The first thing that made me smile about the Ontario District Leadership Academy was the camaraderie and genuine nature of the men attending the weekend. All were there to learn, have fun and sing, sing, sing. The food was great and the accommodations were good and the grounds were awesome. My facilitator was J.R. “Digger” MacDougall. As Digger put it, “Barbershop singing is the black belt of a capella singing.” We were introduced to the new logo and caption: Chapters helping Chapters…Discover the magic.
I was involved in the leadership track. We had seven one hour sessions that covered a varied array of topics. We never lost focus on our goal which was to become better leaders in our chapters. In my session, we had almost three hundred years of barbershop experience. We had eleven people in our learning track.
The two underlying ingredients we identified to maintain growth, cooperation and involvement are contained in the following:
* Men join groups because they seek to be worthy members of worthwhile organizations.
* Men seek to be sought.
An important point to consider is that we are a performance based arts organization. We must change the mind set from hobby and sing-out to performance and arts. Charities do not donate to hobbies; they donate to worthwhile arts and performance groups.
We spent an hour with Ingrid Whyte of Canadian Coalition for Music Education. She is in charge of Music Monday’s held the first Monday in May each year. She has invited us to make sure we are a part of it in our local schools. Her web-sites are www.weallneedmusic.ca and www.musicmondays.ca.
Men want to become part of an organization that moves forward and hold a good reputation with its members and the communities. We reinforced that the members need to know the vision and mission of the chapter. Committees of one do not help the chapter function properly and move forward. When it does come time to replace long standing individuals, it is important to make them a part of the succession plan. Each vacancy must have a succession plan to include smooth and seamless transitions. We discussed some people stay in office because others are afraid they may not be able to do as good of job as the predecessor. The succession plan helps alleviate the fears and allows the person leaving to hold the dignity of the position and their dignity on exit.
Coaching sessions including Joe Ceruti and James Estes were nothing short of amazing. Observing their techniques and passion were a self taught learning experience that will make me a better singer and performer. With a few short instructions, they were able to transform the Cross Canada Chorus from good to better. The subtle yet very important technical and emotional components of a song must be considered for every song. Is the song an arc where it builds to the middle and tapers off or is it a song that continues to build from the beginning to the end? What are the important words of the lyrics and are we emphasizing them for both technical and emotional benefit?
Meetings must cover the staples: Vision, Mission, Objectives, Goals and Tasks. Forward thinking chapters insure that they are a part of every meeting.
The five original American arts are: Jazz, Barbershop Harmony, Negro Spirituals, Cowboy Ballads and Gospel. Barbershop singing is a powerful force in the heritage of music. It is important to note this important state when it comes to requesting funds from levels of governments and foundations. Recognizing the importance of Barbershop singing and performing in the arts will make sure we invest our time and effort in requesting funds from organizations and foundations that share the same values as we do. When we research, research and research even more the organizations we want to align with, we increase our profile when approaching a foundation or organization for money. Being absolutely prepared before submission is a key. Chances of successful funding requesting are increased when we align our values with organizations that share the same. 85% of all donations are from individuals and small donor groups. It is that very statistic that illustrates the need to be prepared when submitting to larger organizations. You do not want to go through all kinds of time and effort and come up empty. As a last note, the chapter has to make sure it is a worthwhile project before applying.
Do not perform for free. It is very important that we do not perform for free. When performing for an organization that does not have sufficient funding, it may be appropriate to charge them and donate the same amount back. This will build a history for both fundraising and chapter reporting. As the history grows, so does the perception and reality of the activity of the involvement of the chapter.
When recruiting new members, we need to apply the same logic. Fun is an emotional and subjective statement made from the only frame of reference we know, ours. When recruiting, we must apply the same logic as we do for retention. If we stimulate our member’s interests, share their values, investigate their needs and enhance their self-esteem, we will have a winning combination. Men will want to stay a part of whatever it is they are doing when it addresses all of the above on one level or another. As leaders, we need to make sure we do not hold the mentality of a famous saying, “God has not taken a leave and given you the exclusive right to judge mankind on his behalf.” Translated, that means we need to stay in touch and a part of our members lives to insure we see the changes as they happen in order to be proactive and not reactive.
When we are in the community, our leaders need to help lead by example and share their passion for barbershop singing with anyone who will listen. By sharing our passion, we will increase awareness, revenue and the number of members in the chapter.
Last, but not least, was the show at the Orillia opera house. North Metro were amazing but more amazing were the Cross Canada Chorus. Tampa will have no idea what hit them three weeks from now when they perform.
I look forward to the opportunity to attend more weekends and sessions designed to build a better society.
Executive Vice-president for the Grimsby Knights of Harmony.