I have passed my Final Performance Qualification with The Vocal Majority Chorus (after previously having passed separate Music (vocal) and Choreography reviews). Last night I was presented with my cufflinks and bolo tie for my performance tuxedo, meaning I am officially "riser qualified" and can perform in public with the group.
I'm not ashamed to say it was a lot of work. I thought the two months it took me was a long time, but it turns out it's not. In fact, I understand one other rookie who qualified with me last night has been working at it for over 9 months. I really admire his perseverance -- I don't know if I could have sustained that kind of effort!
There are many, many things that impress me about VM, and I'm still discovering others. But from a new member point of view, I am awestruck at a combination of two things that few groups have, in my experience: (1) Extremely high and inflexible standards AND (2) an extremely helpful and encouraging membership doing all they can to help you succeed. Many groups have one or the other: some are friendly and welcoming, but take anyone willing to join. That's not bad, just different. Those groups can be a blast to be a part of, but the quality is not the same. Other groups have high standards but lift not a finger to help you get there. They tend to be elitist -- if you can qualify, you can be one of them; otherwise, you probably weren't "worthy." Those groups tend to be good but not very pleasant.
The combination of both of these factors makes VM special. Their rehearsals are always open to the public, and any guy can step in off the street, never having sung barbershop (or anything!) before, and they will immediately be put on the risers next to 25+ year veterans with a pocketful of gold medals. Amazing! But if you want to join, there's a pretty rigorous audition, one that many guys try 4-5 times to pass. The thing is, each time you "fail" is used as a teaching time to help you the next time. They really want you to get in, and help you to do so without sacrificing their quality!
Then, once you join, there are even higher standards for being able to perform with the group, both in singing in VM's style and moving (and expressing) the way they do. There is a lot of music to learn, and a lot of moves to study. They expect perfection. But many of the veterans give up extra hours of their time to teach you, and everyone -- everyone! -- is willing to answer questions and give pointers. They do not relax their standards, but to a man they are pulling for you and helping in whatever way they can to get you over the hurdle. It is an extraordinary group of men, and I am very, very honored to be one of them now.
Oh, yeah, they sing good, too. See them -- I mean, us!! -- in person if at all possible!
My debut with the group will be onstage at the Pepsi Center in Denver, before a crowd of 10,000+, on Friday July 6. Should be fun! (For tickets, or to order the live webcast, go to the Barbershop Harmony Society website.)