Start by taking one small step in the direction of helping young people

In the mid-1990's, Dave LeBar was visiting the Santa Cruz area. His host, Jerry Orloff, invited him to visit the Aptos High Choir along with Jerry's quartet, Mixed Metafour. Jerry asked me to come along to observe. I thought the high school students responded well when Dave taught a tag and that quartet visits to schools were a great way to reach youth. Years went by in Santa Cruz County after Dave's visit without any YIH activity. (Ed Bejarana was running the Youth Harmony Camp in Felton, but few students from SC County attended.)

In 2002, I convinced a quartet from Gold Standard to visit a few schools to introduce the sound of barbershop and teach some tags. We started with Aptos and Soquel High Schools. Our singers felt well rewarded but there were no tangible results.

In 2003, Gold Standard Chorus sent quartets into four schools. Access to additional schools was easy when we told them how well we were received at Aptos and Soquel Highs. We invited several schools to sing on our chapter show. Two said they would, one backed out the day before the show. Aptos High School choir sang.

By 2004 we were visiting four schools two times a year at the beginning of each semester. Two schools sang on our chapter show: Soquel and Monte Vista Christian. In 2004, one student from Aptos High attended Youth Harmony Camp in Pollock Pines.

By 2005, we were visiting five schools twice a year. Four schools sang on our annual show, which was now understood by all to be a "youth outreach show": Monte Vista Christian, Harbor, Aptos and Soquel. The same student from Aptos High attended YHC again. MV4, a HSQ from Monte Vista, sang on our show. This was the first HSQ to perform in Santa Cruz County in over 10 years!

In 2006, we visited eight high schools. Seven school choirs appeared in SING FOR YOUR LIFE 2006: Aptos, Georgiana Bruce Kirby Preparatory, Monte Vista Christian, Monterey Bay Academy, Pacific Collegiate, San Lorenzo Valley, and Soquel. A separate chapter show was added in the summer which appeased those who felt that our youth outreach show had hijacked our chapter show. All members of the chorus took pride in the success of our youth outreach show, most of them working on the show production team. MV4 competed in Reno, placing fourth out of seven. Three students attended YHC, two from Soquel, one from Scotts Valley. Two HS quartets sang on our show: In His Name (Monterey Bay Academy) and Input (Soquel). Input hopes to compete in Reno this year. Input joined BHS at student rate. There is now quartet activity, both male and female, at four high schools.

From the first show in 2003, the high schools have been asked to sing what they sing best, told that Gold Standard would prefer four-part harmony, a cappella, and piano accompaniment, in that order. Most schools have been performing with piano accompaniment, a few a cappella, a few both; no HS chorus has sung four-part harmony on our show yet. The student singers sit in the audience when not performing and get to hear our chorus and guest quartets sing barbershop. For the last three years UnderAge has been our headline guest quartet. NOTHING sells barbershop to teenagers better than seeing their peers doing it well. The schools have received about 80% of the value of each ticket that they sell for the use of their music departments. In 2006, GSC distributed $3,880 among the seven participating schools.

Our chorus director, Jim Davis, is VERY supportive of youth outreach. He sings lead with the school visit quartet. He is currently coaching Input. He went into the schools prior to our last show to direct the finale. The president of our chapter, Pat Lanphier, and president elect, Dan Jett, also sing in the school visit quartet. (Over the past five years, our YIH program has had the support of all of our chorus directors: Jerry Paul, Jim Stroupe, Duane King, John Hazen and Todd Troutman - all sang in school visit quartets.

Summary: You don't have to set out to be a cathedral builder. If you take one small step in the direction of helping young people, the cathedral will almost build itself. Our first step (strategy) was a quartet visit to a high school. I believe that none of the activity reported above - schools singing on our show, students attending camp, students forming quartets, students competing in Reno, students joining BHS - would have occurred if Gold Standard Chorus had not taken that first small step.

There's no reason that your chapter cannot replicate the Gold Standard YIH program. There are other models of excellent YIH programs going on in Placerville (Ron Murray) and Sacramento (Norm Smith). I'm sure that every chapter YIH officer would be happy to share strategies that work.

—Lawrence Stern
Gold Standard Chorus Publicity/YIH