Inclusion Statement

The Westchester Chordsmen are proud of the many decades in which we have welcomed men of all backgrounds and ethnicities. The members of the Westchester Chordsmen not only accept differences in our chorus, but we also celebrate them. We are committed to having a diverse membership, considering it to be a source of strength. All membership applicants receive equal consideration without regard to race, color, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, or age. A basic ability to sing, and a desire to share in the joy of singing with others, are the only prerequisites for membership.

We wish to always reflect and embrace the wonderful diversity of the region that we represent. We are committed to working proactively to achieve that goal. The following set of underlying principles will guide our efforts:

  • We will reach out to more diverse communities for cooperative or joint performances.
  • We will seek more diverse venues and audiences.
  • We will increase our visibility throughout the entire community in which we live, without exception, to enhance our membership recruiting efforts.
  • We will expand our scholarship program to include a broader range of candidates, more representative of our community’s demographics.
  • We will practice cultural awareness and sensitivity in the selection of our music, and in the manner of its presentation

Our Board has established a committee dedicated to pursuing and implementing these principles. This pledge extends to every member of the Westchester Chordsmen. We are energized by the thought that our dedication to the ideal of ‘Inclusion’ will advance the cause of brotherhood, and spread the joy of Barbershop Harmony singing to new participants who will engage in an old, but treasured art form, and to new audiences, who will be awakened to its glories.

Heritage and History

‘Barbershop Harmony’ singing is firmly rooted in African-American musical traditions of the 19th century. This complex form of four-part vocal harmony originated with African-Americans in the late 19th century, and blossomed in the early 20th, alongside other African-American musical forms such as ‘ragtime’, ‘blues’, and what came to be known as ‘jazz’. Many of the most popular African-American musicians of the 20th century, including Scott Joplin, Sydney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton, W. C. Handy, and even the great Louis Armstrong, began their musical journeys singing in Barbershop Harmony quartets.

Sadly, in spite of what was widely known of the true roots of Barbershop Harmony, African-Americans were excluded from membership in the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS), from its founding (as S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A) in 1938, until the policy was ended in 1963. The Barbershop Harmony Society and the Westchester Chordsmen regret the Society’s errors of the past, and the lost opportunities for the worthy singers who were denied membership, singers who would have added even more wondrous moments to the glorious history of the Society’s outstanding quartets and choruses.

To its credit, BHS now accurately celebrates the heritage of Barbershop Harmony, and through its various programs, actively supports and encourages diversity throughout the ranks of its membership. In a significant act before a mass audience of attendees at the Barbershop Harmony Society International Convention of 2017, BHS executive leadership ceremoniously honored the members of the Grand Central Red Caps, a New York City-based champion Barbershop Harmony quartet that had been denied entry into the Society’s 1941 National Finals, simply because its members were African-Americans. The honors and recognition BHS bestowed upon those men, belated as they were, served as a very public acknowledgement of discriminatory policies of the past, and as an affirmation of the resolve to continue on the path of inclusion and diversity BHS has set out upon.

—The Westchester Chordsmen

Learn more about the fascinating history of Barbershop Harmony

Learn more about how BHS honored the Grand Central Red Caps