Two UI students sing with Iowa City barbershop chorus

BY JON FRANK | APRIL 15, 2011 7:20 AM

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Approximately 20 singers in the Old Capitol Barbershop Chorus stood on bleachers in the center of the Social Hall at the Robert A. Lee Center on Thursday night.

A gray-haired man in an orange sweatshirt hummed his harmonica and, seconds later, the group filled the spacious brick-tiled room with an a cappella harmony.

The singers recited lyrics from an old Anthony Newley/Leslie Bricusse song called “What Kind of Fool Am I?” The song encompassed at least six different pitches, ranging from soprano to bass, and not one person was out of sync.

The Old Capitol Barbershop Chorus is an Iowa City tradition spanning six decades. Some of the group’s members have children, others have grandchildren. And then there are those who are still in school — the youngest member is 12.

Two University of Iowa students, Cody Via and Dylan Schutte, have been a part of the music for the past several months.

Via, a sophomore, joined the group March 2010. He was referred by a barbershop singing friend from his old barbershop group in Texas.

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“It was a pretty life-changing thing the first time I came here. I was battling depression for a long time,” the Lewisville, Texas, native said. “I don’t leave here in a bad mood.”

During Thursday night’s rehearsal, the music and math education major received a “Men of Note” award, which recognizes a member who brings in other singers. Via has recruited two in just over a year. The Iowa City chapter is roughly 40 members strong.

“He’s been such a spark plug to our group,” said J.P. Marshall, the vice president of public relations and marketing.

Kinship is strong in this group. It shows in the members’ light-hearted, outreaching demeanors; it resonates in their collaborative musical efforts.

Schutte, a UI freshman, officially joined the group in February. Despite a busy schedule as an engineering major, the 19-year-old makes it to the weekly evening rehearsal.

“He really brought some interesting chemistry to the bass section,” Marshall said.

Schutte joined the group to stay active in music, something he finds hard to do with his intense workload as a student. The Suwanee, Ga., native played flute during high school.

“They’ve really helped me transition to singing,” said Schutte, who had no previous experience as a singer. “It’s nice to have something to go to and it’s just fun.”

For the UI students, membership in the group has its perks. During their tenure as barbershop members, the college-age singers have traveled to Wichita to compete in a national barbershop competition.

“It doesn’t matter what we do outside of here,” said John Marshall, the chapter president. “Every man here tries to shake the hand of every other man here.”

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