What is professional barbershop entertainment?
“Think about four dudes wearing bowties and straw hats,” business administration sophomore Joey Lombardi said.
Simple Harmonic Motion is a barbershop quartet made up of four Cal Poly students: Lombardi (bass), industrial engineering sophomore Dylan Moreland (second tenor), computer science and mathematics sophomore Justin Privitera (tenor 1) and physics sophomore Jacob Siderman (baritone). They perform barbershop music around San Luis Obispo and occasionally travel around California for performances.
Barbershop music is a style of music known for its simple melodies sung in four-part harmonies, without any instruments. While barbershop music is typically associated with 20th century white American culture, research found the tradition emerged from African American communities in New Orleans in the 19th century, according to the Barbershop Harmony Society.
“It’s a pretty American art form I would say, and as America’s culture has changed over the last hundred years, the barbershop has also changed,” Siderman said. “Like the people that can be involved. It used to be exclusively for men. Now Barbershop Harmony Society — very, very recently — it just allowed women to become involved on a meaningful level.”
Privitera came to Cal Poly determined to find three group members to create a barbershop entertainment group. Moreland and Privitera met in an elevator and Moreland saved him in his phone as “Justin Elevator.” Lombardi and Siderman came into the group through shared classes, and since then, the group has expanded and grown closer to one another.
“I think what makes us special is the fact that we’re all close friends,” Privitera said.
Simple Harmonic Motion does not limit themselves to barbershop music. They also do renditions of pop, jazz and even contemporary barbershop. Each member plays a pivotal role in the group’s sound.
“If you’re in a hundred-person choir or whatever, and one person doesn’t have it together, it’s like not the end of the world,” Moreland said. “But when you have a four-person group, and one person’s not on their A-Game, then you’re missing 25 percent of everything. You’re missing 25 percent of your song.”
The group’s most recent performance was at the San Luis Obispo Farmer’s Market. They also have performed at Musica Marin in the San Francisco Bay Area and will return to perform next year as well.
“Just seeing the smiles on people’s faces, and most of them had no idea who we were,” Moreland said. “They were there because they enjoyed what they were doing, and it made them happy.”
Simple Harmonic Motion is highly focused on creating the best music they can, especially as a music group for a less prevalent genre in modern music scenes. Privitera said he enjoys the challenge of keeping the music quality high.
“This is a unique type of music,” Siderman said. “It’s not done a lot, especially not by young people. So come listen to something new. Listen to a different style that you’ve never heard of.”