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Thanks, Steve!

On Saturday, October 7th, 2017, at the end of out 59th Annual Harvest of Harmony, Steve Swenson retired as director after 29 years of leadership in the Indianhead Barbershop Chorus.

steve swenson A music teacher years ago in Wisconsin once said, “You gotta sound bad before you can sound good." As director, Steve knew what it was like to listen to us try to sing a song for the first time and sound pretty bad.... but, he also had the patience to help us along the rough road of learning to help us sound good. But, good was never good enough!! Steve never aimed for average. Year after year he brought the chorus to contest, and, of 52 choruses in the district, we were usually in the top 10-15%, usually scoring higher than choruses that were bigger than us. Steve never forgot where he came from. He had his roots in Polk County, Wisconsin and maintained a commitment to help his local chorus for 29 years as our assistant director and director.

When I think of Steve Swenson many words come to my mind: words like humorist and harmonizer, leader and laughter, talent and tame-tempered, helpful and happy, faithful and friend. I end with "friend," because that's why we kept coming back. We really like Steve. He has always brought to music both passion and compassion. That's because Steve, like the music he loves, is filled with both emotions.

Steve constantly planted the seeds of this gift we call music in our hearts and in the hearts of many people... the seeds he planted produced a love of music that will last a lifetime and beyond. We who are members of the Indianhead Barbershop Chorus will probably will always sing the songs we learned under Steve, just like he taught us to sing them.... with the feeling and the mood and expression he helped us put into the songs.

Steve knew the value of music in our world and passed that on to hundreds and thousands of others. He promoted the barbershop style of music and everyone in this whole Indianhead region of Wisconsin are the better because of it --and because of all he has done for four-part harmony! One of the special gifts Steve has is his ability to make even average guys sound great. He would sing through each of the parts to us, to make sure every phrase was singable and interesting. I'm sure he was frustrated with us at times, but, he kept calm under all the pressure of leadership. His release button was always humor... No one will ever forget Steve's lighter side. He is quick-witted and always able to turn a phrase to bring laughter out of an otherwise dull or difficult experience. Singing music with Steve as director, either put a smile on my face or a tear in my eye. That's why we sing, that's why people everywhere come to hear us sing. That's why the Indianhead Barbershop Chorus has been so successful in reaching audiences for the last 60 years.

As our director, he helped us to sing and he made the message of the song the key to the way it was sung. As I look back, I am very thankful for Steve as I recognize how incredibly talented he is. The Indianhead Barbershop Chorus, the larger community, and the Land-O-Lakes District have been made much richer because of this man’s talents.

Even though Steve is no longer our director, he will always be busy showing, reminding and teaching us through his life how to be better in our own lives. Then we’ll laugh, and the legend of "Director Steve" will live on a long time.

by Ken Mettler

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