Since the announcement of the Strategic Vision last June, the Society Board and staff leadership have been involved in ongoing discussions about the best way to achieve the vision of “Everyone in Harmony.” Since then, we’ve had numerous “town hall” meetings at District Conventions and hundreds — perhaps thousands — of you have had provided feedback through emails, phone calls, and individual conversations. A few months ago, we shared an update on the planning framework, which was developed with the guidance of experts in long-term strategic planning. The result was a roadmap that CEO Marty Monson first introduced to participants in an open Town Hall Meeting at the Midwinter Convention in Costa Mesa. Through all of these conversations over the past year, we have had wide-ranging discussions about how we can best support men’s, women’s, and mixed barbershop singing. The Board is considering many different options in pursuit of “Everyone In Harmony,” although no decision or change to the bylaws has been made.
The individual and collective impact of men singing together is a vital experience — “the sacred right of men to seek haven from the burden of their daily cares through indulgence in old-fashioned vocal quartet harmony,” as we say in the preamble to our Code of Ethics. That experience expanded early in our history to include chorus singing. Recent years have seen an explosion of interest in many kinds of participation in addition to traditional chapter membership. Barbershop singers throughout the world are avidly pursuing Brigade weekends, All-Chapter Chorus activities, platoons, all-quartet chapters, mixed harmony quartets, seniors choruses, youth choruses — a huge variety of ways to make barbershop music together which were barely on the radar twenty years ago.
There has been a lot of talk in the barbershop community about what the impact would be if women were included as members of BHS. The Board is talking about this as well, and has been for decades. For years we have had women in various roles such as directors, coaches, and faculty at Harmony University. The Associate Program was established nine years ago and today women serve as judges and at-large board members for chapters. We’re glad you’re talking about it, and we want to hear what you think. Many of you have already provided feedback and we’d like to hear from many more. Would your chapter like the opportunity to invite women to join you on the risers? (Perhaps you do already!) Do you prefer your experience to be in a male-only chorus and wish to stay that way? Would you welcome both women and men as non-singing members? As mentioned in the previous updates, many options are being evaluated and considered. Ultimately, our goal is to add more ways for more people to engage, not subtract or replace.