Keeping Smaller Chapters Going

        (and Larger Ones Too)



In our Society, larger Chapters seem to be thriving but smaller Chapters seem to have a harder time of it.  Why is that?  Well, a loss of a few members especially key members can devastate a small chapter.  The question is, how do small Chapter get and keep members?  First we have to recognize that people are different and find different thing satisfying enough for them to stay in the Chapter.  Some people prefer one thing and some another.  When enough of one’s preferences are not met by a Chapter, they leave and we lose members. 


There are 2 ways to deal with these different preferences people have.  One is for each man to find a Chapter that emphasizes what he wants.  This works well for Chapters in large metropolitan areas as there are usually different Chapters within reasonable driving distances.  But for those of us that are in more rural areas, that choice is frequently not available.  So what do smaller Chapters do?  Obviously, we try to please everybody.  But that’s a challenging task.


We talk a lot about making barbershop “fun”.  That will keep a man coming - if he is having fun.  And of course that is true!  But let’s look into what “fun” really means.  There are at least “4 different components of fun” that barbershoppers have.  Two of them almost every Chapter does (#2 & 3 listed below), but the challenge is to be sure #1 & #4 are taken care of.  Here’s the four components of barbershop fun:

1. Socializing:

1a. Social activities (usually with the men’s

                                                                    “Significant Other” involved)

1b. Joking, and fooling around among ourselves

2. Singing itself is fun.

3. Performing for others.

4. Improving our musical skills.

I think the word “fun” is a bit misleading.  I like the word “satisfaction” rather than “fun”. I think our emphasis should be on “satisfaction” rather than “Fun”.  “Fun” to most men means fooling around whereas “satisfaction” is a more inclusive word.  Working hard at something when we see definite results is “satisfying” but we generally don’t think of “work” as “fun”.  Don’t get me wrong!   A certain amount of joking is great.  Certain people like it more than others.  But others take a more serious approach to the musical challenges of singing well.


Smaller Chapters need to be sure they are providing some of each of the 4 components listed above (socializing, singing itself, performing and improving) to keep all types of men happy.  Different men are more interested in one component than another.  For some socializing is quite important.  For others improving their musical skills is more important.

Larger Chapter may be able to eliminate fooling around and still thrive but smaller Chapter do it at their own peril.  Socializing at break time, and social events like picnics, ladies night and barbershop camping are very useful in component #1. Certain social events do take a solid amount of administrative effort but is worth it.  Categories #2 & #3 (Singing & Performing) are the core of what barbershop is all about and each Chapter usually takes care of them.  However it’s possible that some Chapter can concentrate on Competition and neglect performing in the community.  Performing in the community is a important way pf getting new members, as few men are interested in joining a group that they don’t know something about.


Smaller Chapters usually have a more serious problem with category #4 - “Improving musical skills”.  When improving musical skills is ignored, the more serious singers tend to leave.  They don’t think it’s worth their time.  Improving musical skills is different from simply learning and performing songs (#2 & #3).  Improving musical skills (#4) includes improving our music reading skills, developing better tone production and developing better expression in our singing as well as learning to communicate better visually. These things are a real challenge for smaller Chapters as they don’t usually have thoroughly skilled people available to truly help in these areas.  Even well trained musicians probably have not developed a solid approach to teaching music reading or have been well trained in assisting a person with poor tone quality and helping him to develop good tone quality.  And what about a chorus director who is not a well trained musician but is the best a Chapter can find to direct and lead?


For developing musical skills, there are a multitude of books and internet helps in each of these musical skills areas. As a Society we offer a great many excellent books and on-line helps.  And forgive me for putting in a plug for my website that I wrote especially for barbershoppers - which deals with some of these skills.  Unfortunately director often don’t find the time to pursue these various aids.  They often have a full time job and it’s about all they can do to complete their directing tasks.  Some may not even know how to find these aids.  Harmony University is a wonderful week of musical skill development as are our District learning weekends.  But even our great Harmony University only makes a dent in what some Directors need.  Of course we need to encourage Directors to take advantage of these helps but true development takes a lot of effort.


Sometimes the Chapters expect the Director to do everything and of course some Directors feel they want to do it all and discourage any help.  That’s not good but unfortunately often goes along with common Director personalities.  Directors need to realize that few Directors have the competence to deal effectively with all the musical skills development  areas that the Chapter needs  But Chapter leadership can support the Director with a good music team and take some of the load off the Director if he (or she) is willing.  One person can study up on teaching music reading, another on tone production and tone quality and another on the visual aspects of communication etc.  Making musical skill development a team effort is a way to help.  As we said, there are lots of musical skill development helps available.  It’s just a matter of using them.  There also may be teachers in the area that can help the music team member or Director in specific areas.  The key is the leadership’s attitudes.  Probably when a Chapter is getting a new Director the Chapter should make it clear that they don’t expect the Director to know and do everything and help in analyzing what the Director feels are their strengths and weaknesses.


Meeting the “4 Components of Satisfaction” needs is a challenge.  As we said, “Singing and Performing” are almost always met as they are the core of what we do.  But “Social Needs” can be neglected.  More significantly the “Development of Musical Skills” is the most challenging and often the most neglected.  This is so essential in attracting and keeping serious singers and those serious singers are often people a small Chapter really needs.    We all know singers in our community that could join us and help us, but unless we make our Chapter Meetings attractive to them we can’t take advantage of their abilities.  So we  need to provide for the needs of various singers so all can find satisfaction in our Chapter.  That will keep our Chapters thriving..  The math does not allow it.  To me, this is the most interesting aspect of Acoustics,  but there are other aspects related to

                           If you have any confusions or suggestions,

                    click on my E-mail address to send me a message.


                                   Click here to Return to  HomePage