The Barbershop Harmony Society believes that what we offer — the experience of singing together in harmony — is meaningful to all people, and should therefore be accessible to people in all combinations. 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.
Today, we are thrilled to announce our next step in the realization of that vision.
Effective immediately, membership in the Barbershop Harmony Society is open to EVERYONE. Beginning today, we welcome women to join the Barbershop Harmony Society as members.
Everyone means EVERYONE — people of every age, of every background, every gender identity, every race, every sexual orientation, every political opinion or spiritual belief. Every person who loves to harmonize has a place in our family.
Your barbershop experience will always be yours to choose.
Your participation — as a chorus singer, quartetter, leader, musician, fan — is what you choose to make of it. Ultimately, we want to ensure that every person who loves barbershop will be able to forge a path into the barbershop world in a personal, devoted, continuing way.
While Society membership for everyone becomes immediately available, district and chapter membership for women will be available beginning January 2019. In the coming months, we’ll be developing and sharing materials that will help BHS chapters choose among many options. A chapter can choose to stay exactly the same as they are today. A chapter might choose to add a mixed chorus, or a new, distinct women’s chorus. New chapters might form — male, female, or mixed. This is about adding, not subtracting. More people, sharing more harmony, and more joy, in more ways.
We believe that preserving the experience of men singing together AND welcoming women as members of the Barbershop Harmony Society are compatible ideas.
Everyone in Harmony suggests that different participation options, much like the different voices of a barbershop quartet, are not in opposition but entirely necessary. In this way, we remain an organization that supports brotherhood and men singing together while also providing opportunities for everyone to experience harmony, barbershop music, and the benefits of group singing.
For decades, women have been deeply engaged in the Barbershop Harmony Society as directors, coaches, and as students and faculty at Harmony University. Women have directed choruses onstage in contests since 1994. In 2009, the Society began offering Associate status as a means for women to become more deeply a part of the Society, while maintaining a male-only membership model. With our Strategic Vision focused on Everyone in Harmony, we now can support many kinds of barbershop activities — men’s, women’s, mixed — in many different ways.
The Barbershop Harmony Society will continue to provide all of the services it has offered up to this point, and will expand those offerings as new resources become available. There will be no immediate changes to our current International contests for men’s quartets and choruses, or to the current Next Generation Barbershop festivals. We will continue to publish music for men’s, women’s, and mixed voices and teach the art and craft of barbershop harmony at our events and online.
Everyone in Harmony means living your best barbershop life, the way YOU want to live it.
The last decade has seen the emergence of new ways to participate beyond “membership,” from Harmony Platoons to online communities of multi-trackers, and that barely scratches the surface of possibilities. Our aim is to expand opportunities, expand relationships, expand ways to have fun singing together that may or may not involve a membership card.
In the coming weeks and months, you will start seeing updated language in our Society governing documents, on our website, and in our regular communications. Specific information about chapter and district membership options, women’s and mixed quartet registration, and expanded services is being developed, so you can expect a series of updates throughout the remainder of the year via email, in the Harmonizer, and on our website.
The Board of Directors and the BHS staff leadership are committed to supporting the many ways that everyone can enjoy a full, enriching barbershop life. Together, we will live our vision of Everyone in Harmony.