Why this matters
singing together energizes young people
Each generation of young people views the world around them in a different light, inspiring them to create art that both reflects their experiences and the world around them. During this formative time in a person's life, a high quality arts education and exposure to artistic mentors is a lifeline - an opportunity to explore ideas, build friendships, and express themselves through music.
Barbershop provides an opportunity for young people to build fellowship, hone technical skills, and express the full range of their emotions in a safe space. While some youth will face barriers to full participation, we are committed to supporting a new generation of barbershoppers and mitigating barriers to participation wherever we can.
Transforming Young Lives
Prior to 2018, Barbershop Harmony Society was an all-male membership organization, so the impact on youth, especially young men has been a major focus of impact for decades. This impact is one we will continue to foster. Research shows young men find the social value of singing climbs when they discover something that’s distinctive, offers quick visible success, and forms a nucleus of something fun that attracts others to try it. (You know, like a tag!) All-male singing magnifies peer group acceptance and can put music on a par with athletics as a channel for recognition. That holds true both when young men sing with young men, and with young women, meaning the entire school choral program improves and sustains as more boys sing.
The authentic, life-giving joys of singing are an impact that barbershop—and Barbershoppers— can make in young people’s lives right here, right now. And they can transform lives forever.
How we can make it happen
Creating many paths into uplifting musical moments
It’s a virtuous cycle. Singers or educators find out about the great BHS programs underwritten by our donors, and dive in deeper:
- We’ve helped more than 350 music educators attend Harmony University on scholarships, and many have earned professional CEU or graduate credits. More than 95% of them continue incorporating barbershop in their programs, reaching another 50,000 singers.
- Destination events such as the Next Generation Barbershop Junior Chorus Festival give ensembles a focus, a challenge to strive toward together. They have a mountaintop moment, immersed with hundreds of young singers equally energized by barbershop. Since 2008, more than 7,600 young singers have crossed our stages in 101 choruses and more than 500 youth quartets.
- The Next Generation Youth Chorus at Harmony University gives young singers a week with “rock star” barbershop directors and section leaders teaching every nuance of great performance.
- Our BHS Grants program has supported more than 12,000 students at regional youth camps across the country, giving young people a chance to experience barbershop surrounded by peers. In 2019 alone, more than 111 educators and 1,250 singers attended 11 of these camps!
- Through all these experiences, young people discover that barbershop is a safe place for singing, creativity, and identity. And that all those adults teaching and singing alongside them are delighted to treat them as peers, not as kids.
- Once they get it, they crave it. In the last decade, we’ve made an impact on more than 20,000 singers under age 25 singing barbershop for the first time.
- They find more singers. In fact, more than 40% of youth quartet singers were invited directly by a friend. The accepting and levelling culture of barbershop is great at turning an outlier activity (“Barbershop? What’s that?”) into a hub of enthusiasm.
- The choral program is energized by an influx of new singers excited by this quaint, old-but-new singing style. And that initial problem—not enough singers trying barbershop, not enough singers, period—starts solving itself.
We are reaching students we’ve never reached before
Again and again, we make a difference for students in challenging environments. Through our Next Generation Barbershop Chorus festivals, we actively work to support underestimated school communities.
Many delightful performing ensembles have comprised young people who, despite their talent, experience barriers to full participation. In their words:
- “Many of our students are first generation, American-born citizens.”
- “Nine of our students are considered homeless. Close to half of the children are raised by somebody other than their biological parent, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, etc.”
- “23% of our students live in homes where English is not the first language, which creates a higher level of difficulty for them to engage at school.”
- “Many of our students work extra jobs to help support their families.”
The immediate result: young people thrive in the barbershop ecosystem. They come back for more, returning to the stage as long as they can.
More than 80% of Varsity Quartet Contest singers from the last 5 years are still actively singing barbershop. They join barbershop chapters. They turn into directors, arrangers, YouTube multitrackers. They come to Harmony University for the Next Generation Chorus and make a musical racket all night long, and we love it.
Barbershop becomes a lifestyle. As one member writes, “The Barbershop Harmony Society has helped me through 3 big cross-country moves over the last 10 years. I’ve had a chorus in each town I’ve moved to, and immediately found a place to belong in a city where I knew few people initially.”
Your gift can make a difference in young lives today
Your gift helps every facet of our youth programs. With your support we can:
- Bring young singers to Harmony University, BHS conventions, and educational events
- Underwrite more choruses to Next Generation Barbershop Festivals, where the network of students and enthusiastic Barbershoppers rewards their hard work with a lifelong lesson in possibilities.
- Expand the pool of BHS Grants that support innovative youth activities across the continent.
- Distribute free choral classroom curriculum and music so middle school and high school educators can make barbershop a natural part of their lesson planning
- Bring educators to Harmony University for a transformative week that turns them into ongoing, fired-up ambassadors for barbershop in their choir room and school district.