This past weekend, we were so incredibly fortunate to have Lynn Jacobs, a Harmony Queen, join us in Virginia for a coaching retreat. In addition to being an International Champion lead (2001) with her quartet Upstate Rhythm, she is also the president, a section leader and choreographer for the award-winning Northern Blend Chorus of Watertown, N.Y.
Plus, she’s just cool.
So anyway, Lynn, in all her coolness, flew down to the D.C. area for some back-to-back coaching sessions over the course of a weekend. Although we are so incredibly fortunate to have a built-in coach with notable barbershopper and husband Richard Lewellen, we figured it would be useful to get some outside perspective, some additional thoughts about our musical approach and a chick who can actually hit the notes she wants us to sing (love you, Richard!).
Seriously though, it’s always good to have the talents and expertise of other barbershoppers influencing your quartet—especially given that Epic is in an important developmental stage right now. We know we have a lot of work ahead of us as we strive to be better barbershop singers. But we’re not in a big rush, and we’re not stressed out about “getting better” so fast that we don’t enjoy the ride along the way. We enjoy our gigs, we enjoy learning new music, we enjoy hanging out with each other. Some of this may interfere with the “business” of getting better for contest purposes, but, again, that’s cool with us.
At the beginning of our first session with Lynn on Saturday afternoon, she started by asking us what our short-term goals are for the quartet. What are we hoping to accomplish by Orlando’s International Contest?
“Unity,” said Kris.
“Yeah, unity,” agreed Shana. “Not only in our music, but in how we look when we perform and our interpretation. All of it.”
“I’d like to reach a level of consistency with all four songs that allows us to not be worried when we’re on the contest stage,” Chris said. “That way, we can each have our personal best performance and not even have to think about hiccups on the quartet level.”
“Ummm… memorizing my words?” Profound response from Anne. After we explained to Lynn that Anne sets the bar low for Epic and we laughed off the joke, Anne agreed that unity is the name of the game for us.
So we kicked things off and got down to the business of exploring, finding and embracing quartet unity. Lynn yelled and screamed and beat us until we were bloody. No, just kidding!!! Jeesh people, we told you she’s cool! We crafted phases, worked on telling the same story and spent a little time being slightly less loud (only a little time, though).
In our second session the following day, Lynn encouraged Anne to shake off the new barbershopper “follower” syndrome and step up to embrace her natural lead personality—her inner goddess for you “50 Shades” fans. When Anne did it, she brought Lynn to tears (and we were singing an uptune at the time, just FYI). When Anne leads at that level, Lynn explained, we will become unified around her leadership.
Definitely a great place to start! Or perhaps continue to build the unity we started forging a year or so ago.
But here’s the thing—it’s a long road to travel to accomplish such a simple little concept—unity—that covers such a vast amount of ground, isn’t it? So, as it turns out, unity might be a goal that’s better suited to the next five YEARS rather than the next five MONTHS. Lynn understands that about Epic, she helped us understand that about Epic, and we’re all just fine with that time frame as it turns out.
So in the meantime, we’re going to make sure our coaching sessions include a healthy dose of unity on the friendship front. While Lynn was here in the D.C. region, we took her downtown to eat at a cool restaurant, walk around to enjoy our national monuments and attend a Kristin Chenoweth (our hero) concert at the historic DAR Constitution Hall. Lynn was, she shared with us, on cloud nine the entire time. Well that’s fitting, given that her love and attention to us had the same effect on our quartet.
Lynn was a true professional and we’re so grateful for her help. She was such a great kick-off to our run-up to International in Orlando. We are focused and ready to work. We have our schedule, we have our songs, we have great coaches and excited about this process of developing our unity.
Isn’t this stuff FUN????