Hello! I am Simon Arnott, the new Director of Music and Education on the BABS Board. I am a part-time music teacher for ages 3 to 7 at an independent school in South West London; the rest of the time, I work as a freelance composer, conductor and music educator. As a barbershopper, I currently direct two barbershop choruses, London City Singers and Meantime Chorus; I also sing with Trailblazers and was bass of Park Street, the 2014 quartet champions.

How did you first get into barbershop?

I first started singing barbershop in school with a bunch of other sixth form music nerds, some of whom became founder members of Meantime Chorus, having been introduced to it by one of our teachers. We quickly found Vocal Spectrum on YouTube and were hooked! A few of us went on to study at Bristol University and joined The University of Bristol Barbershop Singers (TUBBS) to continue our barbershop journey further. During my time at Bristol, I served on the committee of TUBBS as the society president and I directed the auditioned and lower voice ensembles. Halfway through my first year, we had a workshop with The Great Western Chorus of Bristol and this is where I found out about BABS! I joined GWC later that year and was lucky enough to go with them to Kansas City in 2011. Later that year, a few friends and I from TUBBS created our first BABS quartet, Park Street and I began to join the quartetting scene at BABS too.

As someone who has quartetted, arranged and directed, which of these is your favourite thing to do and what do you like about each of them?

I really enjoy every aspect of my involvement in barbershop, but I love being a director the most. Not because of the actual directing, but the fact I love to teach. Helping members of my choruses, or groups that I am working with, learn new things to help them become a better singer is the most exciting thing to do.

Why did you want to become a board member?

I have been very lucky in my 12 years of being a BABS member to have travelled to the International Youth Quartet Contest a couple of times, with Park Street and Trailblazers. We were heavily supported by BABS to make it to the BHS International Contest and I thought it was time to give back. As a Music Educator, I thought this would be the perfect role to take on. 

How do you think you can transfer your skills into your new position?

As someone that has spent most of my career in music education, I am hopeful I can bring across lots of knowledge to improve and update the education offerings from BABS.

What are your long term goals whilst in this position?

My first goals are to look into the way we run our major education events, Harmony College and Directors Academy, to provide an excellent learning experience for all attendees. In the longer term, I would like these events to not just be a staple in the barbershopper’s calendar, but events that are respected and attended by all kinds of musicians in the country. I am hopeful that educational connections with the wider choral world can benefit both us as learners and for us to spread barbershop even further.