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Youth Enrichment Program---Pt. 4 1/2---clarification

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  • Montana Jack Fitzpatrick
    I am getting notes from folks, many who have not bothered to read our prior postings, making certain that I understand the rules for this or that contest and
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 2, 2009
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      I am getting notes from folks, many who have not bothered to read our prior postings, making certain that I understand the rules for this or that contest and that some members of the Millennial generation are too old to compete in the College quartet contest.

      So let's be specific (again):

      1. The focus of our bilateral program is HIGH SCHOOL AGE YOUTH.

      2. The Millennial group referred to earlier is one of the four generational groups alive and active in our society today. They range in age from (approx) 6 to 28 years.
      This group APPEARS to exhibit behavioral and attitudinal characteristics that would lead us to believe that they would be a fertile ground in which we might recruit members. ALL MEMBERS OF THIS GROUP ARE NOT, NOT, NOT YOUTH.

      3. NOTHING in our announced program has anything to do with COMPETITION. Therefore, we are not publishing all the rules to every level and type of contest. If anyone desires to compete, he or she should check the rules themselves.

      Hope this clarifies things (again).


      Montana Jack, keeping the faith and keeping it barbershop

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    • Russ Squires
      Hey Jack and everyone out there, I don t get on the Harmonet much any more, but I saw this thread and was intrigued. First off, I really want to applaud your
      Message 2 of 2 , Dec 2, 2009
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        Hey Jack and everyone out there,

        I don't get on the Harmonet much any more, but I
        saw this thread and was intrigued. First off, I really want to applaud
        your efforts to push this forward Jack. As the "behind the scenes" guy who
        started both the Westminster Chorus and the Youth Chorus Festival
        (along with helping the guys who started several of the current Youth
        Choruses out there), I have a unique perspective on a lot of what you
        are proposing. At just 34 I have been in semi-retirement mode the last two years
        focusing on my wife and two little kids after having given up so much
        of my life from 1992 to 2008 to barbershop, but trying to keep tabs on
        things while staying in the background for a change. I guess now that I
        am no longer active with Westminster or on the Society Youth Activities
        Committee, I will share my own opinions, and state that they are just
        that, my own. It does amazes me everyday the explosion
        occurring around the country with young people joining our ranks. I
        believe it is because they found what we did in starting Westminster,
        it is a blast
        to sing with other guys your own age, period. Knowing that, let me
        share some ideas with
        you, both answers to your questions, and some other thoughts on the
        Youth movement ....

        1. I understand your view of the generational issues Jack, and I do agree to
        some extent, but my personal opinion is that it has to do with actual
        age and "time of life" rather than generations. I think you will find
        guys more likely to sing with guys that are close to their age, but
        across some mythical generation barrier, than someone in their
        generation that may be 20 years older than them. Although I am Generation X, we had a pretty significant split of X's and Y's among
        the guys who started Westminster. I totally respect the research you
        have done, and perhaps the Millenial generation can be approached in a
        specific manner as you have suggested with great success. I am not in
        any way suggesting that the generational issues are not important to
        understand, but I don't think we should get caught up in over thinking
        how we approach recruiting young people. and my next, and probably
        biggest point will tell you why.

        2. This may sound bad, but I
        don't care what anybody says, my experience tells me with young people it's not about the
        music, it's about the fraternity. Westminster was started that way, and continues to thrive today far
        beyond my wildest dreams, even with massive
        turnover in membership from guys moving away, because guys want to bring their friends, their
        peers that are close their age, out to have a good time with other guys
        that love to sing. Making great music is absolutely important, but
        finding a home for all the young guys out their that love to sing, is
        WAY more important. Most "older" chapters today have the majority of
        their membership in the same age range, give or take say 15-20 years.
        That is why young choruses work, because the guys feel more comfortable
        having fun with their peers. Yes, many young guys start in barbershop
        in one of those "older" chapters and find the love of it, I was one who
        did almost 18 years ago now in HS, but that is not the norm. Instead so
        many young guys sing in HS, and then find themselves on the outs the
        minute they leave. They are not going to pursue a music degree in
        college, so they just let their singing go. They don't have an outlet
        to continue their love of music with their friends. In my opinion, that
        is the single biggest target audience we should have, not the guys
        still in HS, but guys who are just finished with HS, and guys that just
        finished college and don't have anyplace to continue singing. This
        coincides directly with the goal of going into the schools. Go to the
        local HS and College music programs, promote barbershop in a positive
        light, but before you leave make sure you ask for a list of recent
        graduates, it's a no-brainer. Chances are many teachers may be wary of
        having their current students time taken up with outside programs, but
        I guarantee they will support seeing their former students continue on
        with music! If those kids moved out of town to go to school, don't just
        drop them, do your part and find out if their is a chapter in the area
        they moved to that you can hook them up with. (Side note: another great
        target is guys who have "aged out" of boys choirs)

        This next thought will be controversial with some, especially the older
        generations, but I actually don't think that the word "Barbershop"
        needs to be used in promoting these Youth Choruses. PLEASE don't get upset by that, it's not a negative
        thing, it's got nothing to do with the music at all, it's just a fact
        of life with young people. The problem with the word "barbershop" is
        completely the stigma attached to it, not the music. The minute a guy
        shows up that loves to sing, they will sing barbershop songs and become
        addicted to the style. The people out their that think that young
        people won't sing the old songs, that they need new "doo-woppy" music
        have never sung with young people. Sure, guys like variety, who
        doesn't, but I have yet to meet a young guy that didn't want to sing in
        a group of other guys his own age that love to sing too because of song
        selection . Although I can't tell you what happens in rehearsal today,
        up until I "retired" all of Westminster's rehearsals were started with
        polecats so that every guy would get to learn and love them. Guys will love the Barbershop music, but I guarantee you get more young people in the door
        calling it an "Acapella" group, or a young men's chorus, than you do
        putting the word Barbershop in the title.

        the first two points together, here is the big idea I have had
        for a while, but just have not had the time to pursue; I think we
        should actually create a music fraternity called "Beta Eta Theta"
        (approximately BHS in greek), and have the new youth choruses as
        chapters of that fraternity, and that fraternity as a formal offshoot
        of BHS. Take that to the next level, how about making this the area
        that BHS and SAI finally work together on? (By the way, I think this entire email
        could be used in the women's organizations just as much as the men's.)
        Yes, I know all the politics
        between the organizations that go back many years. Yes, they are
        damaging, but isn't growing our art form more important that the crap
        from the past? Why not create a girls Sorority (Sigma Alpha something or other,can't remember my greek for the letter I right now), and have
        BHS and SAI work together to grow them. I have to be honest that I am
        puzzled why more young girl choruses have not shown up. The percentage
        of young girls that sing in HS and College, to guys is much higher.
        Knowing that, and that at this age guys and girls kind of like being
        around each other (shocker I know), could we all use this to our
        advantage? Yes, still have male choruses and female choruses that are
        separate, but that can also do things together. Why not have one major
        Youth Fraternity/Sorority Chorus
        competition every year that involves both? Why not create an
        organization that is governed by SAI/BHS/HI that works to both raise
        money and run the thing TOGETHER! Should we hold it up for
        politics? Should we hold this up because we can't figure out the best
        way to "judge" the contest? I don't think so. There are a million reasons why this would

        ...and probably the biggest one why it wouldn't other than politics at
        the "national" level, is local chapters being "afraid" of this Youth
        movement. No finger pointing here, but I know of several people that
        tried to start young choruses, but the local "big shot" chorus would
        not let them. They were afraid that the new groups would take their
        young members away so they squashed the groups before they were even
        able to start (both guy and girl groups). That is just ridiculous! Talk
        to the Masters of Harmony, talk to Denver Mile High, talk to the Toronto Northern Lights,
        they will all tell you that their local Youth
        Choruses have been a HUGE blessing, feeding young people into their
        choruses rather than taking them away. Heck even the Harborlites
        benefited from Westminster because of girls who were friends with the
        guys in the chorus falling in love with Barbershop, and looking for
        places they could participate!!! Please get over the fear, and
        open the doors to bringing more and more young people into our hobby!!!

        As to the actual set up and running of the chorus itself, I think the
        key to starting a "successful" Youth chorus is having 3 types of guys.
        I know that sounds odd, but I can justify it:

        A. First, you
        need a young "face" guy. This is the guy that just naturally has an
        ability to make friends and get people in the door. In the case of
        Westminster, that guy was Sean Devine. When I had the idea to start the
        chorus, he was literally my first call. He was new to So-Cal, but it
        was clear that all the young guys wanted to be around him, and he just
        drew people to him. When we won in 2006, I think he had literally recruited
        either directly or through friends, probably 40 of the 56 guys that
        were on the risers. The guy doesn't have to be a super star singer,
        just someone who makes everyone around him feel welcome, and want to
        come back and bring their friends.

        B. The second guy is the "music" guy. This is the guy who can
        lead the chorus musically. He doesn't have to be the director, and he
        doesn't have to be young, but he just has to be able to guide the
        musical choices, understanding the abilities of the group, and picking
        music that is appropriate. I have seen too many of these new young
        groups both quartet and chorus, trying pieces of music WAY over their
        heads. It is much more fun to ring a polecat, than to sing a David
        Wright arrangement and murder it. (Trust me, I have done both!) Also,
        if he isn't young, he needs to be willing to let the young guys have
        their say, and provide guidance, not mandates.

        C. The
        third and final is the "behind the scenes" guy. This is the guy that
        does 99% of the "real" work to make the chorus go, and is happy to do
        it. He recognizes that the chorus needs him to do the work, but that
        when it comes to getting the recognition, it may not come. This is
        really hard to find among young guys. I use the example of Sean and me
        to show my own personal folly. When I started the group I was 26 and
        although my motives for starting Westminster were right on, I quickly
        found myself wanting this chorus to bring me some sort of barbershop
        "stardom". I had already sung in the Masters of Harmony for about 5
        years and won a gold medal,
        but I wasn't the star at all. I badly wanted the spotlight and that
        desire almost killed Westminster. Ego clashes among the young guys may
        trivial, but they are very, VERY real. Young guys naturally want to be
        stars, and not everyone can be. Today, I would call Sean one of my
        close friends, but early on we had to be pulled apart a few times from
        wanting to kill each other. It wasn't
        until we realized that it was about something bigger
        than the individuals, that we were able to take Westminster to the top.
        That is why this is actually the perfect role for an older guy from a
        local chapter to take on. If a guy can be happy seeing his hobby (or
        "passion" for many of us) grow with new young blood, and be willing to put in the endless hours to help guide, but not dictate how things should be, it will absolutely
        work best. Up until just a year or two ago we had one of the guys from
        the "old" Westminster Chapter on our Board. He was incredibly valuable
        to us with his insight. A youth chorus badly needs someone to take on
        this role, as most of the young guys can't keep their heads straight
        beyond showing up, but it has to be someone who has a servants heart!

        My final point may sound a
        little preachy from a mere 34 year old, but I think people need to just get off
        their butts and do something. I totally respect and understand why Jack
        is offering prizes and incentives, those are always nice. However, in
        my opinion we talk constantly about wanting the youth movement to explode, but it
        shouldn't be about awards or recognition, it should be about saving
        this hobby we love and finding a musical home for young people that
        don't have one. No one knows this from personal experience more
        than me. Further, let's not forget, you have help! I can't tell you how
        awesome James Estes and Rick Spencer are at the Society level when it
        comes to Youth. I know perception in the past was that Headquarters
        didn't get it, that they didn't understand what it takes, but that is
        long in the past. These guys are dead on in their ideas and are a huge
        reason for the success we have started to have, but they can't do it
        alone. Further, the Harmony Foundation is working their collective
        behinds off to raise the money we need to make these Youth Programs a
        success. (Not to toot his horn too much, but the Harmony Foundation
        made an amazing choice in bringing Sean on. I have met few people that have dedicated themselves to
        this hobby as much as him, and having someone who understands
        completely the Youth movement as he does, represent the Foundation was
        an awesome choice by Clarke and his team.) Listen, lots of people talk
        about this Youth stuff, but how many are actually doing something about
        it? James, Rick, Sean, and Jack are, but are you all out their in Harmonet-land? Let's take
        that to the next level, I want to straight up challenge any of
        the young guys or girls out there that may read this. Not to offend
        anyone, but the young people in our hobby are as smart
        and talented, as a group, as the young people that are part of any
        organization, so we need to stop coddling them and push them to help out
        as well. You "youth" have found this great musical art form that I was
        privileged to find as a 16 year old in HS. At age 21 I went to the
        first ever FWD Youth Harmony Camp. At age 22 I
        came back to the second one and handed the late great Lloyd Steinkamp,
        and former FWD President John Krizek a written plan for starting a
        Youth Chorus. It took me four more years to get Westminster started, but
        it happened because I wanted more than anything to have a place where
        my friends could find the love of barbershop I had. It has changed my
        life dramatically over the last 18 years and the lives of so many of my
        friends. It is now YOUR responsibility to introduce this world to your
        friends. I promise you if you put yourself out there, and give what you
        can to create a Youth Fraternity/Chorus in your area, it will be one of
        the most rewarding experiences of your life. You may not win the Youth
        Chorus Contest (or District or International or anything for that
        matter), you may not end up a "super star", heck your chorus may never
        even get off the ground, but I promise if you put your heart into this
        effort, you will find great rewards. Finding other young people that
        love to sing, and bringing them together to make music is special
        period. Don't let your desire to be "famous" in our little world of
        barbershop get in front of what is important, saving our style, making
        friendships that will last a lifetime and music that will impact
        people. That is what happened in Westminster, that is what is happening
        with many of the new Youth Choruses, and that is why this whole
        movement can and will succeed!

        Wow, that was much more than I thought I would write. I certainly hope
        my thoughts don't offend people as I know some may have been worded
        strongly. I am prepared for the flames that may come but I really do hope that these thoughts help.
        There is no doubt in my mind if we get off our collective behinds and
        work together we can see the explosive growth of barbershop we all
        dream of.

        Now off to pick up my three year old from pre-school.....

        All the best,
        Russ Squires

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