A few years ago, I was at standing at the door of my rehearsal hall and John Williams’ “Imperial March” was playing in my head. Or maybe it was Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” Either way, I had a sense of either total victory (Williams) or certain doom (Barber) since this was my chapter’s first attempt of a guest night in a long, long time. As the Membership guy for that chapter, I constantly badgered the Board to do something, anything, everything, to announce our presence in the community and search for new members. I was told by the more senior guys that we were a small chapter, in a small city, with a limited number of candidates and any possible “new” members just didn’t exist in the area.
But I was determined, and persistent. So we picked a date, mailed out announcements, hung flyers, got as much free advertisement as possible, and planned for a guest night to end all guest nights! And the day came.
AND IT WAS GLORIOUS! The parking lot was filling with cars and guys were walking into the hall two at a time. We had to set another row of risers. The limited number of guest books was quickly depleted, so we asked guys to share. Suddenly my 18-man chorus now had 38 men on the risers, and we were all diving into a new piece of music. And I was victorious. Imperial March it was.
Then reality set in. A lot of those “new” guys looked pretty familiar. Most of them knew the standard vocal warm-up process, all of them knew how to follow the director, (weird), and then it dawned on me. Most of those 15 or so new guys were actually the other small chapter about 50 miles from us. I learned later on in the evening that the other chapter had heard about our guest night and car pooled in to help celebrate the event. Was I disappointed that we didn’t have 15 possible new members for our chapter? Sure, a little. But by the end of the evening, when the massed sound of a 38-man chorus was really cooking and the tag contest went on well past our normal end time, I realized that this was what barbershop was all about. Community, fellowship, singing, and joy.
At our next regular rehearsal, we actually had three new guys in attendance based on the good time they had the previous week. While it was difficult to explain to them why we really weren’t a 38-man chorus, they were cool with that and advised they were just impressed with the music, the singing, and the overall welcome they received as complete strangers. That was wonderful to hear. To this date, two of them are still members of the Society and valued members of the chapter.
So, if you’re the Membership dude for your chapter or a guy who just wants his chapter to grow, I offer this advice. Be persistent and positive. Ask your chapter Board to host that guest night. Join in the planning, organization, and operation of the event. And at the end of the day whether you gain 15 new members or just two, be the positive voice for your chapter, your music, and all that it has to offer.