Inside the North American barbershop world there are four major organizations that represent a community of avid fans, performers, coaches, arrangers, directors, and judges: Harmony, Inc., Sweet Adelines International, Mixed Barbershop Association, and Barbershop Harmony Society. Beyond this continent there are affiliates and other organizations around the globe. Each organization offers their own personality through barbershop, so who is Harmony, Inc. and where does it fit in to the larger community?
In 1957, the only organization for women was Sweet Adelines International, but there was growing concern for some over policies and procedures for the organization, among them how the membership was represented, how the Board was nominated, when an international contest could form, and divisive opinions on racial inclusion. In 1958, the Melody Belles of Providence, Rhode Island took a risk and withdrew membership from Sweet Adelines, with several other New England area choruses quickly following suit.
Out of these controversies, 5 chapters and about 150 women founded Harmony, Incorporated in 1958, officially recognized as a corporation in February 1959. The motto of this new organization was set and continues to be “A Blend of Friendship” with a mission of empowering all women through education, friendship, and singing. 63 years later, Harmony, Inc. has 65 chapters and 2000 members spread over six Areas, largely concentrated in the eastern United States, ever expanding westward.
So, what makes Harmony, Inc so unique? Here are just a few things the history books can’t quite convey…
Unwavering Support for All
The barbershop community is generally a super friendly place, but Harmony, Inc. cranks it up a notch. No competitor at any level leaves the stage without roaring applause. Applause continues when the competitors exit the stage and enter the ballroom. When one singer, quartet, or chorus excels, the whole organization takes it as a win. Whether you’ve been a part of the organization for 5 days or 50 years, the Harmony, Inc. family can’t wait to be your biggest cheerleader.
Taking the Art Seriously Without Taking Yourself Seriously
Members of Harmony, Inc. work hard to improve their barbershop skills. Long hours of rehearsals and coachings. Spending evenings and long drives with your learning tracks. Sectionals. Meetings. Choreo. Package planning. Interpretation. Adjusting cents to lock and ring. Barbershop is a process. But, the women of Harmony, Inc. also know that this hobby is about the fun and friendship as much as anything else. Don’t be surprised if you see the same women that slay on stage reappear later that day in full commitment for a silly theme party in pajamas, superhero costumes, or a hoedown. And often it’s the top leadership or celebrated queens that get the most into the fun!
Commitment to the Cause
Harmony, Inc. is managed almost entirely by volunteers. Hundreds of women take the reins at the chapter, area, and international level and donate countless hours to making it all happen. Everyone steps up because they love it and they want to provide a place where all women can find value and support.
One Voice, One Vote
When you join Harmony, Inc. your vote matters just as much as the woman next to you. All members are involved in nominations and elections at every level, and no one’s vote is weighed heavier than another’s.
Curious to learn more? There’s a book for that! Check out Young In Heart: Harmony’s 50th Anniversary Yearbook. Even better, join in the fun at IC&C either in-person or online – the magic in the air is palpable!