Setting Goals as We "Go For the Gold"
Scott Hansen, Apr 6, 2011
When one is going for the gold for the eighth consecutive time, where does one find the inspiration to do it “one MOH time?”
For the better part of two decades, the Barbershop Harmony Society dreamed about what would happen if the two “super choruses” should ever meet in competition. For a few short months, this unlikely possibility appeared to finally be an imminent reality. The buzz was palpable. The Masters of Harmony had a sense of scared excitement, wondering if they could rise to the level needed to beat the vaunted Vocal Majority, who, although recently dethroned, over the past two years have risen to heights of excellence previously unknown during their record-setting 11 gold-medal run.
However, it was not meant to be. One might think that the shocking news of the VM’s withdrawal from competition would have elicited sighs of relief and visions of victory. Instead, there was a nearly universal sense of disappointment, not so much because the epic battle of the century would no longer take place, but more so because the Masters would no longer face the absolute necessity of having to push themselves to new places they have never been before.
One might now be tempted to be lulled into a false sense of security about Kansas City or to feel that the touted threat of The Northern Lights is simply motivational rhetoric to keep us from being lured into complacency. If so, think again.
Consider this . . . not only is Toronto seeded #1, but several circumstances conspire to make them a force to be reckoned with. First, they obviously have crowd appeal. Last year, they won the inaugural award for audience favorite and there is some truth to the cliché that the crowd usually picks the winner.
Second, they have come in second and left with the silver medal five consecutive times in the past decade. Remember when Northbrook strung together eight consecutive silver medals enroute to the Gold? The audience and the judges couldn’t help but hope that they would eventually get over the hump and be rewarded for their consistent excellence.
Third, do not underestimate the David versus Goliath effect. The “small chorus” toppling the “big chorus” is a tried and true favorite. It’s a variation of the desire to see the perennial champs dethroned. It’s human nature to want to see the underdog upset the team on top (consider The Westminster Chorus versus The Vocal Majority, 2006, as the quintessential barbershop illustration of both variations).
More subtly, the new trend in barbershop, especially in the judging community, is to listen for and reward clean sound. Westminster certainly set the bar, but the laws of physics work in Toronto’s favor; simply put, it’s more difficult for 120 men to sound unified and free of noise than it is for 50. And let’s not forget the obvious: Toronto is just a darn good singing chorus that consistently finds creative and impactful packages to present.
And then there is the old saw about how our only real competition is ourselves. One can find motivation from many places. Setting a goal of achieving the highest score ever. Or of singing a song for the ages, like “Love Me, And The World Is Mine,” that will go down in barbershop lore as one of the greatest performances of all time.
Maybe the goal is for the chorus to come together as a family and then come off the stage feeling like we absolutely nailed it. Or perhaps your goal is more personal, to just feel, when the curtain closes, that you individually left nothing on the table. Some might suggest that the goal is to honor the music and do it justice by fully inhabiting and living the lyric and message of the song. Or maybe to just forget about scores, judges, and medals and focus all of your energy on moving the audience . . . to laughter, to cheers, to tears.
For me, this time around is a little bit different. My goal is simply to enjoy the journey of the next few months as much as possible. Not an easy mental shift for a highly competitive person like myself. You see, I already have a box full of gold medals. But one thing the last two decades have taught me is that our time on stage come July will go by in the blink of an eye. And what I remember most when I look back fondly over the Masters’ historic journey is the uniqueness of the three months leading up to International competition, when the rehearsals have, not only a quantitative, but a qualitative difference. Whether it is youth, health or those we love, we tend to take our most precious gifts for granted. I am committed this time around to milking and memorizing the Masters’ moments and just plain having fun.
A gold medal, a perfect score, a standing ovation. A quiet smile of approval from our director, goose bumps on the arm of a judge in the pit, or a tear in the eye of someone special who came to the convention to see you perform for the first or perhaps the last time. Motivation comes in many shapes and sizes. We each must find our own. Only then will we individually and collectively go where we have never gone before.
Return to the News Page