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Barbershop quartets are the latest sound at Somerset High School

Junior tenor Jacob Scott, freshman lead Ethan Lammers, senior bass Tyler Kupczak and junior baritone JT Karis perform under the name "JT and the Boyz."1 / 3
Kaitlin Raber (baritone), Tayva Strom (bass), Ashley Beasley (lead) and Kacie Larkowski (tenor) (l-r), all sophomores, perform together as the Somerset girls quartet at the SHS Fall Choir Concert last week. They perform under the group name "A.T. Double K."2 / 3
SHS choir member Luke Westmoreland attended the International Music Camp to learn more about barbershop music.3 / 3

Barbershop music is the newest sound emanating from the Somerset High School music department.

And its popularity has skyrocketed.

Two barbershop quartets have been in the works at SHS over the past two years. They made their first appearance before a large local crowd on Oct. 22 during the Somerset Fall Choir Concert.

"JT and the Boyz," a male group, formed in the spring of 2011. They have two new members this year after two of the boys graduated last spring. They have done a good amount of performances in the area, including a local Youth in Harmony Festival, school performances, the Croix Valley Chordsmen annual shows, solo/ensemble competition and the Pea Soup Days Talent Show. Students in the group are JT Karis, Jacob Scott, Tyler Kupczak and Ethan Lammers.

"AT Double K," an all-female group, formed in the spring of 2012. They were all freshmen when the group was formed. They got their start by performing at last spring's solo/ensemble competition. The four girls began the group as freshmen last year. They include Ashley Beasley, Kacie Larkowski, Kaitlin Raber and Tayva Strom.

A meeting with the quartet members showed students who are highly enthused about the musical craft they've learned. The students said that when the idea was first introduced, they all thought of the old-fashioned barbershop quartet costumes. They soon found the music has been modernized, with the boys wearing suits and the girls adorned in colorful dresses.

Scott said the students were shocked when they began blending their voices together.

Karis agreed, saying "the ability to pull the four sounds together is pretty awesome."

The girls said they are looking forward to the chance when the two groups can perform as a double quartet on a song. All the students said they are always listening to songs to see if they would be good fits to be performed by their groups.

When the students compete in the WSMA solo/ensemble competitions, they have a category strictly for barbershop music that they can compete in. This gives them a chance to advance to the state competition in barbershop music and both groups said that's their goal.

The Somerset Music Department received a $1,500 grant from the Indianhead Barbershop Chorus for promoting the Barbershop style in our school choral program.

As part of the grant, the Somerset quartets performed as part of the Indianhead Chorus Show on Oct. 13 in Amery. As part of two shows there, they sang in front of 1,500 people.

The Indianhead Chorus is part of the Barbershop Harmony Society, an organization of nearly 30,000 male singers of all ages.  This is the second year they have awarded a grant to a local school's choral program.  The grant is given to a school that promotes the barbershop art form in their choral department. SHS choir instructor Scott Perau is an avid member of the Barbershop Harmony Society. He is part of a barbershop group that has placed highly in international competitions.

He infuses barbershop into his classroom through quartet singing, tag teaching, sending students to the local Youth in Harmony Barbershop Camp. He introduces students to many great recordings and videos of outstanding male and female barbershop quartets and barbershop choruses. The grant was put towards the installation of five new hanging microphones in the high school multi-purpose room (the performance facility for the high school music and theater departments).

Perau uses barbershop music as part of his choir instruction at the high school. He gives all the members of the choir chances to try singing in the quartet format.

"It helps develop ear training and confidence in your own voice," he said.

One SHS choir member, Luke Westmoreland, is a member of the Croix Chordsmen Chorus, a barbershop group of more than 40 singers out of Stillwater, Minn. He also became a member of the Barbershop Harmony Society last month. He has been attending Youth in Harmony Day Festivals and Camps since he was in seventh grade. He also attended the International Music Camp is at Dunseith, N.D.

The barbershop style music has become a recruiting tool for the music department. The barbershop groups performed at the high school open house and there are plans for the groups to perform for the younger middle school classes in attempt to spark an interest in vocal music.

It has already sparked an interest at the high school. There are now 23 boys in the high school choir, a much higher number than seen in recent years.

Perau said the middle school visits are planned to let younger students know that they can be involved in music and sports. Nearly half of the Spartan boys varsity soccer team is part of the high school choir.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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