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Lamont Colloquium: Nov. 5, 2021

Sophie Lewis

Sophie Lewis: Exploring the Marginalization of Female and Non-Binary Voices in Barbershop Harmony

Abstract: In this paper, I investigate the circumstances that facilitate the marginalization of female and non-binary voices from male voices in the performance of barbershop harmony in America. Despite being rooted in African American traditions, the contemporary performance of barbershop harmony is regularly associated with middle class white males and is seemingly reluctant to change this image. This further encourages the marginalization of performers based on both gender identity and race. This project explores the historical instances of marginalization within the Barbershop Harmony Society of America (BHS) and how it has impacted the competitive environment today. I then analyze the BHS rule book and outline how their own rules are contradictory to their practices. Finally, I argue that the current set up of the BHS is harmful and exclusionary to female and non-binary voices and outline the impact that we as consumers of the art form could potentially have. I will utilize primary sources taken from the BHS themselves as well as examples of performing quartets. I focus on the perspectives of female and non-binary performers because the BHS is defined by the gender binary. From their enrollment forms to their competition categories, the male/female binary pervades through the system. While the BHS is making efforts to move towards racial equality in both its performers and spectators, the gender discrimination is still painfully obvious. By bringing these issues to light, I suggest that spectators can bring about change primarily through their listening and spending habits as they relate to the performance of Barbershop style music to further gender and racial equality in the BHS.

Bio: Sophie Lewis is a second year masters student at the University of Denver studying musicology. Originally from Scotland, she holds a 1st Class honors degree in music from the University of Aberdeen where she completed her undergraduate studies. Her research interests include music education methods and how they relate to mental health, equity efforts in the music industry and Scottish traditional music. Sophie is fortunate enough to be supported financially in her studies by the University of Denver, the Scottish International Education Trust and the McGlashin Trust without whom this research would not be possible. Sophie is also a cellist who thoroughly enjoys ensemble performance

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Malia Odekirk

Malia Odekirk: WGI Adapts to COVID

Abstract: Winter Guard International (WGI) has provided a competitive platform for music’s marching arts since 1977 and percussionists specifically since 1993. The organization has allowed groups to partake in exciting theatrical performances that integrate music, marching, choreography, costuming, and thematic material into exciting 5-10 minute performances. However, WGI has faced unprecedented challenges and changes in the last two years due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Through analysis of videos and conversations with educators/show designers within the percussion community, I examine the activity’s shift and elucidate ways that groups across the United States have adapted to COVID regulations and new rules in both local and WGI competitive circuits. I also discuss specific groups’ choices to operate outside the boundaries set by competitive circuits to build a more unique and creative production.

With videos of musical performances by George Mason University Indoor Percussion, Atlanta Quest, Redline Percussion, Blue Knights Percussion Ensemble, Monarch Independent, and STRYKE Percussion, I outline developments of audio-visual interfaces, community collaborations, innovative uses of space and setting, and the potential opportunity for utilizing these videos as recruiting tools for future members.

Through this project, I will reveal the way music making in the marching arts has survived through the pandemic and adapted to unprecedented circumstances and restrictions. Although this activity acts as only one small microcosm of music-making, the example these groups set serve as inspiration for musicians and people alike in withstanding the pandemic in creative ways and growing instead of withering in the face of the future.

Bio: Malia is a second year master’s student at Lamont and is pursuing a degree in musicology with an emphasis in ethnomusicology. She is also a teaching assistant for music theory and aural skills and is completing a certificate in music theory pedagogy. Outside her time spent at Lamont, she teaches percussion to a variety of students and deeply enjoys both research and education.

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