used from prior International or Midwinter contests.
  • Professional recording is not required, but must meet these minimum guidelines listed, or the video may be disqualified:
    • Avoid booming rooms for clear sound from the quartet.
    • Capture your quartet from head to toe and ensure your quartet is not at too great of a distance so judges can see your performance clearly.
    • Audience should be present audibly and/or visibly.
    • The recording should be of a single performance without retakes
    • No audio enhancements or production edits are allowed.
    • Be sure to keep the video stable with no zooming or movement.
    • The two songs performed must be consecutive and not from two separate performances.
  • Post your video on YouTube using a private link. Video must be recorded and uploaded between August 1, 2022 and February 1, 2023.
  • 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 Society contest rules.

Barbershop contest rules

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)
    • 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 at our International convention.

Scholarships & Finals Event

  • All Varsity quartets, qualifiers and non-qualifiers, will be eligible for a free International Convention registration and scholarship assistance based on distance from convention city, # of BHS members, # of times to competition, current student, etc.
    • Any singer competing in the International Quartet Contest is ineligible for any level of Varsity scholarship assistance including a free International Convention Registration.
    • International convention registrations purchased by the quartet will not be reimbursed by the Barbershop Harmony Society should they receive a scholarship award.
  • Scholarship recipients will be required to participate in the Varsity Honors Chorus and complete a post-event survey.
    • 80% of the scholarship award will be given onsite at the International Convention.
    • Final 20% will be awarded after receiving a completed post-event survey.
  • 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 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

Questions?

Contact customerservice@barbershop.org for more information.