C.J. Shaw has always been seen as the kid among the retirees.
But with nine years of experience in barbershop-style singing, age is only a number for Shaw. The 25-year-old may look out of place when he practices singing with some men old enough to be his dad, but his voice fits right in with the a capella harmony.
“Age doesn’t have anything to do with barbershop,” Shaw said at the Gainesville Barbergators’ open house event last month. “It’s how well you sing with your quartet.”
Shaw, a Santa Fe College music freshman, is one of the 35 members of the Gainesville Barbergators, the local chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society, an all-male international organization that practices a capella singing.
Shaw began singing when he joined a concert choir in elementary school. He later became part of The Heart of Florida Barbershop Chorus and the One Voice Chorus, and he has competed internationally.
“I was the chorus geek of middle school and high school,” he said.
He heard about the Gainesville chapter from a friend after he moved to Gainesville about six months ago.
“The first day I sang with these guys, I never wanted to leave them again,” Shaw said.
The Gainesville Barbergators also includes four official quartets that perform locally and compete against other chapters. The quartets meet weekly to practice and are usually formed by the members themselves, said Dick Moyer, president of the Gainesville Barbergators.
Barbershop-quartet singing consists of four parts including tenor, lead, bass and baritone, Moyer said.
“Your voices make the instruments,” he said.
He normally sings the lead part.
“I don’t feel out-of-sync with these guys,” Shaw said. “I feel like we are a big family of singers.”
Shaw said his favorite experience with the Gainesville Barbergators was when they visited a nursing home and performed in orange jackets and blue ties. “I just sang my heart out like we do here in the rehearsals,” he said.
Moyer said he most enjoys the social aspect of being a member.
“There’s a very interesting collection of guys,” he said. “There’s all walks of life here.”
UF alumnus Dave Jacobs has been the musical director of Gainesville Barbergators for about six years. “My best friends are the people I sing with,” he said. “Guys from this chorus sang at my wedding.”
Jacobs first joined the Barbergators in 1984, when he was a sophomore at UF.
He said he mostly enjoys Valentine’s Day, when his quartet sings to sweethearts upon request.
Shaw said he hopes to one day follows in Jacobs’ footsteps and become a music director. “I want to stand in front of people and direct and interpret music to fellow men,” he said.
He plans to stay involved in Barbergators as long as he lives in Gainesville. “Until the day that I can’t sing, I’m going to keep paying my dues to stay as a ‘barbershopper,’” Shaw said.