Bringing the BQPA/Pioneers History up to date December 2010.

Penned by Jack Martin, Past President Emeritas

The BQPA is a split off organization of the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS), being a provisional subsidiary similar to affiliates of the BHS. Our organization was founded by a gentleman named Tom Neal in 1982, and was then identified as the "Pioneers." A yearly convention was held in various cities around the USA. The “Pioneers” encouraged the formation of quartets as well as those who choose to sing what I will call The "Old Songs", or those written around the turn of the 20th century – 1890 - 1930. It was a loosely structured group, just getting together to enjoy our singing hobby, and enjoying success, I might add. 


After a few years we begin holding our conventions in Chicago, IL, and remained there for about 15 years. Our attendance at these function grew to about 75-90 singers. In the mid 90's we expanded our activities to include a western convention in Southern California as well as the one in Chicago. 



 In 2006, in conjunction with the BHS, the BQPA sponsored a "traditional barbershop quartet contest” at the BHS mid-winter convention in Albuquerque NM. It was called the 'Buffalo Bills’ contest. The Buffalo Bills contest was a real defining point in the future direction the BQPA was to take. There was “Standing Room Only” in the contest auditorium as many were curious to see how things would play out. The contest was won by ”The Great Honk”, an excellent quartet organized by Jay Hawkins, of the Louisville Thorobreds fame (and bass of the gold medalists "Interstate Rivals"), who performed an original song medley featuring music from each of the early decades of SPEBSQSA history. The quartet clearly outclassed the other competitors, and their performance was a wonderful musical compilation of the history of Barbershop! 

Below is a picture of the “The Great Honk” quartet who won the BQPA sponsored Buffalo Bills contest in Albuquerque NM in 2006.

Singers are: Shane Scott, tenor: Eddie Holt, lead; Jay Hawkins, bass; and Drew Ellis, baritone. 

The contest turned out to be quite successful in the eyes of many. However, the BHS decided to promote the current youth chorus contest at the mid-winter conventions, and the BQPA activities at BHS mid-winter were discontinued. 

Tom Neal resigned as leader of the BQPA/Pioneers in the spring of 2007, at the general BPQA/Pioneers meeting in Boulder City NV. Immediately Subsequent to Tom Neal’s resignation, a steering committee was formed to provide follow on leadership. The members of this steering committee were Jack Martin, Chairman, Rex Touslee, Lee Ishinger, Rosie Rosenthal, Herb Langthorp and Tom Jewel, all long-time supporters of the BQPA/Pioneers. The BQPA had been granted corporation status by the state of NV prior to the Buffalo Bills contest. 

The intent of the Steering Committee was to develop a structured hierarchy as a stand-alone entity. Within 6 months Lee Ishinger had drafted by-laws, and Rex Touslee, with input from all members of the committee, developed a mission statement documenting our reason for existence. Herb Langthorp took the job of acting treasurer. Jack Martin, with the assistance of Burt Szabo, developed our musical style definition; Rosie Rosenthal worked diligently toward the formation of an internal structure for fusing each of our separate responsibilities into a Board of Directors and the establishment of Officers. Tom Jewel served as a liaison to the BHS quartet chapters in the Southern California area. 

With this accomplished, an election of officers was held in the fall of 2007. The following officers were elected: President, Jack Martin; VP, Rex Touslee; Secretary, Lee Ishinger; Treasurer, Herb Langthorp; Jim Gallagher, serving as IPP; Rosie Rosenthal, member at large.   

During the ensuing months the BQPA organization petitioned for subsidiary status within the BHS; however, agreement could not be reached regarding differences in the BQPA bylaws with those of the BHS. This resulted in the BQPA withdrawing its petition for BHS Subsidiary status in 2008. A cordial relationship was maintained between the BQPA and the BHS. The BHS considers the BQPA a provisional subsidiary, which has little to no adverse effect on either organization. Subsequent to this departure the BQPA officers revised the bylaws of the BQPA to a much simplified structure. This revision is currently displayed on the BQPA website. 

Due to deaths and resignations of members, the Board of Directors and Officers’ Positions of the BQPA have been replaced/adjusted as necessary to accommodate the needs of the organization. During the time frame of 2007-2010 the BQPA has grown to 275 registered members with attendance at our quartet festivals being around 150 singers. Our membership consists of singers from the four corners of North America.   

The BQPA continues to host a Quartet Festival in Chicago, IL, in September and one in the Phoenix, AZ, area in the spring. The BQPA/Pioneers have a cordial relationship with the BHS as many of our BQPA membership are dual members, who enjoy barbershop singing in a "less competitive environment" at our BQPA Quartet Festivals. Many of the BQPA members are actively singing in Quartet Chapters spanning North America from Massachusetts to California. The BQPA/Pioneers currently have a few members and supporters from the BHS affiliate organizations, although it is difficult for many of them to attend our activities due to the distance, which is quite understandable. 

One thing that is quite unique within the BQPA/Pioneers is that we favor songs of earlier years as opposed to much of the more modern contemporary music that is currently sung on the BHS contest stage The semi-annual Quartet Festivals held by the BQPA have always been structured in an after-glow fashion with a Friday night “luck of the draw” quartet singing contest. This contest always results in a lot of fun, laughter, great harmony and often great quartet singing. In 2004, this “luck of the draw” contest was dedicated to the memory of one of our long time supporters, “Jinny Janis” of "Chordettes” fame. Jinny loved singing with the stronger voices of the male singers. To this day, the BQPA awards the coveted Jinny Janis medal to the winner of the contest. 

There has always been a Parade of Quartets Show during the last evening of the Festival. This show features organized quartets from the area, with some coming from far distances to perform. The annual membership meeting is held during the Quartet Festival, and sets the pace and direction for the future of the BQPA. It is the desire of the BQPA membership to share and celebrate the love of barbershop singing of the "old songs'" and the preservation of the traditional barbershop quartet. We of the BQPA would like to consider all singers as friends of the BQPA.