“Did you read the article by the researcher SAI brought in to study membership?” Barbara Parga, my friend who brought me to SFJ, asked me. After confessing that I had not, she offered to send it to me, “It’s really good.” I must agree, and wanted to share with you some of the points that she made about valuing members. I felt like she was describing SFJ 2019.
Marsha Rhea is an expert and facilitator for non-profit organizations working to build compelling organizational visions and strategic plans. She attended our competition in St. Louis, offering some interesting insight about her experience in the November issue of BarbershopNOW.
In her article, “Attuned to become More Human Humans,” Rhea wrote, “Associations, which are distinctly in the business of connecting humans, should be an example of how to enhance the human experience through everyday work and interactions…empathy, kindness and generosity can thrive even in the midst of intensely serious competition.”
This brought a distinct connection with my experience with SFJ at rehearsals, performances, social gatherings, and, of course, competition. We joke that a Sweet Adeline Competition is unique because it is the only place where everyone cheers for each other. We hear all choruses cheering the one onstage when it is performing its seven minute set. And we cheer raucously once we are members of the audience. Rhea noticed this, relating how she was speaking with a member of Scottsdale, the eventual winners, who was wearing a bracelet honoring Harborlites, who came in second. We all understand the work and love that it takes to get on that stage, and are happy to cheer on our competitors.
But Rhea’s greater point was about how she noted that members valued each generation. She wrote, “What brought me near to tears occurred when the stage lights came up on a chorus and I saw an elderly woman standing on the risers with her walker singing her heart out while more physically agile performers upfront danced through gymnastic moves. I saw another chorus include a woman on a scooter onstage. No wonder it took so long to recognize all the 50- and 60-year members that I had time to slip out to get lunch and still caught most of this recognition ceremony.”
This is where we are in SFJ. We are enjoying the growth of membership as we welcome many younger members in our chorus. It is giving us all renewed energy, a new look, and a strong sound. Meanwhile, we all see the care and concern given on a weekly basis to those of us who are older members or are members who are ill. I am so appreciative that those around me offer a helping hand when I need help to get up and down the risers. While we have the bright, young faces standing throughout our chorus, we also have bright, older faces who are helped to the stage using canes or hands offered by others. And I don’t want to miss those in the middle group, whose talents are needed the most, training the young members in the way of Barbershop, and assisting those of us who have joined the “older” group. But when it’s time to make music, all of the faces shine equally as we ring those chords and remember that “Champions are made at the end of the phrase.”
All eyes are on James, now more than ever, as he leads us through our paces. His energy and creativity make all rehearsals enjoyable; his knowledge and incredible ear have improved the singing of each one of us individually, and the chorus. I was so proud at our John Knox performance when he felt we were strong enough in our songs that he could go to the side and let us take it on our own!
SFJ is emblematic of the chorus that Marsha Rhea described. She encourages “the gift of celebrating a multigenerational culture at its best…valuing the wisdom and vulnerability of elders nurturing and reassuring younger members through life’s inevitable ups and downs.”
This is South Florida Jubilee, 2019.