The unique chorus, which was created to participate in the Festival, included 39 young men ranging in age from 13-20 years with an average age of 16. The group consisted of current students and alumni from Oshkosh West High School and a few students from other area schools. The chorus included some youth with special needs who helped bring out the best in everyone.
Area schools were contacted through music educators and their students were invited to participate. The chorus had its organizational meeting September 8, 2007 and rehearsed at a church in Oshkosh on weekends. The primary organizer was Jacob Oxley, a college freshman and previous director of the Oshkosh West High School Barbershop Chorus. He received assistance from Seth Boyte, a high school senior, who is West’s current director.
While youth ran the chorus operation, the Oshkosh Winnebagoland Chapter provided logistical and financial support. Monies were raised through fundraisers, grants from foundations and donations, including some from barbershop groups. Thanks to the LOL District and to the Appleton (Fox Valleyaiers), Green Bay, Manitowoc, Plymouth, and Ripon Chapters for their financial support and also to the Harmony Foundation for paying the boys’ lodging and registration fees. Finally, a special thanks to James Estes, the Society’s Director of Student Activities, for organizing the event and to Dick Staedt, LOL’s Director of YIH, for his encouragement and support.
Fifty-four hours on the bus for the round trip to and from San Antonio was a bonding experience for the guys and chaperones as well. The chorus did everyone proud and represented themselves, their schools, and the barbershop hobby with class and distinction. The mentoring by the older youth to their younger counterparts was outstanding and there was great team chemistry. The memories of this remarkable barbershop experience will linger among these young men for a lifetime. It represented the best barbershopping has to offer and sent a message that the youth movement is alive and well.