We Got Next: Kyle Snook
Posted on 05 June 2017
Like many middle school students, I had a love for music. Like many high school students, I found that love for music manifest itself in playing guitar. Unlike many college students, I found that I had a love for barbershop quartet music.
In an age where the most exposure people get from a barbershop quartet comes in the form of Jimmy Fallon singing the latest sex-ridden pop hit in four part harmony, most people don’t realize that barbershop today isn’t as square as it is remembered. Although there can be some hokeyness left over from the vaudeville days, now-a-days there are a wide variety of musical genres heard in the barbershop style and sung by people of all ages.
It was the music that drew me to singing barbershop, but I quickly found that there was something special about the relationships with people that I made through the music. When I was 18, I moved 8 hours away from home in Cleveland, OH to Nashville, TN to study music. I was in a foreign place with no friends or family for the first time ever. I didn’t realize how much I would miss sense of home. I desperately sought after a sense of community, family and belonging that I had firmly established in Cleveland.
Upon joining the local barbershop chorus in Nashville, I found that I was both musically satisfied, but had also found the social peace I had been searching for. My dad was 8 hours away, but standing around me every Tuesday night rehearsal were 60+ dads, uncles and grandfathers. Most of them were older than me and had gone through life before I had. They were always willing to offer advice, help and rides to chorus. My friends were still in Ohio, but standing around me were 60+ new friends, who were my elders, but insisted that I not call them Mr. ________. I know many men and women who are friends of mine, from all across the world, spanning across generations, but bonded by the great equalizer that is music. This experience isn’t unique to me. Barbershop is a home and open community to people from all walks of life.
At some point in college, I deleted my Facebook and Twitter and have never had an Instagram. I’m aware that I’m the minority in that regard, but have become hyper-aware of people’s dependence on stimulation through social media and through our phones since deleting my social media. I don’t recommend that everyone delete theirs like I did, but know that, for me, I’m happier without them. Barbershop offers a social experience that I firmly believe you can’t get anywhere else. You don’t hold sheet music. You don’t work in a silo. You stand across from three other people, all singing different parts, but creating something that is greater than the sum of the parts. You don’t need an instrument, or vocal training or any clue what you’re doing. You just need a willingness to use your unique, God-given instrument: the voice. That and the ability to listen to what’s happening with the other three singers.
I was lucky enough to secure a job at the Harmony Foundation in Nashville right out of college. The foundation believes that singing enriches lives and connects people through charitable giving, so that we may give others the opportunity to become life-long singers.
In my travels around the U.S. for work, I’ve met people who are the middle of divorces, who have lost their wives, their child has attempted suicide, someone who was the victim of attempted murder and the message they’ve all told me is this: that they were in a dark place and it was singing barbershop with friends that lifted them out of it. It’s my pleasure to connect with people who feel alone, misunderstood, or left out. I know that there are people who sing for the fun of it. I know that singing barbershop makes better men, wives, friends, citizens, etc.
Barbershop is often associate with people in their 60s and up. But, when I was given the opportunity at 22 years old to spread the divine gift of music to people of all ages, I had to wonder: “Why not me?” Young people are the future and we must ALL ask ourselves, “If not you, then who? And if not now, then when?” There is no point when the generation above us tells us that it’s our turn to make sure that the world works the way we want it to. The earlier we start to shape the world around us, the better.