A newsmaker you should know: Singer coordinating youth barbership festival

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Donna Knapp was familiar with barbershop singing -- her husband, Gordon, sang in a quartet -- but she didn't know that such an opportunity existed for women.

"He was performing at the Benedum and the Greater Harmony Chorus came out and I was thrilled to know I could join,'' she recalled.

Mrs. Knapp, 67, of Plum, began singing with the Greater Harmony Chorus of Sweet Adelines in 1996. Her husband, 70, has been singing since he was 40.

For both of them, it's been a wonderful activity.

In recent months, Mrs. Knapp has taken her love of singing a step further by volunteering to be festival coordinator for the first Youth Harmony Festival on Oct. 5.

The daylong festival, the first for youth to be held in the Pittsburgh region, is for ages 13 and older and for music educators.

The focus of the event is to expose participants of all ages and backgrounds to barbershop singing, Mrs. Knapp said.

"It is a great hobby. We just want everyone to know it is out there," she said.

The festival will be held at Glade Run Presbyterian Church in Valencia. It is sponsored by the Greater Harmony Chorus of Sweet Adelines and the Harmony Line Chorus of the Barbershop Harmony Society.

"We have invited students and teachers from all over the Greater Pittsburgh area, including Ohio," Mrs. Knapp said.

She is particularly excited that the groups offer the festival for free.

"We have received several grants to make this possible,'' she said. "But this might be the only time we can offer this for free.''

Festival organizers also want to provide music educators with the barbershop experience and "tons of resources," and let students know scholarships are available for barbershop singing, she noted.

"Another reason we are hosting the festival," Mrs. Knapp said, "is because many schools had to scale down or eliminate some of the arts programs for budgetary reasons. We think those kids who have an interest in the arts will miss many opportunities. At least we can give them a place where they can be their best for a day."

The barbershop style of singing began in the U.S. and is uniquely American, Mrs. Knapp said. She said that is another reason to promote it to young people.

"Everyone knows the youth are our future, so we have to expose them to barbershop singing for it to continue. It isn't to recruit them, but educate them."

Both the Knapps enjoy performing. Mrs. Knapp said she also loves the "glitz and sparkle."

"It's a great way to play dress-up as an adult," she said.

The couple passed on their love of music to their son, Tim, 43, who lives in Allentown.

"He was the lead in all of his high school musicals but then got out of singing for a while. Now he is back in it and his quartet placed 20th in the International Competition held in Toronto," Mrs. Knapp said.

The Knapps love to follow their son's performances -- she said they are "groupies" -- and traveled to Toronto to hear him.

She hopes that young people and teachers from outlying areas come to the festival, which will end with free performances by the students who attend as well as the Greater Harmony Chorus and the Harmony Line Chorus.

At the festival, students will work with Jennifer Fogle, a certified Sweet Adeline director, and Chuck May, director of Young Men's Chorus. Sessions for music educators will be led by Jean Flinn, a Sweet Adeline judge and an educator.

A retired teacher from the Newport Business Institute located in New Kensington, Mrs. Knapp became volunteer coordinator of the festival in early spring.

She has received help from other singers in both organizations and from her husband, a retired Riverview teacher.

"He is going to be co-director of the men's international competition in 2015, so this is good practice," she said.

The performances at the Youth Harmony Festival start at 5:30 p.m. and are free, Participants can register until Sept. 30: www.harmonyfestival.wordpress.com.


Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com. First Published September 12, 2013 9:45 AM


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