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Preserving & Encouraging Membership

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  • larry4lead@comcast.net
       I have been digesting the  posts from some recent threads on: Music Selection to attract Youth, Setting Higher Singing Standards, Restoring Member
    Message 1 of 7 , Aug 1, 2012
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         I have been digesting the  posts from some recent threads on: Music Selection to attract Youth, Setting Higher Singing Standards, Restoring Member Growth, Auditions. etc....

         I found your views thought provoking......So I thought!...And I tried to evaluate your premises (are they feasible or just wishful thinking?) And I tried to sort through my very own (first hand) knowledge of our hobby, and try to come up with "my" solution to the membership question:

      "Is there one facet of our hobby that 1. Attracts Members?, 2. Retains Members?, 3. Determines/Limits Music Selection?, 4. Fits"All Comers?"....

         .And I believe I know what that is!

      IT'S EACH INDIVIDUAL'S FEELING OF BELONGING, AND "MUSICAL"  ACCEPTANCE INTO THE BROTHERHOOD (at what ever talent level his group finds acceptable).

          But ,  I don't mean, just on the first visit, or the first year...I mean; Every Individual - Every Week!

       

      I don't think it matters what size group you are, or what music you sing, or if you have to audition for admission. These varialbles may determine where a potential member may or may not be welcomed. But, it's the ringing chords and the brotherhood that clinches the deal.

       

         When I think of O.C. Cash & Rupert Hall (traveling salesmen on the road) looking for two other guys to form a quartet. I try to imagine what they would consider a "successful singing experience." In my opinion, they probably didn't really care about the quality of the singing (I'm sure they hoped for the best...but they had to take what they got)...and they were not trying to entertain an audience (the first invitation specifically said "private room" so as not to "offend the public's ears.") Their only criteria seems to be an enthusiasm for barbershop chords and good fellowship. And I believe those should be the "only" criteria for acceptance.

         As the early "chapters" began to spring up. Most people (of that era) were used to performing socially for their own amusement (It was prior to Radio/TV/Movies), and nearly every group had at least one member who knew how to run a "Fun" program at each get together (it was just a logical extension of those common "parlor games."). The Program VP would work hard to insure that every attendee got a chance to sing by creating quartet/octet variations...he had singing games, pick up quartet challenges, and a parade of registered quartets (usually every week). My first chapter had a terrific Program VP (he put me in a pick up quartet in a fun contest...then, asked us to sing on the chapter show! , but in my subsequent chapters, there was less, and less "program" and more "chorus rehearsal." 

          As the chorus activity took up more of the meeting time, "Program" skills declined, and the chorus director found himself doing most of the work. And, if you put the chorus director in charge...what happens to the priority list for chapter activities? Yep, Singing comes in first, then Business (finance), then (hopefully) Quarteting, ...then Fun. This new paradigm, over the next decade (next generation?), ushered in the era of membership decline (coincidence?...You be the judge...)

         Annual Conventions started, with "quartet parades" evolving into "quartet contests." Then the advent of a Judging Panel and then, written arrangements...and then Chorus Contests. This was certainly a logical progression, but it reversed our priorities...We were no longer leaving our worries at the door and singing for our own pleasure; Now we were creating stress while working on our contest songs, raising money for costumes and travel, performing for non-barbershop audiences. And in their diligence, the Society/Districts/Chapters began ignoring those members who'd rather just gang sing and have fun.  Chapters found there was all kinds of assistance and praise for "good KIB singing,"...but most mediocre members had to fend for themselves to find that "fun fix" they used to look forward to each week.

         Suddenly (I chose this word for dramatic effect...gradually may be more accurate), all of our leaders are from competition chapters, and our primary focus is on "raising the bar" to create a "product" that will appeal to Youth (Which will supposedly save our Society!), and everyone should donate money to support this effort (When I joined SPEBSQSA we were only asked for money to pay our annual dues...we did perform to raise money for our charity...but we weren't dunned for donations at every gathering)..

         I have heard stories of the "high turnover rate" of members in the topflight competition chapters. If this is true (I kinda hope it isn't), maybe higher quality singing might be an effective recruitment tool; but it may not be the key to member retention. I hope that the drop-outs leave with a smile,and not with a grudge against us.

         Maybe its time to resotore the balance of power to the Program VP, We can still create niches for those who want to excel (because you have to admit that, much fewer than 50% of us sing at a competitive level)...So don't let quality become the be-all-end-all for all of our members/chapters/Society.

         I am leaning toward making our Conventions more like the first meeting at the Tulsa Club, and our contests more like the Olympics...highlighting various activities every four years. Like the Summer and Winter Olympics...we could have the Quartet and Chorus Conventions. And Chorus related Fun, and Quartet related Fun Convendtions on the off years (e.g. 1. Chorus contest - 2. Fun - 3. Quartet contest - 4. Fun) My first thoughts favor a four years cycle...but it could be a three year cycle or a two year cycle, We just need to make enoug room to allow plenty of time for fun. We could put Fun & Fellowship ahead of any other priority at the non-contest Conventions, and put Contests (slightly) ahead of Fun & Fellowship during the "contest" conventions. We could use the conventions to train Program VPs to conduct the kinds of meeting that will retain members by having demo meetings (in the hotel ballrooms) with open participation by attendees. This will still include training to improve our singing...it will just be balanced with activities that give its members "warm fuzzys" every week as well.

          Districts Conventions should be restructured to provide Fun activities other than just competition. In fact, I believe we should drastically reduce the amount of time and emphasis we devote to competition (at all levels)...and restore "individual" involvement, as was the primnary focus of the first gathering in Tulsa, OK on April 22, 1938. Our current system gives "competitors" ample opportunities for "individual" warm fuzzies (they have: contests, shows, booths, afterglows, etc.). Why shouldn't Joe Barbershopper be given his fair share of that "fun, and satisfying acceptance."

         We have become entrhalled with the excitement of our contests (and I luv 'em), and (IMHO) have managed to "cram" so much contest-related activit into "every" convention, so that its like running a marathon for audiences...and often chaotic backstage. Wouldn't it be nice to attend a convention where there was only a select few venues presented...and, you (as Joe Barbershopper) had seveeral choices of "fun" activities to choose from (to fulfill your individual "harmony fix"). If we had all of our Joe Barbershoppers "brainstorm" the type of activities a (non-competing) conventioneer would like to see; I'm sure there would be many "low cost" "high satisfaction" suggestions to look over (I know I ;could suggest a few).

         Off the top of my head, here's a few convention ideas:

       

      a. At the District Level:

      1.  a Chorus Contest in year one , Qualifying a small, a Medium and a Large Chorus Representative (with 2 years to prepare for International...is that too long?).

      2. In year two , a BHS & Youth Chorus event (with all District choruses participating with the Youth Choruses in demo concerts, Teaching classes,  and Joint choruses  with lots of fun things).en

      3. In year three , a Quartet Contest to Qualify for International (with two years for the Reps to raise money and to prepare) (BHS and Collegiate) Perhaps creating new venues (such as: Woodshedding, Quartet Brigade style, Comedy contest, etc.)

      4. In year four , a Parade of Quartets (focus on fun and making quartets available to sing with all conventioneers who want to sing with a good quartet) Tags, Woodshedding, Tag Quartets, etc. This might provide opportunities to perform free shows for local area groups/schools to pass out PR flyers and get media coverage..

         After writing this part...I'm not sure these four suggestions are in the most efficient order to encourage participation...it may need some tweaking.

      At the International Leve (based on the above District format) :

      3. Convention with Chorus Contests (because there's a whole week, you could have, small, medium and large chorus contests) Keep the sessions as short as possible (don't cram in as much as you can...make it palatable) I guess the Youth Choruses should stay in the Mid Winter format.

      4. Convention with A Parade of choruses . Each District would put on a showcase of their talent (They can bring as many choruses as they want in any composition (What a great oportunity to get some of our smallest chapters to attend an Intenational as a group...there's more fun in numbers than if someone attended alone), ...quartets are allowed - but only to support a chorus performance). With a four day window,(Wed-Sat) Each District could probably have time for a two hour showcase (or Districts might combine for a show).

      5. (1. at District Level) Convention with Quartet Contests (This four day window might allow several genres of quartets (e.g. Comedy quartets, Woodshed Quartets, Quartet Brigade, Barbershop Quartet Presevation Association, etc .) Make a conscious effort to include all attendees (even those not in a quartet) to be invited/encouraged to sing.

      6.(2. at District Level) Convention with Parade of Quartets . Make it Fun! This might be a good time to seek performance opportunities in the local area. Free concerts(if they don't pay do we need to pay ASCAP/BMI?) just a Parade of a few quartets with a good emcee. Distribute PR handouts and solicit TV coverage.

      7. Start the cycle again.

         The problem with this train of thought is; I fear that our leaders may be too entrenched in the current paradigm, to give much serious thought to such a dramatic (and potentially disruptive) concept. I must admit that, if I were a member of AOH, MOH, VM GNU ZERO8 or Westminster, I would be violently opposed to "rocking the boat" just to let some old farts sing bad barbershop (Boy!, that kinda throws a different light on it, doesn't it?). But, the Socierty...as it is today...is not as friendly, encouraging and fun, as it was when I joined in 1985. And I long for those old style chapters.

         I don't feel that we need to worry so much about our "public" image...We need to look inward and decide if we want to preserve a brotherhood, or the musical style that brought us together?

         I have seen the eyes of numerous "guests" light up with delight, as they are the center of attention, and asked to sing...at every break in the program. Then within weeks of their membership, they are pushed out of the limelight and left to fend for themselves (no more quarteting, no more pats on the back...not even a hello or where've you been). And by the end of the year, they are contemplating leaving the Society. Have you eveer felt that way? As you grow as old as I am now (75years), and your voice begins to show its age. Is this the kind of society you want to b elong to? The music brought us together, but the brotherhood transcends the music...and that is what will preserve our great hobby.


       

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Jack W. Martin
      Larry, I enjoyed your article very much. I have much of the same feelings that you spoke of. Bringing back the things that seem to be missing in your
      Message 2 of 7 , Aug 1, 2012
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        Larry,

        I enjoyed your article very much. I have much of the same feelings that you
        spoke of. Bringing back the things that seem to be missing in your
        Barbershop life may not be as difficult or costly as you seem to think.

        There is an organization in existence today that is conducting activities
        very much like the first gathering of barbershop singers some 75 years ago,
        in Oklahoma! [Which by the way, turned out to be the beginning of our
        beloved "Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop
        Quartet Singing in America." Inc (SPEBSQSA) ] The organization, which I
        speak of is, the "Barbershop Quartet Preservation Association" (BQPA)

        Let me encourage you to visit the BQPA website www.bqpa.com and see if
        there is anything there that might tweak your interest enough to join me in
        Chicago on the weekend after Labor day, in early Sept of 2012, for a fun
        filled three days of fellowship and quartet singing. There will be in
        excess of 130 Barbershop singers who will attend, coming form all points
        of the country.

        The BQPA has grown 800% in membership over the past 5 years and our
        quartet festivals offer an atmosphere free of competition and commercial
        sales, with loads of fellowship and quarteting, till the tenors drop.

        What ya go to lose!

        In Harmony
        Jack Martin

        On Wed, Aug 1, 2012 at 8:08 PM, <larry4lead@...> wrote:

        > **
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > I have been digesting the posts from some recent threads on: Music
        > Selection to attract Youth, Setting Higher Singing Standards, Restoring
        > Member Growth, Auditions. etc....
        >
        > I found your views thought provoking......So I thought!...And I tried
        > to evaluate your premises (are they feasible or just wishful thinking?) And
        > I tried to sort through my very own (first hand) knowledge of our hobby,
        > and try to come up with "my" solution to the membership question:
        >
        > "Is there one facet of our hobby that 1. Attracts Members?, 2. Retains
        > Members?, 3. Determines/Limits Music Selection?, 4. Fits"All Comers?"....
        >
        > .And I believe I know what that is!
        >
        > IT'S EACH INDIVIDUAL'S FEELING OF BELONGING, AND "MUSICAL" ACCEPTANCE
        > INTO THE BROTHERHOOD (at what ever talent level his group finds
        > acceptable).
        >
        > But , I don't mean, just on the first visit, or the first year...I
        > mean; Every Individual - Every Week!
        >
        >
        >
        > I don't think it matters what size group you are, or what music you sing,
        > or if you have to audition for admission. These varialbles may determine
        > where a potential member may or may not be welcomed. But, it's the ringing
        > chords and the brotherhood that clinches the deal.
        >
        >
        >
        > When I think of O.C. Cash & Rupert Hall (traveling salesmen on the
        > road) looking for two other guys to form a quartet. I try to imagine what
        > they would consider a "successful singing experience." In my opinion, they
        > probably didn't really care about the quality of the singing (I'm sure they
        > hoped for the best...but they had to take what they got)...and they were
        > not trying to entertain an audience (the first invitation specifically said
        > "private room" so as not to "offend the public's ears.") Their only
        > criteria seems to be an enthusiasm for barbershop chords and good
        > fellowship. And I believe those should be the "only" criteria for
        > acceptance.
        >
        > As the early "chapters" began to spring up. Most people (of that era)
        > were used to performing socially for their own amusement (It was prior to
        > Radio/TV/Movies), and nearly every group had at least one member who knew
        > how to run a "Fun" program at each get together (it was just a logical
        > extension of those common "parlor games."). The Program VP would work hard
        > to insure that every attendee got a chance to sing by creating
        > quartet/octet variations...he had singing games, pick up quartet
        > challenges, and a parade of registered quartets (usually every week). My
        > first chapter had a terrific Program VP (he put me in a pick up quartet in
        > a fun contest...then, asked us to sing on the chapter show! , but in my
        > subsequent chapters, there was less, and less "program" and more "chorus
        > rehearsal."
        >
        > As the chorus activity took up more of the meeting time, "Program"
        > skills declined, and the chorus director found himself doing most of the
        > work. And, if you put the chorus director in charge...what happens to the
        > priority list for chapter activities? Yep, Singing comes in first, then
        > Business (finance), then (hopefully) Quarteting, ...then Fun. This new
        > paradigm, over the next decade (next generation?), ushered in the era of
        > membership decline (coincidence?...You be the judge...)
        >
        > Annual Conventions started, with "quartet parades" evolving into
        > "quartet contests." Then the advent of a Judging Panel and then, written
        > arrangements...and then Chorus Contests. This was certainly a logical
        > progression, but it reversed our priorities...We were no longer leaving our
        > worries at the door and singing for our own pleasure; Now we were creating
        > stress while working on our contest songs, raising money for costumes and
        > travel, performing for non-barbershop audiences. And in their diligence,
        > the Society/Districts/Chapters began ignoring those members who'd rather
        > just gang sing and have fun. Chapters found there was all kinds of
        > assistance and praise for "good KIB singing,"...but most mediocre members
        > had to fend for themselves to find that "fun fix" they used to look forward
        > to each week.
        >
        > Suddenly (I chose this word for dramatic effect...gradually may be more
        > accurate), all of our leaders are from competition chapters, and our
        > primary focus is on "raising the bar" to create a "product" that will
        > appeal to Youth (Which will supposedly save our Society!), and everyone
        > should donate money to support this effort (When I joined SPEBSQSA we were
        > only asked for money to pay our annual dues...we did perform to raise money
        > for our charity...but we weren't dunned for donations at every gathering)..
        >
        > I have heard stories of the "high turnover rate" of members in the
        > topflight competition chapters. If this is true (I kinda hope it isn't),
        > maybe higher quality singing might be an effective recruitment tool; but it
        > may not be the key to member retention. I hope that the drop-outs leave
        > with a smile,and not with a grudge against us.
        >
        > Maybe its time to resotore the balance of power to the Program VP, We
        > can still create niches for those who want to excel (because you have to
        > admit that, much fewer than 50% of us sing at a competitive level)...So
        > don't let quality become the be-all-end-all for all of our
        > members/chapters/Society.
        >
        > I am leaning toward making our Conventions more like the first meeting
        > at the Tulsa Club, and our contests more like the Olympics...highlighting
        > various activities every four years. Like the Summer and Winter
        > Olympics...we could have the Quartet and Chorus Conventions. And Chorus
        > related Fun, and Quartet related Fun Convendtions on the off years (e.g. 1.
        > Chorus contest - 2. Fun - 3. Quartet contest - 4. Fun) My first thoughts
        > favor a four years cycle...but it could be a three year cycle or a two year
        > cycle, We just need to make enoug room to allow plenty of time for fun. We
        > could put Fun & Fellowship ahead of any other priority at the non-contest
        > Conventions, and put Contests (slightly) ahead of Fun & Fellowship during
        > the "contest" conventions. We could use the conventions to train Program
        > VPs to conduct the kinds of meeting that will retain members by having demo
        > meetings (in the hotel ballrooms) with open participation by attendees.
        > This will still include training to improve our singing...it will just be
        > balanced with activities that give its members "warm fuzzys" every week as
        > well.
        >
        > Districts Conventions should be restructured to provide Fun activities
        > other than just competition. In fact, I believe we should drastically
        > reduce the amount of time and emphasis we devote to competition (at all
        > levels)...and restore "individual" involvement, as was the primnary focus
        > of the first gathering in Tulsa, OK on April 22, 1938. Our current system
        > gives "competitors" ample opportunities for "individual" warm fuzzies (they
        > have: contests, shows, booths, afterglows, etc.). Why shouldn't Joe
        > Barbershopper be given his fair share of that "fun, and satisfying
        > acceptance."
        >
        > We have become entrhalled with the excitement of our contests (and I
        > luv 'em), and (IMHO) have managed to "cram" so much contest-related activit
        > into "every" convention, so that its like running a marathon for
        > audiences...and often chaotic backstage. Wouldn't it be nice to attend a
        > convention where there was only a select few venues presented...and, you
        > (as Joe Barbershopper) had seveeral choices of "fun" activities to choose
        > from (to fulfill your individual "harmony fix"). If we had all of our Joe
        > Barbershoppers "brainstorm" the type of activities a (non-competing)
        > conventioneer would like to see; I'm sure there would be many "low cost"
        > "high satisfaction" suggestions to look over (I know I ;could suggest a
        > few).
        >
        > Off the top of my head, here's a few convention ideas:
        >
        >
        >
        > a. At the District Level:
        >
        > 1. a Chorus Contest in year one , Qualifying a small, a Medium and a
        > Large Chorus Representative (with 2 years to prepare for International...is
        > that too long?).
        >
        > 2. In year two , a BHS & Youth Chorus event (with all District choruses
        > participating with the Youth Choruses in demo concerts, Teaching classes,
        > and Joint choruses with lots of fun things).en
        >
        > 3. In year three , a Quartet Contest to Qualify for International (with
        > two years for the Reps to raise money and to prepare) (BHS and Collegiate)
        > Perhaps creating new venues (such as: Woodshedding, Quartet Brigade style,
        > Comedy contest, etc.)
        >
        > 4. In year four , a Parade of Quartets (focus on fun and making quartets
        > available to sing with all conventioneers who want to sing with a good
        > quartet) Tags, Woodshedding, Tag Quartets, etc. This might provide
        > opportunities to perform free shows for local area groups/schools to pass
        > out PR flyers and get media coverage..
        >
        > After writing this part...I'm not sure these four suggestions are in
        > the most efficient order to encourage participation...it may need some
        > tweaking.
        >
        > At the International Leve (based on the above District format) :
        >
        > 3. Convention with Chorus Contests (because there's a whole week, you
        > could have, small, medium and large chorus contests) Keep the sessions as
        > short as possible (don't cram in as much as you can...make it palatable) I
        > guess the Youth Choruses should stay in the Mid Winter format.
        >
        > 4. Convention with A Parade of choruses . Each District would put on a
        > showcase of their talent (They can bring as many choruses as they want in
        > any composition (What a great oportunity to get some of our smallest
        > chapters to attend an Intenational as a group...there's more fun in numbers
        > than if someone attended alone), ...quartets are allowed - but only to
        > support a chorus performance). With a four day window,(Wed-Sat) Each
        > District could probably have time for a two hour showcase (or Districts
        > might combine for a show).
        >
        > 5. (1. at District Level) Convention with Quartet Contests (This four day
        > window might allow several genres of quartets (e.g. Comedy quartets,
        > Woodshed Quartets, Quartet Brigade, Barbershop Quartet Presevation
        > Association, etc .) Make a conscious effort to include all attendees (even
        > those not in a quartet) to be invited/encouraged to sing.
        >
        > 6.(2. at District Level) Convention with Parade of Quartets . Make it Fun!
        > This might be a good time to seek performance opportunities in the local
        > area. Free concerts(if they don't pay do we need to pay ASCAP/BMI?) just a
        > Parade of a few quartets with a good emcee. Distribute PR handouts and
        > solicit TV coverage.
        >
        > 7. Start the cycle again.
        >
        > The problem with this train of thought is; I fear that our leaders may
        > be too entrenched in the current paradigm, to give much serious thought to
        > such a dramatic (and potentially disruptive) concept. I must admit that, if
        > I were a member of AOH, MOH, VM GNU ZERO8 or Westminster, I would be
        > violently opposed to "rocking the boat" just to let some old farts sing bad
        > barbershop (Boy!, that kinda throws a different light on it, doesn't it?).
        > But, the Socierty...as it is today...is not as friendly, encouraging and
        > fun, as it was when I joined in 1985. And I long for those old style
        > chapters.
        >
        > I don't feel that we need to worry so much about our "public"
        > image...We need to look inward and decide if we want to preserve a
        > brotherhood, or the musical style that brought us together?
        >
        > I have seen the eyes of numerous "guests" light up with delight, as
        > they are the center of attention, and asked to sing...at every break in the
        > program. Then within weeks of their membership, they are pushed out of the
        > limelight and left to fend for themselves (no more quarteting, no more pats
        > on the back...not even a hello or where've you been). And by the end of the
        > year, they are contemplating leaving the Society. Have you eveer felt that
        > way? As you grow as old as I am now (75years), and your voice begins to
        > show its age. Is this the kind of society you want to b elong to? The music
        > brought us together, but the brotherhood transcends the music...and that is
        > what will preserve our great hobby.
        >
        >
        >
        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        >
        >
        >


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Singing Buckeyes Office
        As someone who s running a Harmony Camp..... This year we marketed the BHS and SAI to our kids. We offered a folder, with flyers from different choruses in
        Message 3 of 7 , Aug 2, 2012
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          As someone who's running a Harmony Camp.....

          This year we marketed the BHS and SAI to our kids. We offered a folder, with flyers from different choruses in the area (in our case, 6 major choruses in Ohio, most of whom sponsor campers). They are not marketing pieces; rather, they are informational. ..Here is our chorus, here's where we meet, this is how we fit into the Society... kind of stuff. We purchased small BHS-labeled items, and were provided recent International DVDs to give the kids.

          We have 90 guys at our camp, and that's one camp. I would like to see a "starter pack" from BHS..something with a slick flyer about the society, and the resources they have to offer youth, programs in the areas... maybe one per district..?... window clings, and maybe some kind of barbershop trinket. I know that in many instances Harmony Foundation donates to camps in the area. I wonder if there's a portion of that we could funnel into a HX starter kit? It might be a valuable informational resource for the kids Essentially, we create barbershop lifers and sort of cut them loose with no ties.

          I'd be glad to send copies of what we've done and how we did it..FWIW.

          Darlene Inscho
          Singing Buckeyes Harmony Camp
          www.harmonycamp.org

          PS. The girls received a brightly colored bag put together with a folder of information, some SAI branded items, and a gift kind of thing as well. We are very pleased to give information about these Societies and their resources to (hopefully) future members.

          ----------------------------------------
          From: larry4lead@...
          Sent: Wednesday, August 01, 2012 8:15 PM
          To: "SEND TO HARMONET" <bbshop@yahoogroups.com>
          Subject: [bbshop] Preserving & Encouraging Membership


          I have been digesting the posts from some recent threads on: Music Selection to attract Youth, Setting Higher Singing Standards, Restoring Member Growth, Auditions. etc....

          I found your views thought provoking......So I thought!...And I tried to evaluate your premises (are they feasible or just wishful thinking?) And I tried to sort through my very own (first hand) knowledge of our hobby, and try to come up with "my" solution to the membership question:

          "Is there one facet of our hobby that 1. Attracts Members?, 2. Retains Members?, 3. Determines/Limits Music Selection?, 4. Fits"All Comers?"....

          .And I believe I know what that is!

          IT'S EACH INDIVIDUAL'S FEELING OF BELONGING, AND "MUSICAL" ACCEPTANCE INTO THE BROTHERHOOD (at what ever talent level his group finds acceptable).

          But , I don't mean, just on the first visit, or the first year...I mean; Every Individual - Every Week!



          I don't think it matters what size group you are, or what music you sing, or if you have to audition for admission. These varialbles may determine where a potential member may or may not be welcomed. But, it's the ringing chords and the brotherhood that clinches the deal.



          When I think of O.C. Cash & Rupert Hall (traveling salesmen on the road) looking for two other guys to form a quartet. I try to imagine what they would consider a "successful singing experience." In my opinion, they probably didn't really care about the quality of the singing (I'm sure they hoped for the best...but they had to take what they got)...and they were not trying to entertain an audience (the first invitation specifically said "private room" so as not to "offend the public's ears.") Their only criteria seems to be an enthusiasm for barbershop chords and good fellowship. And I believe those should be the "only" criteria for acceptance.

          As the early "chapters" began to spring up. Most people (of that era) were used to performing socially for their own amusement (It was prior to Radio/TV/Movies), and nearly every group had at least one member who knew how to run a "Fun" program at each get together (it was just a logical extension of those common "parlor games."). The Program VP would work hard to insure that every attendee got a chance to sing by creating quartet/octet variations...he had singing games, pick up quartet challenges, and a parade of registered quartets (usually every week). My first chapter had a terrific Program VP (he put me in a pick up quartet in a fun contest...then, asked us to sing on the chapter show! , but in my subsequent chapters, there was less, and less "program" and more "chorus rehearsal."

          As the chorus activity took up more of the meeting time, "Program" skills declined, and the chorus director found himself doing most of the work. And, if you put the chorus director in charge...what happens to the priority list for chapter activities? Yep, Singing comes in first, then Business (finance), then (hopefully) Quarteting, ...then Fun. This new paradigm, over the next decade (next generation?), ushered in the era of membership decline (coincidence?...You be the judge...)

          Annual Conventions started, with "quartet parades" evolving into "quartet contests." Then the advent of a Judging Panel and then, written arrangements...and then Chorus Contests. This was certainly a logical progression, but it reversed our priorities...We were no longer leaving our worries at the door and singing for our own pleasure; Now we were creating stress while working on our contest songs, raising money for costumes and travel, performing for non-barbershop audiences. And in their diligence, the Society/Districts/Chapters began ignoring those members who'd rather just gang sing and have fun. Chapters found there was all kinds of assistance and praise for "good KIB singing,"...but most mediocre members had to fend for themselves to find that "fun fix" they used to look forward to each week.

          Suddenly (I chose this word for dramatic effect...gradually may be more accurate), all of our leaders are from competition chapters, and our primary focus is on "raising the bar" to create a "product" that will appeal to Youth (Which will supposedly save our Society!), and everyone should donate money to support this effort (When I joined SPEBSQSA we were only asked for money to pay our annual dues...we did perform to raise money for our charity...but we weren't dunned for donations at every gathering)..

          I have heard stories of the "high turnover rate" of members in the topflight competition chapters. If this is true (I kinda hope it isn't), maybe higher quality singing might be an effective recruitment tool; but it may not be the key to member retention. I hope that the drop-outs leave with a smile,and not with a grudge against us.

          Maybe its time to resotore the balance of power to the Program VP, We can still create niches for those who want to excel (because you have to admit that, much fewer than 50% of us sing at a competitive level)...So don't let quality become the be-all-end-all for all of our members/chapters/Society.

          I am leaning toward making our Conventions more like the first meeting at the Tulsa Club, and our contests more like the Olympics...highlighting various activities every four years. Like the Summer and Winter Olympics...we could have the Quartet and Chorus Conventions. And Chorus related Fun, and Quartet related Fun Convendtions on the off years (e.g. 1. Chorus contest - 2. Fun - 3. Quartet contest - 4. Fun) My first thoughts favor a four years cycle...but it could be a three year cycle or a two year cycle, We just need to make enoug room to allow plenty of time for fun. We could put Fun & Fellowship ahead of any other priority at the non-contest Conventions, and put Contests (slightly) ahead of Fun & Fellowship during the "contest" conventions. We could use the conventions to train Program VPs to conduct the kinds of meeting that will retain members by having demo meetings (in the hotel ballrooms) with open participation by attendees. This will still include training to improve our singing...it will just be balanced with activities that give its members "warm fuzzys" every week as well.

          Districts Conventions should be restructured to provide Fun activities other than just competition. In fact, I believe we should drastically reduce the amount of time and emphasis we devote to competition (at all levels)...and restore "individual" involvement, as was the primnary focus of the first gathering in Tulsa, OK on April 22, 1938. Our current system gives "competitors" ample opportunities for "individual" warm fuzzies (they have: contests, shows, booths, afterglows, etc.). Why shouldn't Joe Barbershopper be given his fair share of that "fun, and satisfying acceptance."

          We have become entrhalled with the excitement of our contests (and I luv 'em), and (IMHO) have managed to "cram" so much contest-related activit into "every" convention, so that its like running a marathon for audiences...and often chaotic backstage. Wouldn't it be nice to attend a convention where there was only a select few venues presented...and, you (as Joe Barbershopper) had seveeral choices of "fun" activities to choose from (to fulfill your individual "harmony fix"). If we had all of our Joe Barbershoppers "brainstorm" the type of activities a (non-competing) conventioneer would like to see; I'm sure there would be many "low cost" "high satisfaction" suggestions to look over (I know I ;could suggest a few).

          Off the top of my head, here's a few convention ideas:



          a. At the District Level:

          1. a Chorus Contest in year one , Qualifying a small, a Medium and a Large Chorus Representative (with 2 years to prepare for International...is that too long?).

          2. In year two , a BHS & Youth Chorus event (with all District choruses participating with the Youth Choruses in demo concerts, Teaching classes, and Joint choruses with lots of fun things).en

          3. In year three , a Quartet Contest to Qualify for International (with two years for the Reps to raise money and to prepare) (BHS and Collegiate) Perhaps creating new venues (such as: Woodshedding, Quartet Brigade style, Comedy contest, etc.)

          4. In year four , a Parade of Quartets (focus on fun and making quartets available to sing with all conventioneers who want to sing with a good quartet) Tags, Woodshedding, Tag Quartets, etc. This might provide opportunities to perform free shows for local area groups/schools to pass out PR flyers and get media coverage..

          After writing this part...I'm not sure these four suggestions are in the most efficient order to encourage participation...it may need some tweaking.

          At the International Leve (based on the above District format) :

          3. Convention with Chorus Contests (because there's a whole week, you could have, small, medium and large chorus contests) Keep the sessions as short as possible (don't cram in as much as you can...make it palatable) I guess the Youth Choruses should stay in the Mid Winter format.

          4. Convention with A Parade of choruses . Each District would put on a showcase of their talent (They can bring as many choruses as they want in any composition (What a great oportunity to get some of our smallest chapters to attend an Intenational as a group...there's more fun in numbers than if someone attended alone), ...quartets are allowed - but only to support a chorus performance). With a four day window,(Wed-Sat) Each District could probably have time for a two hour showcase (or Districts might combine for a show).

          5. (1. at District Level) Convention with Quartet Contests (This four day window might allow several genres of quartets (e.g. Comedy quartets, Woodshed Quartets, Quartet Brigade, Barbershop Quartet Presevation Association, etc .) Make a conscious effort to include all attendees (even those not in a quartet) to be invited/encouraged to sing.

          6.(2. at District Level) Convention with Parade of Quartets . Make it Fun! This might be a good time to seek performance opportunities in the local area. Free concerts(if they don't pay do we need to pay ASCAP/BMI?) just a Parade of a few quartets with a good emcee. Distribute PR handouts and solicit TV coverage.

          7. Start the cycle again.

          The problem with this train of thought is; I fear that our leaders may be too entrenched in the current paradigm, to give much serious thought to such a dramatic (and potentially disruptive) concept. I must admit that, if I were a member of AOH, MOH, VM GNU ZERO8 or Westminster, I would be violently opposed to "rocking the boat" just to let some old farts sing bad barbershop (Boy!, that kinda throws a different light on it, doesn't it?). But, the Socierty...as it is today...is not as friendly, encouraging and fun, as it was when I joined in 1985. And I long for those old style chapters.

          I don't feel that we need to worry so much about our "public" image...We need to look inward and decide if we want to preserve a brotherhood, or the musical style that brought us together?

          I have seen the eyes of numerous "guests" light up with delight, as they are the center of attention, and asked to sing...at every break in the program. Then within weeks of their membership, they are pushed out of the limelight and left to fend for themselves (no more quarteting, no more pats on the back...not even a hello or where've you been). And by the end of the year, they are contemplating leaving the Society. Have you eveer felt that way? As you grow as old as I am now (75years), and your voice begins to show its age. Is this the kind of society you want to b elong to? The music brought us together, but the brotherhood transcends the music...and that is what will preserve our great hobby.



          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]




          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • larry4lead@comcast.net
          Jack,    Thanks for the info. I have been reading about your activities with interest for a long time... First seeing you as upstarts Then, thinking you
          Message 4 of 7 , Aug 2, 2012
          • 0 Attachment
            Jack,

               Thanks for the info.

            I have been reading about your activities with interest for a long time...

            First seeing you as "upstarts"

            Then, thinking you might be divisive...

            Then, happy to see you and the Society come together, in the best interests of both sides...

            To, firmly believing in your views (although i haven't "acted" to become a boni fide supporter).

               I believe there is a place for your organization at all of the Chapter/District/Society level get-togethers.

            You might be ther ideal choice for restoring "fun" to our conventions. Unfortunately, I no longer have the "fire in my belly" to be an active proponent for any cause...no matter how much I might admire it.

               For health reasons, it's unlikely I'll attend your convention...but I wish for good times to all who do.

            Larry the Legend



            ----- Original Message -----


            From: "Jack W. Martin" <jackwmartin@...>
            To: larry4lead@...
            Cc: "SEND TO HARMONET" <bbshop@yahoogroups.com>
            Sent: Thursday, August 2, 2012 12:02:01 AM
            Subject: Re: [bbshop] Preserving & Encouraging Membership

            Larry,  


            I enjoyed your article very much. I have much of the same feelings that you spoke of.  Bringing back the things that seem to be missing in your Barbershop life may not be as difficult or costly as you seem to think.


            There is an organization in existence today that is conducting activities very much like the first gathering of barbershop singers some 75 years ago, in Oklahoma! [Which by the way,  turned out to be the beginning of our beloved  "Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America." Inc  ( SPEBSQSA ) ]  The organization, which I speak of is, the "Barbershop Quartet Preservation Association" ( BQPA )


            Let me encourage you to visit the  BQPA  website  www. bqpa .com  and  see if there is anything there that might tweak your interest enough to join me in Chicago on the weekend after Labor day, in early Sept of 2012,  for a fun filled three days of fellowship and quartet singing.  There will be in excess of 130  Barbershop singers who will attend, coming form all points of the country. 


            The   BQPA   has grown  800%  in membership over the past 5 years and our quartet festivals offer an atmosphere free of competition and commercial sales, with loads of fellowship and  quarteting , till the tenors drop.


            What ya go to lose!


            In Harmony
            Jack Martin 


            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Stephen Rafe
            Amen. A number of good ideas in barbershopping have been shown to work... and then allowed to fade away. The Bryn Mawr Experience is a great example. It
            Message 5 of 7 , Aug 2, 2012
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              Amen.

              A number of good ideas in barbershopping have been shown to work... and then allowed to fade away. The Bryn Mawr Experience is a great example. It demonstrated that variety in chapter meetings is, indeed, important -- and effective. So why aren't we all doing it?

              Part of the problem is the culture that has developed which devalues the administrative leadership side of our hobby. I have visited over a hundred chapters and many times have heard officers and chairmen try to make an important announcement only to be told keep it short, cover that during the break, or let's get back to singing. (And we wonder why it's hard to get people to take these jobs!) So, as you suggest, chorus directors fill the void and in the process, create more work for themselves, put the focus on chorus rehearsal, and then have to deal with member dissatisfaction over not having fun.

              Stephen
              STEPHEN RAFE

              ----------------

              My first chapter had a terrific Program VP (he put me in a pick up quartet in a fun contest...then, asked us to sing on the chapter show! , but in my subsequent chapters, there was less, and less "program" and more "chorus rehearsal."

              As the chorus activity took up more of the meeting time, "Program" skills declined, and the chorus director found himself doing most of the work. And, if you put the chorus director in charge...what happens to the priority list for chapter activities? Yep, Singing comes in first, then Business (finance), then (hopefully) Quarteting, ...then Fun. This new paradigm, over the next decade (next generation?), ushered in the era of membership decline (coincidence?...You be the judge...)

              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Scott Zumbrum
              What about a Senior Chorus contest? Not unlike the Senior Quartet contest. We certainly should have a lot of potential participants. Scott Zumbrum
              Message 6 of 7 , Aug 7, 2012
              • 0 Attachment
                What about a Senior Chorus contest? Not unlike the Senior Quartet contest. We certainly should have a lot of potential participants.


                Scott Zumbrum



                ________________________________
                From: "larry4lead@..." <larry4lead@...>
                To: SEND TO HARMONET <bbshop@yahoogroups.com>
                Cc: LARRY ROBINSON <larry4lead@...>
                Sent: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 8:08 PM
                Subject: [bbshop] Preserving & Encouraging Membership


                 


                   I have been digesting the  posts from some recent threads on: Music Selection to attract Youth, Setting Higher Singing Standards, Restoring Member Growth, Auditions. etc....

                   I found your views thought provoking......So I thought!...And I tried to evaluate your premises (are they feasible or just wishful thinking?) And I tried to sort through my very own (first hand) knowledge of our hobby, and try to come up with "my" solution to the membership question:

                "Is there one facet of our hobby that 1. Attracts Members?, 2. Retains Members?, 3. Determines/Limits Music Selection?, 4. Fits"All Comers?"....

                   .And I believe I know what that is!

                IT'S EACH INDIVIDUAL'S FEELING OF BELONGING, AND "MUSICAL"  ACCEPTANCE INTO THE BROTHERHOOD (at what ever talent level his group finds acceptable).

                    But ,  I don't mean, just on the first visit, or the first year...I mean; Every Individual - Every Week!

                 

                I don't think it matters what size group you are, or what music you sing, or if you have to audition for admission. These varialbles may determine where a potential member may or may not be welcomed. But, it's the ringing chords and the brotherhood that clinches the deal.

                 

                   When I think of O.C. Cash & Rupert Hall (traveling salesmen on the road) looking for two other guys to form a quartet. I try to imagine what they would consider a "successful singing experience." In my opinion, they probably didn't really care about the quality of the singing (I'm sure they hoped for the best...but they had to take what they got)...and they were not trying to entertain an audience (the first invitation specifically said "private room" so as not to "offend the public's ears.") Their only criteria seems to be an enthusiasm for barbershop chords and good fellowship. And I believe those should be the "only" criteria for acceptance.

                   As the early "chapters" began to spring up. Most people (of that era) were used to performing socially for their own amusement (It was prior to Radio/TV/Movies), and nearly every group had at least one member who knew how to run a "Fun" program at each get together (it was just a logical extension of those common "parlor games."). The Program VP would work hard to insure that every attendee got a chance to sing by creating quartet/octet variations...he had singing games, pick up quartet challenges, and a parade of registered quartets (usually every week). My first chapter had a terrific Program VP (he put me in a pick up quartet in a fun contest...then, asked us to sing on the chapter show! , but in my subsequent chapters, there was less, and less "program" and more "chorus rehearsal." 

                    As the chorus activity took up more of the meeting time, "Program" skills declined, and the chorus director found himself doing most of the work. And, if you put the chorus director in charge...what happens to the priority list for chapter activities? Yep, Singing comes in first, then Business (finance), then (hopefully) Quarteting, ...then Fun. This new paradigm, over the next decade (next generation?), ushered in the era of membership decline (coincidence?...You be the judge...)

                   Annual Conventions started, with "quartet parades" evolving into "quartet contests." Then the advent of a Judging Panel and then, written arrangements...and then Chorus Contests. This was certainly a logical progression, but it reversed our priorities...We were no longer leaving our worries at the door and singing for our own pleasure; Now we were creating stress while working on our contest songs, raising money for costumes and travel, performing for non-barbershop audiences. And in their diligence, the Society/Districts/Chapters began ignoring those members who'd rather just gang sing and have fun.  Chapters found there was all kinds of assistance and praise for "good KIB singing,"...but most mediocre members had to fend for themselves to find that "fun fix" they used to look forward to each week.

                   Suddenly (I chose this word for dramatic effect...gradually may be more accurate), all of our leaders are from competition chapters, and our primary focus is on "raising the bar" to create a "product" that will appeal to Youth (Which will supposedly save our Society!), and everyone should donate money to support this effort (When I joined SPEBSQSA we were only asked for money to pay our annual dues...we did perform to raise money for our charity...but we weren't dunned for donations at every gathering)..

                   I have heard stories of the "high turnover rate" of members in the topflight competition chapters. If this is true (I kinda hope it isn't), maybe higher quality singing might be an effective recruitment tool; but it may not be the key to member retention. I hope that the drop-outs leave with a smile,and not with a grudge against us.

                   Maybe its time to resotore the balance of power to the Program VP, We can still create niches for those who want to excel (because you have to admit that, much fewer than 50% of us sing at a competitive level)...So don't let quality become the be-all-end-all for all of our members/chapters/Society.

                   I am leaning toward making our Conventions more like the first meeting at the Tulsa Club, and our contests more like the Olympics...highlighting various activities every four years. Like the Summer and Winter Olympics...we could have the Quartet and Chorus Conventions. And Chorus related Fun, and Quartet related Fun Convendtions on the off years (e.g. 1. Chorus contest - 2. Fun - 3. Quartet contest - 4. Fun) My first thoughts favor a four years cycle...but it could be a three year cycle or a two year cycle, We just need to make enoug room to allow plenty of time for fun. We could put Fun & Fellowship ahead of any other priority at the non-contest Conventions, and put Contests (slightly) ahead of Fun & Fellowship during the "contest" conventions. We could use the conventions to train Program VPs to conduct the kinds of meeting that will retain members by having demo meetings (in the hotel ballrooms) with open participation by attendees. This
                will still include training to improve our singing...it will just be balanced with activities that give its members "warm fuzzys" every week as well.

                    Districts Conventions should be restructured to provide Fun activities other than just competition. In fact, I believe we should drastically reduce the amount of time and emphasis we devote to competition (at all levels)...and restore "individual" involvement, as was the primnary focus of the first gathering in Tulsa, OK on April 22, 1938. Our current system gives "competitors" ample opportunities for "individual" warm fuzzies (they have: contests, shows, booths, afterglows, etc.). Why shouldn't Joe Barbershopper be given his fair share of that "fun, and satisfying acceptance."

                   We have become entrhalled with the excitement of our contests (and I luv 'em), and (IMHO) have managed to "cram" so much contest-related activit into "every" convention, so that its like running a marathon for audiences...and often chaotic backstage. Wouldn't it be nice to attend a convention where there was only a select few venues presented...and, you (as Joe Barbershopper) had seveeral choices of "fun" activities to choose from (to fulfill your individual "harmony fix"). If we had all of our Joe Barbershoppers "brainstorm" the type of activities a (non-competing) conventioneer would like to see; I'm sure there would be many "low cost" "high satisfaction" suggestions to look over (I know I ;could suggest a few).

                   Off the top of my head, here's a few convention ideas:

                 

                a. At the District Level:

                1.  a Chorus Contest in year one , Qualifying a small, a Medium and a Large Chorus Representative (with 2 years to prepare for International...is that too long?).

                2. In year two , a BHS & Youth Chorus event (with all District choruses participating with the Youth Choruses in demo concerts, Teaching classes,  and Joint choruses  with lots of fun things).en

                3. In year three , a Quartet Contest to Qualify for International (with two years for the Reps to raise money and to prepare) (BHS and Collegiate) Perhaps creating new venues (such as: Woodshedding, Quartet Brigade style, Comedy contest, etc.)

                4. In year four , a Parade of Quartets (focus on fun and making quartets available to sing with all conventioneers who want to sing with a good quartet) Tags, Woodshedding, Tag Quartets, etc. This might provide opportunities to perform free shows for local area groups/schools to pass out PR flyers and get media coverage..

                   After writing this part...I'm not sure these four suggestions are in the most efficient order to encourage participation...it may need some tweaking.

                At the International Leve (based on the above District format) :

                3. Convention with Chorus Contests (because there's a whole week, you could have, small, medium and large chorus contests) Keep the sessions as short as possible (don't cram in as much as you can...make it palatable) I guess the Youth Choruses should stay in the Mid Winter format.

                4. Convention with A Parade of choruses . Each District would put on a showcase of their talent (They can bring as many choruses as they want in any composition (What a great oportunity to get some of our smallest chapters to attend an Intenational as a group...there's more fun in numbers than if someone attended alone), ...quartets are allowed - but only to support a chorus performance). With a four day window,(Wed-Sat) Each District could probably have time for a two hour showcase (or Districts might combine for a show).

                5. (1. at District Level) Convention with Quartet Contests (This four day window might allow several genres of quartets (e.g. Comedy quartets, Woodshed Quartets, Quartet Brigade, Barbershop Quartet Presevation Association, etc .) Make a conscious effort to include all attendees (even those not in a quartet) to be invited/encouraged to sing.

                6.(2. at District Level) Convention with Parade of Quartets . Make it Fun! This might be a good time to seek performance opportunities in the local area. Free concerts(if they don't pay do we need to pay ASCAP/BMI?) just a Parade of a few quartets with a good emcee. Distribute PR handouts and solicit TV coverage.

                7. Start the cycle again.

                   The problem with this train of thought is; I fear that our leaders may be too entrenched in the current paradigm, to give much serious thought to such a dramatic (and potentially disruptive) concept. I must admit that, if I were a member of AOH, MOH, VM GNU ZERO8 or Westminster, I would be violently opposed to "rocking the boat" just to let some old farts sing bad barbershop (Boy!, that kinda throws a different light on it, doesn't it?). But, the Socierty...as it is today...is not as friendly, encouraging and fun, as it was when I joined in 1985. And I long for those old style chapters.

                   I don't feel that we need to worry so much about our "public" image...We need to look inward and decide if we want to preserve a brotherhood, or the musical style that brought us together?

                   I have seen the eyes of numerous "guests" light up with delight, as they are the center of attention, and asked to sing...at every break in the program. Then within weeks of their membership, they are pushed out of the limelight and left to fend for themselves (no more quarteting, no more pats on the back...not even a hello or where've you been). And by the end of the year, they are contemplating leaving the Society. Have you eveer felt that way? As you grow as old as I am now (75years), and your voice begins to show its age. Is this the kind of society you want to b elong to? The music brought us together, but the brotherhood transcends the music...and that is what will preserve our great hobby.

                 

                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]




                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • larry4lead@comcast.net
                .... Scott Zumbrum  wrote...... What about a Senior Chorus contest? Not unlike the Senior Quartet contest. We certainly should have a lot of potential
                Message 7 of 7 , Aug 7, 2012
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                  .... Scott Zumbrum  wrote......
                  What about a Senior Chorus contest? Not unlike the Senior Quartet contest. We certainly should have a lot of potential participants.
                  -------------------------------------
                  Scott,

                     Does that mean you're from F lorida too?
                     On the surface, I think it's a great idea....I just wonder about the stress of travel....and, some of us may not be able to stand for the whole set...Could we have risers with chairs?  

                     It'd be interesting to hear some suggested activities that could be staged right in the hotel ballrooms...such as:

                     Set up a "meeting Hall" with about 40 chairs. Then a viewing gallery around the sides for spectators. Have people sign up (with a set number of openings for eac h voice part)...non-competitors have priority  (so those who will appear on the contrest stage, have to give way to those who will not). Then, run a typical "guest Night,"

                  or a pick-up-quartet night, or singing games (post the theme, so the signees know what they're in for). Run it for two hours, then have an hour for n ew sign-ups, and start again.
                     Have a tag class (with sign-ups as above). After teaching a tag or two, the Program VP starts putting quartets together....coach the quartets on technique, and hopefully, have them sounding good enuf to hold a parade of quartets to end the class.  

                  "Jeez!" don't get me started again!

                  Larry the Legend

                  Larry Robinson

                  Lead, Heart of Florida Chorus

                  ----- Original Message -----


                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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