Champion quartet brings campus more Prestige

Three hours turned into an anxious eternity for the members of Prestige. The barbershop quartet from BGSU had to perform first in a lengthy international competition in Kansas City this past summer . . . and then wait throughout a tension-filled evening while 20 other groups tried to oust them from the lead.

“That part was absolutely terrifying,” said quartet member Nick Gordon. “It was the longest time — I just couldn’t watch.”

When the final singers completed their performance, the judges awarded the gold medal and the distinction as the top college quartet in the world to the group from Bowling Green.

“There was a moment of shock, then a whole lot of extreme joy,” Gordon said. “It was something we had worked very hard for, but you never know what might happen. Sometimes, I still can’t believe it.”

The group — Gordon, Drew Ochoa, Dave Parrett and Gordie Howe — had finished second in 2010 and fourth the previous year. They were close friends prior to arriving at the University, where their singing talents were melded and nurtured within the College of Musical Arts and by Doug Wayland, assistant professor of voice in music performance studies.

“Prestige is a collection of the right individuals,” Wayland said. “They are all fabulous singers, but what’s just as important is they are also very good friends. Barbershop is all about the blend and it’s some of the most difficult harmony singing there is, but they excel at it.”

The Harmony Foundation International Collegiate Barbershop gold medal Prestige won joins a remarkable collection at BGSU. Since retired professor Richard Mathey started the men’s chorus in the 1970s, BGSU’s various singing groups have been awarded nearly 35 gold medals.

“Bowling Green’s got the most, there’s no doubt about it,” Mathey said. “Nobody else in the country is even close. There’s a very strong tradition here in barbershop singing. It’s been a contagious type of thing — it got into the system and it’s never left. And Doug’s done a very good job with this particular quartet.”

The major competitions attract choral directors from colleges and high schools across the country. “People hear the name Bowling Green and associate it with good singing,” Wayland said. “There’s a significant payoff for winning all of these championships.”

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