Why I’m No Longer a Barbershopper

This is THE week, if you’re a barbershopper. Every July, thousands (though fewer every year) of men and the women who tolerate them flock to some unsuspecting city for the international barbershop convention, which also features the international quartet and chorus contests. This year, the big event is in Toronto, Canada.

For almost a dozen years, much of my personal identity was tied to a rather arcane form of music called barbershop harmony. Earlier this year, I left “the hobby,” as many barbershoppers call it. I actually watched part of the collegiate quartet contest last night, and found myself both missing and not missing the yearly event. I wish I was there, but at the same time, I’m happy as a “recovering barbershopper.”

I still vividly remember my very first barbershop concert. I was living in Logan, Utah, and through a friend I had joined a small singing group called the Bridgerland Barbershop Chorus. Within a few weeks, we put on a concert at a historic concert venue, and had as our invited guest a group that made the 90-minute drive to share the stage with us. Since our numbers were few, this 100-plus-member men’s chorus seemed incredibly impressive. Directed by quartet gold medalist John Sasine, the Saltaires Chorus sang with a huge, polished sound. I still remember watching them troop down the stairs into the warmup room—a seemingly endless stream of white-jacketed men, their smiles accented by stage makeup, talking and laughing as if they were members of an elite fraternity. Which they were. It was my first introduction to large chorus barbershop.

From there, I went deeper into the hobby. I formed a quartet with some friends, and then another. When I moved, I joined the local chorus in my new state, and eventually ended up directing the group. I formed another quartet, and then another. I began to compete. I moved again, and began competing with a bigger, more polished chorus.

Around this time, I got a chance to attend Harmony College (as it was then called) in St. Joseph, Missouri. As it turned out, one of my roommates during this intensive week-long event was from Salt Lake City, and sang with the Saltaires. When I told him how impressed I had been with his group, he rolled his eyes. “Things are different,” he told me. “John is driving people away.” I thought at first this had to be sour grapes, but as I watched the group in competition over the next several years, I saw a group in decline. Something was obviously happening, and it wasn’t positive.

Whatever—I was in Phoenix, enjoying my time with the Spirit of Phoenix Chorus. This was a fairly new chapter that almost literally rose out of the ashes after a very hurtful scism that had happened before I moved my family to Phoenix. The group wasn’t perfect, but they were welcoming and worked hard and always tried to rise to the occasion. I made many life-long friends in that group, and was sad when, seven years later, I had to pack up and move again. I was heading back to Utah, but this time I would be in Salt Lake City.

During my first week back in Utah, I sought out the Saltaires. I knew they were the only real competition-level chorus in the state, so I figured I needed to be part of the group. What I found, at my first rehearsal, was a fairly casual group of 45 or so singers, still (actually, again) led by John Sasine. They gave me a moderately warm welcome and stuck me right on the risers without an audition. Just a few weeks later, I performed in their spring concert, which featured the quartet Max Q.

It didn’t take long to figure out the pattern of the group. Attendance was spotty, with maybe 50-60 percent of the group showing up on a given rehearsal night. Though John was the director, he was often not there, and on those occasions rehearsals were conducted by two competent assistant directors. When John was there, he was either aloof—basically just going through the motions—or right on the edge of angry. He would get into what I will refer to here as “jerk mode,” where he would get frustrated by something the group or an individual was doing and just explode at them. Often, he would take an odd passive-aggressive approach and actually yell at someone who wasn’t doing anything wrong, just to make his point. I thought this was a terrible way to try to direct a chorus, but hey—he was the director.

With the spring concert out of the way, we began working toward the 2012 international contest, which would be held in Portland that year. I wasn’t originally planning to attend, since I was still at a brand-new job and didn’t really have the vacation time coming. I could afford it, but just barely. My section leader and several from the chorus leadership literally begged me to attend. The group had already dwindled to under 30, and only one other tenor was going to make it to Portland. If I could swing it, that would make two. I eventually made the sacrifice and took the trip, though I ended up having to put in half days of work on my laptop (on top of everything else) to make it happen.

Unlike my earlier group, the Saltaires took a very different approach to preparing for contest. For one, they didn’t even really decide on the contest songs until about two months before the event. My other chorus had put in long hours, conducting weekend retreats and special rehearsals to polish things up for the big event. Under John’s direction, the Saltaires were quite the opposite. The director didn’t even bother to show up for several of the rehearsals leading up to internationals, and on the weeks he was there he actually ended rehearsals early. John’s attitude seemed to be that we would do just fine, and that we really didn’t need any additional work. He seemed detached and disinterested. I got the impression that he wanted to get the chorus stuff over so he could get to doing whatever it was he really cared about.

In the contest, we placed 20th out of 28 choruses. Embarrassing. We got what we had earned. As I had suspected, we definitely could have used a little extra work.

When I competed with other groups, the hot topic immediately after the contest was always, “What could we do to improve? What do we need to change?” In Portland on Friday night, I actually tried to get some of my chorus mates talking, to see whether 20th place was a result they wanted to accept—to find out whether anyone was actually interested in change. Strangely, nobody seemed to even want to talk. Only later did I realize why: there were members of the group who were tight cronies of John Sasine, and knew he wouldn’t want to hear any criticism about his leadership or strategy or techniques. Little did I know that my earnest attempts to find out whether anyone wanted to improve were being carried straight to Herr Direktor himself, who took everything as a direct, personal attack.

Eventually, the group got around to addressing the fact that (A) the once-mighty Saltaires had scored pitifully low in international contest, and (B) the group was hemorrhaging members. We had a few meetings during which ideas were solicited and taken from the group. Of particular interest was the fact that John Sasine did not attend these meetings. They were run by members of the board and music team, but the director was conspicuously absent.

Very few real changes came from these “come to Jesus” meetings, but a modest plan for improvement was presented to and ratified by the group. For the next couple of months, I began bringing my teenaged sons to chorus rehearsals. Both of them performed and competed with the Spirit of Phoenix Chorus for several years. Because of this, I thought it was very odd when several members of the chorus leadership approached me and asked me whether the boys would be “trying to join” on a permanent basis. I said they probably would. The reaction was a caution and a warning: John didn’t like “unpolished talent,” especially teenagers, and was especially hard on them in rehearsals and especially in auditions. One of the chorus leaders actually told me that he had specifically decided not to bring his own boys to join the group for this reason.

Just a word about my boys: they are 13 and 15, both of them taller than me, both of them good, experienced singers. My older son competed on the international stage twice before moving to Utah. Both of them competed in both division contests in Arizona and in district contests in the Far Western District. Ask anyone from the Greater Phoenix Chapter; they’re good kids.

By mid-October, nothing much had changed. Oh, they moved the start time of rehearsals from 7:00 to 7:30, which meant the “early birds” began setting up the risers at 7:35. But I was sticking it out. Then the chorus announced the date of the group’s one and only Christmas concert. After checking my calendar, I realized that the concert—which the group would be spending the next two months preparing for—was on the same night as my daughter’s violin concert, both boys’ orchestra concerts, and my wife’s school play. Since there just wasn’t any way any of us were going to be able to do this, I informed my section leader (and assistant director) of the conflicts and bowed out for the season. I told him I would see him in January.

By the time the new year rolled around, my boys and I were jonesing for some barbershop. I was ready to get back on the risers and perform. We were even more excited because we knew that our favorite quartet, Vocal Spectrum, was going to be performing at the upcoming spring concert. My entire family listens to VS—we’re all huge fans. We also love everything that’s been recorded by VS’s tenor, Tim Waurick. It was something to look forward to.

Weekly rehearsals, on the other hand, started to become something to dread. There were even fewer guys showing up to sing, and John was Linda-Blairing into “jerk mode” more and more often. Kenny, my section leader who had literally begged me to accompany the chorus to internationals, was also being more and more critical of my own singing. John was blowing up regularly, and several times yelled at one of my boys or another. It was like a dysfunctional family, with John playing the role of the angry father, first abusive, then aloof, then our very best chum. It got old really quick.

One night after sectional rehearsals, John seemed especially perturbed. Apparently he had been working with the lead section, and had been pulling rank and dropping names. In this way, apparently, he discovered that my boys (who know just about every quartet that has medaled since Y2K) had never heard of Nightlife. Of course, Nightlife is the quartet with which John won his gold medal about 100 years ago. He seemed to take their lack of knowledge as a personal affront. And I’m sure he blamed me. It didn’t go over well.

In late February, the leadership decided to have a Saturday rehearsal to prepare for the upcoming concerts. For whatever reason, John decided to fly in his three quartet mates from Nightlife so they could help with the event. It turned into a very long day, with many hours on the risers. With his quartet buddies there, John was mostly on his best behavior. (He did, at one point, scream at me that he was going to cut off my hands. But to be fair, I happened to have them in my pockets at the time.) It was an exhausting day, but not (in my opinion) terribly productive. If I had known what was going to happen, I honestly wouldn’t have bothered—and I certainly wouldn’t have subjected my boys to the ordeal.

The concerts were getting nearer, and my boys were working hard to learn all their music. They were coming along very nicely, and had received some personal coaching that had made a big difference. At the first rehearsal in March, attendance was again low, and Kenny and I found ourself alone in a “sectional,” working on a song that we both already knew backwards and forwards. Kenny asked me at one point, “So, what are your plans with the chorus?” I had told him before how disappointed I was that so few of the changes that had been promised the previous August had ever actually come to pass. He also knew that I didn’t have a lot of respect for John as a director (much less, as a human being). I simply told him, “I’m not sure, but I’m thinking of leaving after this upcoming concert.” He shrugged and told me he thought he understood.

What happened after that is the reason I’m no longer a barbershopper.

On Friday, March 8, Kenny called me on my cell phone at around 3:30 in the afternoon. I walked outside to take the call, since there is very little privacy in my office. The reason he was calling, Kenny said, was to ask whether my boys were planning to sing with the chorus on the upcoming show. “Yes,” I told him, “and they’re ready to audition.” After a moment’s hesitation, Kenny informed me that John had specifically asked him to call me and let me know that he didn’t want my boys singing on the show. My reaction was, “Well, I’m sure they’ll be disappointed, but they were looking forward to meeting the guys from Vocal Spectrum and I guess they can see them just as well from the front of the curtain as they can from behind it.”

It turned into a little discussion. I told Kenny that I couldn’t imagine any of the big choruses (the Masters of Harmony, the Ambassadors of Harmony, the Vocal Majority, the Sound of the Rockies) turning away young talent. I couldn’t imagine many of the smaller groups turning away a man who could fog a mirror. I know the more successful choruses of the Barbershop Harmony Society were bending over backward to attract younger, second-generation barbershoppers, but it was apparently John’s call. With the way the Saltaires’ numbers had been dwindling, I honestly don’t understand how they could be turning away enthusiastic young singers. But that was neither here nor there.

It was at that point that Kenny revealed his real reason for calling. John was unhappy with my “level of commitment,” he said, and what’s more—he was unhappy with my “attitude.” He had apparently cited the “break” I took during the Christmas season as evidence for my lousy disposition. I reminded him of the reason for my two-month absence, and he agreed that there wasn’t much I could have done about it. But apparently family conflicts weren’t a valid excuse. In fact, Kenny told me, John had asked him to convey to me that I was no longer welcome in the Saltaires. “So John’s kicking me out of the chorus?” I asked. “Yeah, pretty much,” was his answer. What do you say to that? I told him okay, said goodbye and hung up.

I honestly couldn’t believe it. I had been blackballed by my chorus. For some reason, when I went back inside, I opened up the chorus’s website. There on the site were five “reasons” that everyone should want to sing with the Saltaires:

  • They sing their hearts out.
  • They are continuously sharpening their singing skills.
  • They establish lasting friendships.
  • They enrich lives – yours and others.
  • They have fun.


I laughed so hard, my co-workers wondered what was wrong with me. Just out of curiosity, I opened up the chorus’s “members only” site. My account had already been deactivated. Whoa, that was quick.

To me, being a barbershopper has always been about two things: harmony and brotherhood. Barbershop is supposed to be a fraternity, but it’s not supposed to be an exclusive fraternity. It’s supposed to be apolitical, though I guess there’s a big difference between local, state and national politics and the in-group politics of a dysfunctional group. I find it impossible to gin up any respect for an organization that allows its musical director (who, by the way, is not the chapter president, or even a member of the board of directors) to unilaterally eject a person from the organization. Putting myself in Kenny’s shoes, I can’t imagine myself ever—in any context—making that call. My response, if a petty despot of a failed organization asked me to eject a member, would have been: “You want him kicked out, John, you can call him your own damn self.”

But I guess that’s just me.

Since my rather abrupt departure from the Saltaires Show Chorus, more members have dropped out. (A few of them have contacted me personally to let me know.) Other current members and former members have commiserated with me privately, assuring me that I got a raw deal and that they thought I was treated badly. One of my former chorus mates told me recently that attendance at Saltaires rehearsals is even worse than before, and that there have been times when the group had to delay the start of rehearsals because they didn’t have all four parts represented. Apparently the once-mighty chorus, which used to pack over a hundred men onto the risers, is in its death throes.

Good. Any organization that allows a miserable, petty man like John Sasine to personally banish individual members deserves to die a speedy demise. Any organization that turns away young men who want to sing deserves the same fate. Any group that would deny my boys the opportunity to perform with their idols deserves to malinger and then fall.

After I was kicked out of the chorus, the group’s immediate past president attempted to explain to me, in a series of e-mails, why current chorus members accept things as they are. As he said, “The current chorus culture is what it is, with its good and not so good.  It does require a thick skin and buying in to the culture that we aren’t a ‘teaching and training’ chorus, but require guys who can catch on to the song level and barbershop style extremely quickly.”

Excuse me? Not a “teaching and training chorus”? That goes against everything I know and understand about barbershop harmony, from the foundation of the society up to today’s re-emphasis on perpetuation through youth recruitment. Not a “teaching and training chorus”? No wonder the chorus is dying.

He went on: “In short, yes, John can be difficult to work with.  I’ve had the chance to work closely with him for many years now. On a professional level, I’ve never worked with anymore more difficult. Perhaps for that same reason, pleasing him is especially gratifying…” This man—the same father who refused to bring his teenagers to sing with the chorus—continued: “[John] has high expectations for the chorus because he knows the guys’ potential abilities.  When it doesn’t meet that expectation, he gets upset.  Again, I’m not saying that’s right, but I’ve learned that and understood it now for quite a while, which is why I’m more thick skinned and more supportive of him than most.  But, I do not deny that he has a poor approach to motivation.”

I would certainly agree that turning away young singers and kicking out experienced ones probably qualifies as “a poor approach to motivation.” Exit question: am I the only one who thinks this sounds like a battered wife justifying her abuser’s actions to a child? Doesn’t this sound a lot like “Daddy only beats us because he loves us”?

Perhaps someday in the future I will be a barbershopper again. Maybe I’ll move to a new city, or maybe the Saltaires will go belly-up and a younger, more progressive group will take its place. Until then, based on my experience with the Saltaires and John Sasine, I won’t be considering myself a barbershopper. Sadly, neither will my sons.

Oh well. There are other organizations out there that “keep the whole world singing.” And I’m sure lots of them are led by men who don’t have a “jerk mode.”

Posted in Music, Personal Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
67 comments on “Why I’m No Longer a Barbershopper
  1. Kelly Smith says:

    There are jerks everywhere. You are right not to associate yourself with an organization that is so dysfunctional. However, do not let your negative experience to take away something that has been a joy to you! It is sad that the leadership is not leading.

  2. rachel craddock says:

    i hate that this happened. it makes me angry. i understand why you wouldn’t want to associate with anything or anyone that would allow you and your sons to be treated that way. but i do hope that after you’ve had time to heal you will find a chorus to sing with that embraces the harmony and comaraderie BHS aims for– you know it’s out there. keep singing.

  3. Charlie Davenport says:

    Why don’t you start a chapter of the “formers” and attract in those who would like a fun, positive chapter? Sounds ripe for it and there is nothing on any book anywhere to stop you… A city the size of SLC couple support multiple, successful chapters on a variety of levels.

    • chuck kenney says:

      right on: start a new chapter of the FORMERS, that all happened to string players here , being kicked out of orchestras, Until it was my turn to be kicked out, and so I STARTED a brand new orchestra in town, and now 6 months later we have 65 players who LOVE THE GROUP , A DIR. WHO IS ‘ARTISTIC” AND we have a financial sponsor.. i am amazed at the support but hey, first time for everything

  4. Al Pipkins says:

    David, you should start a new chapter. Just get the name and address of everyone who belonged to the Saltaires in the last 10 years and send a postcard to invite them to the first meeting. This would include the current, active members. Put an ad or announcement in the paper. Have the meeting on a different night. As the founder you would have total leeway to do everything you wanted to do in the beginning. Until you charter you have total free reign. Above all make it a fun night. Don’t go too long and when the meeting is over sing a while longer, have a place to get a bite to eat, maybe a drink, and and enjoy one another. When I joined the Mobile chapter there was about 45 members who showed up at meetings. After the meetings we went to a Bar & Grill Called the Spanish Villa. About 20 or so would show up. Several wives and sometimes a past member or two would be there too. It was a few of the happiest years of my life. You can have that again.

  5. Andrew says:

    Form a quartet

  6. Donny Rose says:

    Hi David-


    First, I hear you…you had a bad experience with a person who leads 1 of 800 BHS groups in the world. I am a little startled that you would not be able to think about your other experience(s) and reflect that what you are describing is NOT the norm, but the exception, and I *think* you know this. Which makes me wonder, why would you write something like this?

    I do not know you sir, but you sound angry, and are going to punish us, your sons, and yourself by not enjoying a musical art form that you love. Forgive John. Move on. Sing with my pal Beth Bruce and the Beehive Statesmen (also near/in Salt Lake). Sing in a quartet with your sons or some other folks. If you want, I can demonstrate how any organization has a person who reflects poorly on the organization…from Presidents to Popes, teachers to preachers…but these are exceptions.

    You can be cranky with a director, but lighten up David. You are only punishing yourself and your family. Most of the men in BHS are great people, but you already know that.

    Donny Rose
    Tacoma, WA

    • chuck kenney says:

      it is becoming more the norm in the larger cities where the opportunity to put together an ELITE chorus is more a reality… WE SEEM to be pulling away from the chorus for everyone to the chorus for the BEST, and the educational aspect of teaching interested men to sing well? is becoming attract the good singer who ALREADY SINGS WELL, and forget the average guy who wants this HOBBY

  7. David says:

    Yes, most in barbershop are awesome people. And this goes from the “lowliest” riser rat to the big luminaries. And I do have options here in Salt Lake City, but none of them are competitive choruses. I have found that competition (usually) drives excellence, and is a really fun part of the “sport of barbershop.”

    I’m not abandoning music, of course. I just finished a community theater production of “Annie” and got to be onstage with both of my boys AND my daughter. Now the boys are in the chorus of “Carousel.” Different kind of chorus, but great music just the same. Just not barbershop.

  8. Al Pipkins says:

    David, I forgot to check the notify request boxes.
    I just read more of your blog and see we totally agree on guns.
    Are you a Libertarian too?
    I think if I were the Prez with both houses I could cut the Federal Government by about 80% easy. I would enact the Fair tax, fire everyone in the IRS and hire an auction company to sell everything belonging to the department. Then fire everyone in the Dept. of Education and hire another auction company. Then go to the Dept of Agriculture, etc. By the end of the second week the states would be scrambling to figure out how they wanted their state to be run. The Feds would no longer do food stamps, Medicare Housing, any kind of welfare. that is the area that Churches and charitable organizations would handle. I don’t think the Constitution allows it. States can if they want.
    Well, enough dreaming about all that. Now, do we really think alike?

    • David says:

      Hey Al:

      Yeah, I think you’ve pegged me. I am a libertarian/conservative/constitutionalist, hold CCWs from two separate states. Feel kind of the same way about the Republican Party as I feel about Barbershop: I didn’t leave them … they left me.

      If it were up to me, we would have a lifetime 12-year limit on congressional “service.” There would be a moratorium on any bill longer than 20 pages long, a constitutional ban on pork and a requirement that Congress cite the constitutional justification for every law it considers.

      But again, that might just be me.

  9. Kyle says:

    This angers me greatly. I have grown up a barbershop singer and have been a member since I was 10. I have never heard of anything like this and it is quite frankly appalling. I can’t imagine anything like this, and it’s probably a blessing in disguise if you had to deal with someone like that. I am upset that it could have happened to anyone, and I’m upset that it turned you away from barbershop. This is most DEFINITELY the exception and not the rule. Please keep your mind open and find any other chapter in the Society…please. They will most certainly be a better experience than what you had.

    I’m very hopeful that you have a different experience in the future and I would love for you to join us and Keep the Whole World Singing as it was intended.

    Yours in Harmony,

    • David says:

      Kyle: If I’m not mistaken, I saw you perform in a high school quartet in South Bend back in maybe 2004 or 2005. I was singing with Valpo at the time.

      For now, I’m taking a break. But I’m sure I’ll eventually go back to barbershop. I saw your shot this morning and just make you’re you stay grounded when you eventually get your gold medal. 🙂

  10. Richard says:

    Eh! You really had a bad one there. I know how you feel. I had a boss the exact same as John.
    Don’t fret over the people saying that you shouldn’t have put it in a public forum or named names.

    You are a person trying to make a difference. All those other people that dropped out before you never said anything. Now people will begin talking and the rest of the Saltaires will know that yeah, John’s being a dick. He’s killing the program and if he doesn’t change it up, it’s done.

    He may see this (doubtfully) and humble himself, improve, and put more value on people. Who knows.
    Bu the proof was in the pudding when the Saltaires placed so low in the competition. That’s all you John. Airing the dirty laundry is sometimes needed.

    So, Dave, go have fun with Shrek and a few other things. Come back to Hawaii for the PCC 50th anniversary and then go back to Barbershop. It seems you liked it. Or, better yet, start your own group. You said you directed before, and when Drop House gets picked up and starts selling big on Amazon, you’ll have the freedom to pursue more hobbies.


  11. Andrew says:

    This is part of the problem with barbershop. Competition and personal ego can drive some people to insanity, disrespect, low-blowing, and really turn off people from the hobby. I think this is an interesting read, and I can personally relate to it.

  12. Barb Bourbonnais says:

    As an associate member and daughter of a 65 year member of the society (who moved around a lot), I’ve been exposed to many barbershop chapters and hundreds – perhaps thousands of individual barbershoppers. Although there are bad apples in every barrel, I’ve never seen or even heard of anything like you describe. It’s very sad and absolutely disgraceful. I completely understand your reaction. But, I hope that you realize it was bad behaviour by one or more individuals – not by barbershop. I really don’t believe you’re describing a typical chorus! The members of my dad’s chorus (including the 2 co-directors) are like family. And, while they strive to improve and sing their best (and do compete regularly), entertaining audiences is a more important goal than competition. They do that very well, while having fun. I’m happy to hear that you’re “staying in touch” with the barbershop world. I guarantee there are choruses that would be thrilled to have you and your sons as members. But, musical theatre is awesome. Maybe you can do “The Music Man”. 🙂

    • David says:

      Hi Barb:

      I actually did The Music Man two years ago. Had an awesome time — we all know the quartet is the star of that show. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

  13. Mike says:

    I can lament what an upper and downer being a Saltaire was. To that extent, I gave tireless hours singing, doing tech, running shows and taking my share of abuse from the director, only to be snubbed not only at contests but by others in the chorus, who I thought were my barber brothers. David, I was one of those fellows you described on that show in Logan and it was really just a thrill to sing in that venue. I even sang a solo in the “Let there be Peace On Earth” medley, and it was certainly a highlight performance for me.

    I really left barbershop because I couldn’t drink the massive EGO anymore from good singers, that really are only known within the BHS and former SPEBSQSA circles. It was like, I should be Soooo honored just to have one of them say hello to me, then push their hacked CD in my face. I love the music, I love the harmony and it really is a great form of music, outside of “The society”.

    I moved to Tennessee and was here when HQ relocated here. I was at three different International events and practically had to beg the Director of the Music City Chorus in Nashville to even acknowledge my presence. I’m a pretty darn good singer, but he could give two S@#$ts about me. Again Ego, and I wanted none of it. I have fun doing the webcasts, enjoying the music and really not getting caught up in the drama. Membership will always suffer until the EGO’s take a trip, and the warm and welcoming nature of what the founders intended the society to be, returns.

    Thanks for the trip down memory Lane David.

    -Howwww-D from Tennessee!!

  14. Troy Kaper says:

    Grow up. If you are in the hobby for the right reasons then non of this matters. You are just babbling on about superfluous events that happen in any hobby. You are not a barbershopper because you were in it for the wrong reason. If you are in it for the pure joy of ringing chords then you are a barbershopper. It looks like you were a singer who did barbershop harmony – but you were never really a barbershopper.

    • David says:

      Wow. I’m posting this just so others can see the kind of reaction I’m getting. I DID grow up, Troy. I voted with my feet. Take care…

    • Greg says:

      Troy, this is exactly the attitude that has poisoned the society and is the reason it is where it is today! DYING!!! Any chorus that turns away young teenagers needs a reality check. I don’t care how good you claim to be as a chorus. Look some of the other big choruses especially Ambassadors that have young kids in their choruses. I agree that we all love ringing chords, but there becomes a point when that is not fun if everyone can’t get along!

      I have an 8 year old son that just can’t wait to get on the risers. Matter as a fact, he sings with the chorus every rehearsal and he is really good for being 8 years old. If I were David I would have been gone at the first mention that maybe his sons would not be welcome in the chorus. I can’t wait for the day when both of my sons are old enough to enjoy this hobby with me!

    • Paul says:

      I feel sorry for anyone who does not take feelings into consideration for ANY endeavor.

      • David says:

        Just for the record, before I posted this I thoroughly considered that feelings might be hurt. I also figured I would be attacked (which I have been) by partisans within the Society. Since I’m no longer a member of the BHS, and don’t plan to go back anytime soon, I figured it was better for people to read the story than to protect the precious feelings of those involved.

    • chuck kenney says:

      TROY: DAVID IS right: i have been teaching young men to sing in public school music classes and i know how to attract them and keep them singing… i see the political side happening to young men in harmony instead of the reality of turning boys on to singing together.. I started a boys jr. high double quartet, i formed a gospel quartet, i have offered our chapter numerous times to teach them what they want to know and need to know, and yet been refused, and our chapter has dwindled from 70 on the risers to 20 on the risers…
      the PROOF OF THE PUDDING is in the eating” without membership skills, the good ones leave and the rest keep staying hoping to be taught, and then leave when they are NOT..

  15. Scott Koppa says:

    Wow, Dave. Sorry you had such a bad experience. I also left barbershop many years ago for similar (although not as severe) reasons, but I’m happy to say that I have found another group with a very talented and personable director who have welcomed me with open arms.

    It is very unfortunate for you, your sons, and the society that the leadership of your old chorus was so weak that they didn’t do their jobs when the director turned into a despot–depose him! It’s a though job, and no one wants to do it, but it has to be done. There are lots of talented directors (like ours) who can do a fine job of directing while maintaining the joy of our hobby at the same time, and you sound like you might have what it takes yourself, especially after your sour experience. So I’m going to echo the other sentiments you’ve seen here and say “don’t give up on barbershop,” just quit the bad situation.

    Show your boys that you don’t have to take that kind of behavior, but you also don’t have to give up something you enjoy and can share with them because of one man’s behavior and the weakness of the group’s leadership. Find another way.

    • David says:

      We’re still performing, just not in barbershop. Outside of the pretty limited 4-part paradigm there are literally unlimitless options and opportunities. It’s very freeing to not HAVE to just pick from the few barbershop options in the area.

  16. Fergie says:

    If you ane your boys ever move to Seattle area..you would be most welcome to join us on the risers.

    Don FERGIE Ferguson
    NWSound Chorus

  17. chuck kenney says:

    hi, i wrote to the publication educational and youth director about that very issue, TEACH dont just direct. Teach the guys to improve their singing, reading, showmanship, stage presence, tone quality, diction and articulation.. WELL? i have not received a reply yet about my email.. i too have seen this (AS YOU speak of) as it is very important to me, as a retired public school music teacher where i taught kids to do just what i’d like to see bbshop adult men accomplish. I have volunteered many times for youth camp and for doing some ”craft” sessions in our chorus, but i have never been taken up on my offer… and 10 + yr. members still can’t do basic music reading skills, that they should be able.. I would be LAX as a music teacher if i didn’t accomplish this with my students.. parent expect that of their kids , why would it not still be in the plans.. ? men join and expect to LEARN and be TAUGHT..

    • David says:

      My belief is that the “not a teaching chorus” was a cop-out. One of the few changes that DID come about from the chorus meetings last August were one-on-one coaching with assistant directors and individual singers. If the Saltaires are “not a teaching chorus,” what’s the point of individual lessons. Again, an after-the-fact cop-out to explain away an unfriendly, unwelcoming chorus culture.

  18. Charlene Bradley says:

    I agree with Donny Rose. Go have some fun singing with Beehive Statesmen. I know that they are not what you want, but you and your sons could help them so much. Also Beth is my dear friend and a great musician. Good luck to you.

    • David says:

      Instead of staying in barbershop and settling for a group that isn’t a good fit, we’re searching out other opportunities. There’s a whole world of music out there if you allow yourself to break free of the barbershop mold.

  19. Linda Noble says:

    Hi David,

    What you dealt with was a steaming pile of crap and it never should have happened. From time to time, weird “bureaucracies” spring up in a chapter – it happens with the women too. Someone or more than one person is in a position of power (director, BOD, etc.) and decides that they get to make all kinds of decisions, including who stays or goes, based on entirely arbitrary criteria. Then, a little clatch of hangers-on forms around that person. It’s the bully and the weak folks who get close to the bully so they avoid getting bullied, and they get to feel important to boot.
    It is a terrible situation and I can entirely understand you being 100% turned off by it. I am heartened to see you saying you will one day go back to Barbershopping, because it sounds like there was a lot of joy in it for you.
    I will say one more thing – please think about maybe visiting the other choruses in your area. If they at least go to Division or District contests then that should mean they are working towards goals. The smaller, not-as-accomplished choruses are just as much, if not more, in need of new members who have enthusiasm and skill, as well as young members!
    Ignore the people commenting who tell you to grow up or get a life or think you are overreacting to this director’s poor behavior and methods. From your telling, this guy has abhorrent behavior as a director that SHOULD NEVER be tolerated by someone who is in a position of authority in a chorus like that. You were justified in leaving. There is no way a member should be summarily dismissed like that. A GOOD chorus Board of Directors would have invalidated that act and taken whatever their recommendation as just that.
    Anyway, best of luck, thank you for posting this and keep a melody ringing and ringing in your heart!

    • chuck kenney says:

      linda: you are right, but ”under the table” things happen that are political that shouldn’t happen, we just have to be ”prepared to see people ” in reality.. i was dismissed from active member status for trying to have our NEWEST PAID IN FULL, ACCEPTED MEMBER NOT HAVE TO JUMP thru hoops for being african american that no one else had to do.. i didn’t realize that prejudice is alive and well in some peoples hearts , (even leadership people) i had never encountered that in my professional life as a musician.. i know we all get shocked when we encounter these reality situations, but let’s pick up the pooh and continue on with life… after all, dogs don’t always pre=select where they crap and vomit.. we just pick it up and get on with life…

      • David says:

        I posted this blog so my experience (and yes, of course it’s told from my perspective — there are others who would probably see things differently) would get out there for people to read. That was my entire intention.

        • Linda Noble says:

          I think it is excellent for it to be out there. To hell with the people criticizing you for your choice. Your life is yours and your choice is yours. You had to choose what was right for you and your family and your conscience.

      • Linda Noble says:

        Absolutely true. My belief is that how you handle a situation depends on what you ultimately want. I love music and cannot imagine my life without Barbershop at this point. So if my chapter had these kinds of issues that you both described I would leave as well. BUT I would seek out another chapter that I could live with or go form a new one with a strong and appropriate base. That’s just me. I am all for giving the negative elements as little spotlight as possible. They will eventually give up and go elsewhere because they aren’t getting any precious attention.

  20. Craig Minor says:

    You seem like a fairly pro-active guy, so what I don’t understand is why you didn’t at least attempt to gather like-minded members of the chorus and depose that jerk. From what you say it had to be obvious that the chorus was going down hill and that lack of commitment an admittedly talented director was the main problem. Fire him. He works for you, right?

    • David says:

      I did, and that caused friction. Some people WANT to be ruled — they WANT to be subjects. I compared members of this chorus to a battered wife who stands by her horrible husband, and I still think that’s an apt comparison.

  21. Bill says:

    My leaving my chapter is more about the quality of the chorus’s in the area..I am still a member through Frank Thorne but I do miss the singing in a quality chorus, but unfortunately that comes with drama and extra B.S. also..I sang for a high quality director also and when he went on rages it made people quit and that is hard for people to take. It’s a huge commitment to sing in a quality chorus learning music, stage presence, and the biggest thing the time. This would all be worth it again to sing in a good chorus…

  22. Todd Wilson says:


    As a former BHS staffer, board member, quartet and chorus singer, and director, I am truly sorry to hear of your experience with the Saltaires. I’ve done several shows in the SLC area with ACOUSTIX over the last 23 years and have many barbershop friends in that area.

    I’ve known John for many years but more as a quartet lead singer than a chorus director.

    Best practices in nonprofit management would put the board of directors IN CHARGE of mission, vision, policy governance, the budget, and monitoring the effectiveness of the director. The buck should stop with the board of directors.

    I’ll echo the sentiments of others in this forum. There are likely to be 50-75 former BHS members within 25 miles of Salt Lake City. START SOMETHING SPECIAL!

    From first hand experience, you may encounter some push back when the word gets out about the desire to form another chapter in the area, NIMBY is all too common in the world of barbershop.

    However, you should NOT miss out on the opportunity to sing with your sons. My oldest son has sung with me now for 10 years in three different choruses. I direct (and sing with) a small auditioned ensemble of 19 guys here in Music City and get to share the experience with my dad and my oldest son. It is very special.

    At 21, Taylor now serves on the board of directors, baritone section leader, visual performance coach, and as a member of our music evaluation committee. His involvement in this hobby as a youngster, hanging out with a bunch of adults has brought out a level of maturity I do not see in many 21 year old kids.

    We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit performing arts organization known as the Nashville Singers, and are not yet affiliated with the Barbershop Harmony Society. But that’s a story for another day and time.

    If you every get to Nashville on a Thursday night, be sure to pay us a visit. http://www.nashvillesingers.org If it’s between December and August, you’ll be invited to join us on the risers.

    • David says:

      Hi Todd. My family listened to Acoustix’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” and “God Bless the USA” and “Anthems/Ode to Joy” last night. We sang along a little … sorry about that. 🙂

      As I’ve mentioned already, we’re doing other musical things now. I was able to play Daddy Warbucks recently in a community theater production of “Annie,” which included both of my boys and my daughter as well. It was a great experience for the whole family. We’re all in other productions now — the boys are in “Carousel,” my daughter just got cast in “Alice in Wonderland Jr.” and I’ll be in an upcoming production of “Shrek: The Musical.” Everybody’s singing, just not old-timey 4-part harmony.

      My daughter told me, at one point, “Dad, you’re a lot more fun when you’re not barbershopping.” Case closed. I’m good.

  23. Megan says:

    Dave – I completely understand your frustration and disapointment in the leadership (or should I say lack there of) of your former chorus and your desire to vent it. I had a very similar experience with the director of my former Sweet Ad chorus, the only difference is that I left on my own. It was very hard to do because I had a long significant history with the chorus and lots of close friendships along the way.

    However, I am happy to say it was the best thing I ever did for myself and now I am singing with a chorus that has a leader (i.e. director) and a leadership team that “gets it” and I couldn’t be happier.

    So my advice to you is either start a chorus with all the other formers as suggested above, or visit other chorus’s in the area until you are comfortable with a new home for you and your sons to harmonize in – because life is too short to not sing barbershop and what an amazing hobby it is.

    My recommendation for the BHS and Sweet Adeline International organizations is be to require mandatory leadership training for all certified directors. Though the leadership training does not guarantee success, it does provide a foundation to build upon so that our organizations are better positioned to grow, rather than have people leave feeling uninspired and underappreciated as both you and I have experienced.

    Keep The Whole World Singing Barbershop – get back on that horse and SING!!

    • David says:

      Megan: As I mentioned above, we are all singing. Just not barbershop. When you confine yourself to the barbershop straightjacket, you are really limited in what you can do. You can get easily frustrated if none of the choruses in your area fill your needs. That was the situation I found myself in. So I stepped out of the box and found other things to do. And it’s been wonderful.

  24. Ritchie Lavene says:

    Let me preface, I am a 34 year member (since I was 6) and have directed 3 choruses (as the Front Line Director) totalling roughly 15 years. My choruses have generally started out as C level mid 50s choruses and usually end up low 70s, not much higher. I have always Directed choruses that have a general theory of, if you can meet the Minimum Daily Requirements of capabilities (Carry a tune, match pitches, learn songs at least by rote, and have some understanding of harmonization), you’re in and we’ll try and teach you the rest. I have believed that is the smallest amount I can ask from a member and still wrangle that into a pleasing performance package for an audience, and an enjoyable experience for the members.

    I take this story you presented with a small grain of salt because of it’s one sided presentation, but with my experience, I can definitely picture this happening, not just there but many places around our hobby. It’s disheartening, and I have a lot of trouble understanding how it even happens.

    If you know me, you know I’m not generally very quiet, and I’m quite passionate about whatever it is I choose to do. Yet, in all of the years that I’ve spent in front of a chorus, I have NEVER raised my voice in anger or chastised ANYONE in anything less than a playful manner. I wouldn’t even begin to know what that would look like. I think some however would tell me that’s why my choruses never score more than low 70s. If that’s true. I will have to live with that. Guys do NOT come to Tuesday night rehearsals to be yelled at and belittled. The only fineline is the motivation factor, and if you seen a handful of sports movies, there are several ways of getting guys motivated. I just believe that in this hobby, it should always done with joy, happiness and a sense of love for our singers.

    My approach with my guys is to “Change Their Lives for the Better” every Tuesday night. Do I succeed every week, no, but I try hard every week! The guys see that, the guys respond to that. Sure, not as much as you want all the time. So, when that happens, what do I do? I can’t change them! I can only change me and hope that will create a change in them!

    I’m saddened for you, I’m saddened for the other guys who have fallen prey to this. I hope, you and the others take it as a learning experience and don’t blame the hobby, blame the people and go out and make a change using what you’ve learned. I think Barbershop is a great medium for great positive impact on our world, in and out of the society, and I hope you see the power of that and go weild it for good!

    Thanks for letting me ramble, I hope you find your way back to the simple 4 part hobby that can change lives for the better.

    Ritchie Lavene
    Musical Director, The Oceanaires
    Presentation Judge

    • David says:

      Hi Richie:

      I don’t blame the hobby, but of course the hobby has been part of my life for so long, it was difficult to even conceive of doing anything else. It’s kind of amazing that almost all of the comments to this blog have been written from the perspective that all problems with singing groups (I’m sure this samecrap goes on in other kinds of hobby groups) have to be solved within the confines of barbershop.

      When I realized that there was no requirement that I HAD to sing with one of the BHS-associated chapters in my area, that opened up a lot more possibilities. And guess what I found? There are really great people who aren’t barbershoppers. And they enjoy music, and they are fun to sing with and work with.

      It’s very freeing.

      • Ritchie Lavene says:

        Well, I’m glad you found that. My experience with Vocal Groups outside of Barbershop haven’t been nearly as enjoyable. Different strokes for different folks. I seem to find a different type of person attracted to other vocal music, and it’s possible that since I’ve done this all my life, it’s what I’m most comfortable with.

        I’m not sure what you mean by your first paragraph about “solving all the problems from within the hobby?”

        • David says:

          By “solving all the problems from within the hobby,” I mean that most of the reactions have amounted to “start your own barbershop chorus” or “find another barbershop chorus.” I’m just pointing out that barbershoppers have a really tough time with someone finding musical fulfillment in other genres of music and other types of performing.

          • Linda Noble says:

            For my part, I think that if a person gets joy from being involved in other musical activities then that is 100% fantastic! If they leave the barbershop hobby and pursue music elsewhere great! I am happy they stayed with music! I am a problem solver by nature (IT Computer Tech Support) so I always want to fix the problem. I have no problem with someone who does not want to be the one to fix it, or even help fix it, walking away. What I always feel like I want to prevent is someone giving up on something that has potential to provide fulfillment and joy to someone because of stupid crap like this, which compared to making incredible music is just “blah blah blah”. So I always think in terms of leaving barbershop being the last resort. But for me that is also because I have a passion for barbershop music specifically. I sang choral music in high school. We sang religious pieces, show tunes, traditional classical, madrigal, regular choral pieces, etc. And I have been a “musical performer” character at small Renfaire type situations. By far, for me Barbershop is the B-E-S-T!!! So my motivation in trying to keep you, for instance, involved in barbershop is purely selfish. It’s not some ulterior motive that if you’re not doing barbershop then it’s not “real” music, or some other such bull. So that’s my take.


  25. Ritchie Lavene says:

    Maybe. I like to think of it as those of us who are so passionate about the hobby and have had such amazing experiences, we believe everyone could have those experiences easier within our hobby than others, and really care about sharing that with others. When one wants to “leave the flock” our instincts kick in and hope to “save you” so to speak!

    I hope you see it as a positive thing that so many people care that you have good experiences!

    I certainly do! Either way, keep singing, be happy and give as much as you get!


  26. Mark Cary says:

    I can’t believe I read this whole blog!

    What did I glean from it all?

    Forgive, don’t forget, move on.

    I’m in the throws of being the founder of my third chorus … one I had to leave, due to job transfer … the last one was hijacked by several “jerk-mode” peeps … this next one … who knows?!?!?!

    I just know that I love the genre, the sound, and 98% of the Barbershop community! Hell, I helped organize The Heart of Columbia Chorus, Region 14, SAI!!! And, due to thyroid surgery, I may not qualify for my own new chorus’ riser pass … but it’s not gonna stop me from doing MY part in getting this Society back on track!

    Get off your duff and help us! Please?

  27. Ray Kahler says:

    To Dave: SOP misses you and your sons.

    To everyone else: WOW I really expected someone to use the words “preservation and encouragement.” We still do that don’t we?

    • David says:

      Here in Utah, apparently, it’s the Society for the Prevention and Discouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America.

      We miss every one of our brothers in the SOP. Need to make a visit, though we will probably give it a coupleof months… 🙂

      • Rich says:

        Itsn’t it interesting that the Society changed it’s name from “The Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quarteting Singing in America, Inc.” to “The Barbershop Harmony Society”.

        Dave, If I remember correctly, you’re the one that successfully got us through (directed) a district contest after we lost Ed Davis and before John came on the scene. Because of you we proved to the barbershop community that we weren’t going down and a force to be reckoned with. Thanks!

        • David says:

          That wasn’t me, actually. I was out of the state during that time.

          By the way, I’ve seen similar things happen with my old chapter in Phoenix. The old Phoenicians had a giant rift related to a change in directors. Then they got back together. Then some more splitting. It’s something that happens anywhere guys let egos get out of control and internal politics takes over harmony and brotherhood. In other words: just about everywhere.

  28. Jim says:

    Dave, I’m saddened to see one of my best friends be treated this way. We have had many discussions about how to improve our chorus and quartets, so I know where your heart is in trying to improve the chorus by making suggestions (that were perceived as a threat by leadership). A good chapter will welcome talent and new ideas so I wouldn’t waste your time fretting over their issues. I also belonged to a chapter with a strong director who eventually had to be “deposed” despite his coaching talents and leadership position in society judging. It was a tough decision made by the music team and board but we made it for the good of the chapter. It sounds like a similar decision by the Salt-aires is needed if they want to survive.
    You definitely should start a quartet with your boys. I sure do miss singing with you.

  29. Ray Stinson says:

    Dave: Thanks for posting your diatribe concerning the Saltaires and John Sasine. I was a member of the Saltaires for several years from 1997 through 2002 and attended several International Competitions with them. During that period of time, the Saltaires preformed many concerts in and around Salt Lake City as well as attending both district and international competitions. We worked hard and had a great sound. John at times displayed the very attributes you mentioned but we made it work. With such dedicated chorus members and the history of the Saltaires, it is sad to see them dwindle down to the state the chorus is in today. I know several members that have moved over to the Beehive Statesmen just to stay in Barbershop, but the quality is not the same. I, for one, was very proud to be a member of the Saltaires and sing on the International Stage several times. A job change moved me away from Salt Lake City and I’ve never gotten into Barbershop since; the quality of those choruses around me are not the best, like we had in SLC. I just hope and pray there is some way to save the Saltaires but that does not look promising at present. Thanks for taking the time to post your views and hopefully John will take to heart what you have written and build the Saltaires back to where they can be a force in Barbershop again. To do that, he needs to bring in younger talent and get back to teaching new members how to preform at the International Level, without browbeating them.

  30. jim gallagher says:

    I sang at International with the Saltaires several times and am now a happy member of the Beehive Statesmen. I was unfulfilled at the Saltaires because I was not in a quartet. Within weeks of joining the Beehive Statesmen I was in two quartets. I can tell you that it is more exciting to sing in a quartet before your chorus than to sing in a chorus at international. If you and your boys can cut it, I’d be happy to compete in a quartet with you at our fall convention.

    • David says:

      We’re no longer in the area (moved down to Southern Utah), or otherwise we might consider it. For now, we’ll probably just continue to enjoy barbershop from afar.

  31. MJM says:

    David, I googled John and was surprised to learn that HE joined when he was FOURTEEN. That’s definitely a teenager- seems extremely unfair to ban other teenagers from the joy he seems to have received. I hope you and your sons are happy.


    “John Sasine, International Quartet Champion
    John joined the Barbershop Society in 1977, when he was
    14, and competed in his first contest three weeks later!”

  32. Kate says:

    I’m so sad to read this! Few things bring me more joy than singing with my sisters in Sweet Adelines. The men in Utah deserve the same kind of positivity as women here and men elsewhere receive. Find your joy again by starting up a new chapter!

    • David says:

      Thanks, Kate, but I’m okay. It’s actually kind of amazing how many people have made that suggestion–to start a new chapter. Here’s the thing, though.

      Right after this happened, my wife (who is a music educator) ran into Marty Monson, the CEO of the Barbershop Harmony Society, at the Utah Music Educators Association conference. She said something about her husband being a former barbershopper, and he asked her about the “former.” When she had given him just a little flavor about what happened with our family and the Saltaires, he gave her his card and said, “Have your husband contact me.”

      I did. I wrote Mr. Monson a long email detailed what had happened in Salt Lake, and how my boys were treated by the chapter. I sent the email and waited. Guess what? He never even responded–not even to say, “Thanks for contacting us, but screw you.” Nothing.

      Starting a chapter is hard work. Why would I want to pour my heart and soul (and precious time) into building up an organization with such toxic leadership (apparently at all levels)? Why bother? There are other things I can do with my time.

      I should point out that the Saltaires seem to have fallen on hard times or something. The organization’s website (which is still being published on barbershop.org as a going concern) has been down for months. Check out http://www.saltaires.org/ and see what you see. On the other hand, my younger son (now 16)–the one who wasn’t good enough to sing for the malignant narcissist up in SLC–is starring this summer as Joseph in a local production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

      Does anyone know how to spell “schadenfreude”?

  33. Rich says:

    I joined the Saltaires back in the early ’90s before John was on the scene. At that time we were a young energetic chorus doing all of the things that you would hope for! Fun shows, plenty of performances. great comraderie and lots of hard work. However, we had never won District or competed internationally, and we had a fire in our belly to accomplish them.

    When John came on the scene, he was fresh off his wins with Nightlife and Masters of Harmony and had just moved to Salt Lake. We had recently lost our director (hats off to Ed Davis), were eager and felt blessed to find someone of his caliber.

    When John became the director, things immediately changed. Gone were the fun Fall shows which morphed in to ‘concerts’, gone were the singouts, and gone were the fun activities and rituals that nearly every other chorus follows. We were a competition chorus and eagerly drank the koolaid that would get us on the international stage. Consequently, we willingly accepted John’s ill temper and aloofness in return for a crack at a championship.

    Well, we succeeded – to a point. We quickly went on to win the District championship several times and to compete at International – rising to as high as sixth. However, we and John had plateaued and the pressure to improve was taking us nowhere. Rehearsals became more grinding and unpleasant. John became even more cantankerous and withdrew into a small elite group that was now the BOD. At this point I had other things going on in my life that was more important and that did not square with John’s expected level of commitment, so I left.

    What happened? I’ve sung in many organizations (and even directed a few) and performed in many bands, orchestras and ensembles. Several had tyrants as directors, yet we were still willing to give our all. Why? Because in addition to having excellent musical skills, virtually all of the sucessful directors (tyrant or not) had a passion for their craft and a personal emotional connection with the ensembles’ members. John had no emotional connection (or had a negative connection) with the vast majority of the chorus, and we all knew it. Consequently, there was no unity or drive to take us over the top or the energy to even stay where we were.

    Then came the purge. John and the BOD met and determined that in order to ‘improve’ the chorus the best way to do it, would be to weed out the lesser talented and committed members. Consequently, they went to those members and disinvited them. When the rest of the chorus found out even more exited. Consequently, the Saltaires have dwindled down to John, his cronies and an elite few.

    What brought me to this blog was the fact that I went looking for the Saltaires website and couldn’t find it!?! When I read the blog I found that I identified with David’s comments and sad experience (hence, David’s perspective is not unique).

    For several years after I left the Saltaires I would occasionally run into Lon whose is/was a passionate barbershopper and a Saltaire. On several occasions he tried to sell me on coming back (something about needing tenors). One of the last times I ran into Lon, he started his pitch and I told him, “Lon, it’s just not fun anymore.” at which point he backed off. It truly wasn’t fun anymore!

    I still like music and I stil like to sing, but like David, I found that there are so many other venues where I can be fulfilled.

    Side note: The Beehive Statesmen went through a similar experience in the ’80s with their director – which gave rise to the Saltaires.

    • David says:

      Since I posted this I’ve received ample confirmation that my experience is not unique. It doesn’t change anything, but it sure does validate what I was feeling at the time. Thank you, Rich, for taking the time to tell your own story.

      • Rich says:

        I learned a long time ago to not waste my time on petty people with oversized egos.

        The Saltaires was an incredible organization with a great tradition (and future) that was allowed to implode. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just John. The BOD could have made a change and righted the ship. Sadly, they didn’t.

        • David says:


          The funniest/saddest thing about this whole thing is that something has happened to their website (it’s been offline for months) and so this little blog post is currently the number one result for a Google search for “Saltaires chorus.” So anytime someone wants to find out what’s going on with the group, they run across a cautionary tale about ego, politics and hubris. Probably not what the remaining members really want to happen. I let them know several months ago, but the site is still 404ed.

          • Rich says:

            Well, that’s what drove me here. I occasionally run into old friends that were part of the Saltaires and they all seem well aware of the situation. Some have moved on to the Statesmen and some have taken my route. I truly hope that one day Salt Lake gets the great chorus it deserves.