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Posted on: Monday - Jul 13, 2015

Everyone knows Nashville as “Music City.” That famous moniker undoubtedly conjures up the sounds of country music or maybe even gospel, bluegrass, classical or rock for which the city is renowned. But did you know those sounds also include the four-part a capella harmonies of barbershop music?

The international headquarters of The Barbershop Harmony Society are located in downtown Nashville just steps away from the city’s most famous musical venues. Relocating from Kenosha, Wisconsin in 2007, the organization chose Nashville as part of a strategic plan to gain direct access to the city’s legendary music industry and its strong pool of educated professional staff. 

“We were fortunate to secure prime real estate in the former McQuiddy Printing facility on Seventh Avenue, and it has proven to be a wonderful destination for our 23,000 members and 80,000 barbershop singers worldwide,” explained Brian Lynch of The Barbershop Harmony Society.  “Barbershoppers, high school and college choirs touring Nashville love to stop by to sing and share music with us.”

Founded by Owen C. Cash in 1938, The Barbershop Harmony Society is the first of its kind to promote and preserve barbershop music as an art form, bringing men together in harmony and fellowship through singing. The organization quickly grew from its humble beginnings and now includes 800 chapters across the U.S. and Canada. 

“This is the best time to barbershop in the last 25 years,” Lynch declared. “The enthusiasm of the organization and the drive and sense of mission we have is just unlike anything I've ever seen.”

Part of that drive and mission stems from The Barbershop Harmony Society’s dedication to vocal music education.  Chapters around the world are leaders in the musical lives of their communities and have formed alliances with school choral groups, music educators and other organizations.

“The education community in Nashville has welcomed us, and we are building partnerships with folks at Vanderbilt, Middle Tennessee State University, and Belmont, which last year debuted as the new home for our week-long Harmony University event,” said Lynch.  “That smashing success has led to a sell-out event of more than 700 students and faculty for this year's event, July 26-August 2, 2015!”

In addition to coordinating musical education programs like Harmony University and other conferences, festivals and events, the organization has published a library of 8,000 titles arranged in barbershop harmony and also provides an important channel for lifelong singing and camaraderie. 

“There's always a place to find someone to sing,” Lynch noted.  “That continuity and breadth of what we do is our unique offering. You're among family when you're among barbershopers.”

The Barbershop Harmony Society is not satisfied, however, with its already impressive list of accomplishments.  They have big plans for the future. 

When Executive Director/CEO Marty Monson came on board three years ago, he challenged the organization to become more relevant to the world, outside of just the barbershop community.  This charge has translated itself into a real mission of ongoing service and mentorship. 

The organization is developing a solid curriculum that provides community education and mentorship for all their barbershop chapters “to fill a need in the world and provide a fulfillment of our own desire to be a little bit bigger than just a singing organization but somewhat of a social service organization,” explained Lynch.

This exciting new service concept will surely be front and center next year when more than 5,000 vocal musicians come to Nashville for The Barbershop Harmony Society’s annual international convention on July 3-10, 2016, followed by Harmony University July 24-30, 2016.    

“We intend to make the entire month of July 2016 an endless celebration of harmony, starting with the convention and continuing through Harmony University,” Lynch said.  “This is going to be BIG.”

Please visit The Barbershop Harmony Society’s website for more information and its YouTube page for highlights and performances from this year’s international convention.