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Guest Blog: Have YOU Ever Done It?

Have YOU Ever Done It? ~ by Mike O'Neill
I often find myself having to defend the art form called barbershop that I so passionately love when conversing with other fellow music educators. The sense I get is my involvement in barbershop isn’t ‘legitimate’ music making. I can honestly say that I have learned as much about music (or in some cases MORE), through barbershop circles. Additionally, my involvement with barbershop singing has afforded me the opportunity to travel all over the world and approximately 3/4ths of the United States! I am pretty certain I wouldn’t have been able to say that had I not taken the leap of faith into the ‘barbershop world!’ 
The positives of implementing barbershop music into your program FAR exceed any negatives. Don’t just take my word for it…the Barbershop Harmony Society collects all kinds of data and testimonials from music educators about the impact barbershop singing has on their programs. More men will be attracted to choir. Their self-confidence will shoot through the roof. Their intonation will VASTLY improve. The vocal techniques used in barbershop, although a little brighter and little more forward than traditional choral music, are exactly what educators teach every day; proper breathing techniques, relaxed, free, open singing, etc. True, the purest form of barbershop calls for senza vibrato singing…but doesn’t renaissance music also call for a more even tone?!
I challenge you to look at barbershop through a different lens. I know you will have a much different outlook if you do!
on September 25, 2012 3:31am
Well said Mike!
I am a classically trained musician, but now Barbershop has taken over my musical life. I wouldn't have thought I would learn much from 'amateur' singers having done my degree, but my singing and directing skills are now 200 times better than before I started in barbershop. 
Yes, some barbershoppers do choreography, yes, we like to sing 4 part chords including 7ths, but when you get it right, it sounds just as good as a well sung "Jerusalem" or "Belshazzar's Feast".
AND we always sing without music so sight-readers can't rely on that in performances.
on October 25, 2012 8:25am
The ability to cross pollinate is exactly what we are hoping to achieve...barbershop singers / directors of barbershop ensembles dipping their toe in the "traditional music" waters, as well as "traditional" choral musicicans doing a little barbershop singing / directing every now and then!  Thanks for the comment, Donna!
on September 25, 2012 9:14am
Bravo, Mike and thanks, Scott!
I guess we all go through a phase during our "enlightenment" when we shun what we perceive to be "less informed" - at least I did!
Still, four of us gathered often and sang from an old "Cole??" Barber Shop book. There was a reality in it that is not found in much other
part singing. And from what I hear lately, Barber Shop has learned, or dare we say improved in recent decades.
Frankly, (in my opinion) the reality we may seek is not found in the current fad writers of "choral" music. Could it be, "Nirvana vs. Reality?"
As Mike suggests, try it. You'll like it.
7ths to ya,
Applauded by an audience of 2
on October 25, 2012 8:27am
EP...I think you may be on to something.  The contemporary a cappella movement is huge right now.  "Renegade" ensembles on college campuses all over the courntry are singing more now than ever.  What an opportunity we all have to use that enthusiasm to the advantage of every style of music!  Thanks for the comment! 
on September 25, 2012 5:26pm
Want to have a good time? Be a member of the barbershop quartet in a production of Music Man.  I'm not a stage guy and can't imagine spending all the time required to be a quality musical actor/singer.  But that role was an exception. What fun.
on October 25, 2012 8:30am
For those who are curious, the original broadway production and the follow up made for film production featured our very own barbershop quartet, The Buffalo Bills!  They were our 1950 International Quartet Champions.  If interested, you can read more about them here:
Thanks for the comment, Thomas!