What Directors say about HCNW...

Lucy Heinkel, Director,
Rolling Hills Chorus

Chorus Coaching:
West Sound Chorus


One of the great educational opportunities of the year is Harmony College Northwest, held annually in June in Tacoma. Chorus directors dutifully mark HCNW dates every year on our calendars and wonder if we will have time to attend.  If you’re one of those directors on the fence on this issue, here are the TEN reasons that you should attend each year.

  • The entertainment on Friday night’s opening session and Saturday evening’s show are worth the entire price!
  • The weekend is full of high-level faculty who are incredible, friendly, accommodating, life-changing, amazing, fantastic, super, knowledgeable, awesome, approachable, supportive and exciting.
  • You can not only get a private vocal lesson, but you can also learn how to GIVE a PVI. When you have a chorus member with a vocal production problem and you don’t know how to address, I’m sure to get an answer at HCNW! And, when I’m urging my chorus members to go to HCNW, I know there will be the perfect fit coach to give them PVIs also.
  • Choruses that can attend can receive TOP NOTCH coaching. We could never afford the level of coaching that we have received. 
  • And the bonus of getting so many chorus members to attend is that each of them can take diverse classes and then later share the information from their class list with the rest of the chorus.
  • Your chorus can take advantage of discounts on purchases of some valuable items. In the past we had a member take the Finale course and now her services are invaluable to us in updating our music and creating learning tracks.
  • The newbies in your chorus (plus some of the long-time members who never learned to read music) can take sight-reading classes designed just for those with no experience at all. There are also classes on learning music and coping with performance anxiety.
  • As your chorus struggles to grow in numbers and get members to participate in administration, you will see lots of class listings to help you along. You can learn how to delegate and empower the chorus members and how to exhibit contagious leadership. You can study the psychology of leadership and how to deal with attitudes
  • You will definitely appreciate the variety of classes and workshops targeting the needs of a director.
  • And the number one reason that to attend is that no matter what level you are at as a director, no matter what problems you are facing, no matter the size of your chorus, you can improve your directing skills, both verbal and non-verbal and learn the latest science on breathing. You can learn new rehearsal techniques, warm-ups, and performance tips. If you can squeeze it all in, you’ll study further on the circle of fifths, the tri-tone movement, Pythagorean tuning, phonation and articulation. And some of this you will learn by sitting next to another director in a class, sharing one-on-one, your problems and possible solutions.

So, make that commitment to attend HCNW this year and encourage your chorus members to do so, too. They’ll meet other individuals and section leaders, to say nothing of directors, music educators, show chairs, administrative leaders and leaders- in-training, emcees, marketers, judges, arrangers, membership and marketing chairs, music theorists, comedians, finance officers, choreographers and more.  If you’ve got a problem, someone at HCNW has the answer!
Judy Beckman, Harmony of the Gorge, 2019


Sound Harmony Chorus: “It’s educational, fun-filled weekends like this that let our brand new members see a bigger picture of what our organizations are all about, and it allows our more seasoned members to participate in a harmonic world outside of our weekly rehearsals. I know SHC will remember this weekend and share stories about it for a long time to come. Participating in this weekend helped us take a big step in the right direction towards becoming official members in Sweet Adelines. Thank you HCNW from the bottom of our hearts. See you next year.”

Nanaimo Tidesmen: “Our members were very impressed with the scope and quality of the teaching and coaching resources. We now know that this weekend is an immensely valuable learning experience, as well as a unique chance to meet fellow barbershoppers and understand the successes–and issues–other choruses face. In addition to the formal learning, we made new friends, and learned the value of other approaches, other styles, and the social and musical benefits of singing polecats and tags. One quite unexpected benefit was the exposure to women’s barbershop, and the appreciation of the particular skills and style they bring to our art.”

Bridge Town Sound: “One longer quote by our treasurer, Paul Lewis, sums up how many of us reacted to the individual classes we took. Paul says ‘My favorite individual session was Science of Barbershop Sound, taught by Jonny Moroni, the bari in Vocal Spectrum. As a technically-oriented person, I like to know the whys behind the whats, and he covered it well, with diagrams, video, and class exercises. We learned how sound is produced in the human vocal tract, including resonance and overtones, and some great techniques for breathing and throat relaxation that really improve singing.'”

Sound Harmony Chorus, Seattle, WA:  “Six members of our chorus attended classes at Harmony College NW. Some of us had years of barbershop enjoyment, and others are brand new to the hobby. All of us learned so much. We found the members of BHS to be friendly and they went out of their way to make us feel comfortable and welcome. From the variety of classes, to the amazing talented faculty, to the entertainment, and the great food in the college cafeteria the weekend was a joy.”

Mike Menefee, West Sound Director:  “It’s hard to say if there is a causal link, but…the chorus is singing better. The chapter is growing. We recently put on the best show in memory. More and more guys are jumping in to take active roles in chapter management and development. I think that the HCNW experience was intertwined in this fabric of cultural change in very positive ways.”

Nanaimo Tidesmen: “Many of our members have said that they will often go again to HCNW as individuals. We certainly intend to return as a chorus.”

Bridge Town Sound: “Our recommendation: sign up for it. But you’d better hurry; we talked about going back the first meeting after we got back, and we’re going next year. The line forms behind us!   All in all, the coaching experience at HCNW was an absolute winner. A weekend singing tags with fellow barbershoppers: GREAT! Opportunity to learn more about the craft: WONDERFUL! Four chorus coaching sessions with the best in the business: PRICELESS!”

West Sound (Kitsap Chordsmen): Our Harmony College experience came along at just the right time for our chorus, and has done much to propel us along the positive trajectory we have been traveling for the last few years.

Bring the whole chorus to Harmony College?
You bet!

Hundreds of barbershoppers in the Northwest know the fun and excitement of going to Harmony College Northwest (HCNW), for classes and coaching. Many come as individual singers. Quartets attend, and scoop up pearls strewn out during coaching sessions.
But a chorus??? HCNW has coaches, and coaches can work with choruses much like they work with quartets. In 2012, the Nanaimo Tidesmen made a concerted effort to attend HCNW as a chorus. Thirty-five men attended; about 60% of their active chorus. The benefits of attending were very soon clear: those who weren’t able to attend saw a dramatically different chorus at the first chapter meeting after HCNW, the excitement spread, the chorus became “the” a cappella group in their area, new members joined. And at their Division Convention in April 2013, the Tidesmen’s scores took a dramatic leap.

Choruses bringing 10 or more singers for some chorus coaching  will receive one free regular tuition, can be used for director or a member.  For more information about chorus coaching, contact Judy Galloway.

What Directors have said:

Q: What happened with the chorus during the HCNW weekend?

Bridge Town Sound, Portland, OR: “We had four excellent coaches who shared their different strengths and approaches to all phases of performance. From new thoughts on breathing to actual unified moves to enhance the music, Nikki Blackmer, Raymond Schwarzkopf, Lea Beverley and Gary Steinkamp spent part of their HCNW weekend making sure we made the improvements we sought.  
“Aside from the chorus coaching, our members, many of whom had never been to HCNW, had a great experience. Phrases like ‘My first time, but not my last,’ ‘Great times with my brothers in harmony,’ and ‘…using our new skills on the Saturday night show’ were common.”

West Sound (Kitsap Chordsmen):  “The coaches we were assigned were first class (Jim Clark of Storm Front, Gary Steinkamp, Jonny Moroni, and Raymond Schwarzkopf). Each one listened to us and focused on what we needed to do to move forward most effectively…definitely getting us the biggest bang for the buck.”  
“The coaches exposed us to the level of detail that takes good singing and makes it great (word sounds, dynamic phrasing, making the breath count, communicating the meaning of the song and adding energy at every opportunity, and so much more). They did not let things pass where they knew we could do better, and through this we got a chance to experience the work ethic that made them great (including Jonny’s challenge to each member to keep engaged and rehearse, even if just in our minds, even when the director was working with another section).”  
“The improvements were rapid and got us excited and engaged. The better we sang, the more each coach could do with us. The more energy we gave, the more our director could do with us. Each coaching session built on the last.”
Mike Menefee, Director of the West Sound, said, “Jonny Moroni was just what the doctor ordered. Positive, but relentless. Knew how to get good sounds from us. Gave us tips that we could use long-term.”

Sound Harmony Chorus: Director Judy Cooper said, “Although not all members could attend the full weekend, the entire chorus (including two members who had not yet auditioned) drove from Seattle to participate in a coaching session with the incomparable Nancy Kurth. How lucky were we to be assigned such a wonderful coach who is so willing to share her time and talents. She was amazing to work with!”

Afterwards? WHAT, the progress continues....

Q: What were the lasting benefits for your chorus? Did the culture of the chorus, or the goals of the chorus change, as a result of the weekend?

Bridge Town Sound:  “Did we share what we learned–and our experiences–with those who weren’t able to go? Sure, although since most of us went, the sharing process wasn’t too difficult.  
“Did changes occur, and last? Yes and yes. More of us are rehearsing in the performance mode more of the time, and our director, John Burri, hasn’t had to say things like ‘You might smile once in a while’ since we returned. Instead, we hear things like ‘That’s the way to utilize the emotional propellant the arranger had in mind for this song.'”  

West Sound (Kitsap Chordsmen): “At the first rehearsal after Harmony College, we were still basking in the excitement of the weekend. Those who went performed a song for those who did not; they could see the difference and wanted to be part of this ‘new’ chorus. We had them come on the risers and sing the song again–the excitement was contagious. Now we had everyone on board.”
“The Performance Team committed to identifying the key elements we learned at Harmony College, and to intentionally reinforce these in future rehearsals. We know it is going to be a long process to make our Harmony College experience the new level of performance for our chorus.”
“The momentum of Harmony College carried into our preparation for our Annual Show.  Singing better is a great recruiting tool: you attract good singers who want to be part of something special. We have been growing continually.”

Nanaimo Tidesmen: “Overall, our time at HCNW was a highlight of the year. We clearly raised awareness among the Tidesmen of the resources that Evergreen makes available, and we believe we also raised our profile a little among other Evergreen barbershoppers. The skills we learned have without doubt improved our overall performance.”
“The actual chorus coaching was hugely valuable and enjoyable, as was the chance to sing as a chorus on the Saturday show. We were delighted with our performance and the reception we were given, and the enthusiasm this imbued in our membership was transferred very strongly back in Nanaimo–along with many of the skills we learned–to those of us who were not able to attend.”

In conclusion.....

There’s no reason for your chorus to hold back! Start talking and planning right now in your chapter. Make HCNW a key event in the growth of your chorus. Contact Judy Galloway for details.

Special thanks to Roy Sage, Nanaimo Tidesmen; Dick Handley, Bridgetown Sound; Ric Cederwall, Kitsap Chordsmen; and, Judy Cooper, Sound Harmony; for gathering information from their chapter members.