The Pitch Pipe January 2022

Page 20

‘A Pretty Amazing Thing’ Joanne Oosterhoff

2021 Ann Gooch Award Recipient


n 1995, Joanne Oosterhoff was travelling alone to meet her chorus for the international competition in New Orleans, Louisiana (USA). She was a new Sweet Adeline, having joined Perth Harmony Chorus in 1993, and it was her first time travelling overseas. She stepped off the plane into a huge USA airport, feeling quite worried and alone. ‘I was panicking,’ she remembers. ‘Then I looked across and saw these women with regional medals around their necks and all their badges, and I immediately felt safe. I thought, “If I’m really in trouble, I can just walk over to those ladies and say, ‘I’m a Sweet Adeline, and I need help,’ and they will look after me.” ‘Then I reached into my bag and put my regional medal around my neck, and I felt fine.’ Since then, Joanne has devoted a lot of time and energy to making sure people all over the world experience the magic of Sweet Adelines. For 11 years, she was codirector of A Cappella West Chorus with her quartet mate, Lindsey Dyer, with whom she sang in Region #34 champion quartets Hi-Jinx and Enchant until Lindsey passed away in 2019. ‘Lindsey taught me everything I know about being a frontline director,’ says Joanne. ‘The partnership with her was one in a gazillion. That was the most special partnership that one could ever have as a musician.’ Today, Joanne is master director of A Cappella West Chorus, serves on the Region #34 educational faculty, manages the region’s Music Leaders Program (MLP), and is a member of the International Director Certification Program Review Committee. She also leads an annual barbershop program for local schoolchildren. ‘At my core, I’m an ensemble musician,’ says Joanne, who also plays violin. ‘It’s the harmonies, but it’s also the feeling of being part of an ensemble, with everyone’s roles working together to make this wonderful result that is greater than the sum of its parts. I appreciate the musicianship that goes into that.’ Excellent musicianship drew her to Sweet Adelines after university, and Joanne wants to make sure all singers have access to education that can maintain it. While living in the UK for work early in her career, she coached choruses and helped develop the Region #31 education program. When she returned from the UK, she served as the Region #34 education coordinator, where she


| January 2022

wrote their first five-year education plan. Joanne retired from the position after a year when her infant son was diagnosed with eye cancer. As a leader, Joanne was mentored by inaugural Ann Gooch Award recipient Cathy Rainey, then-director of Perth Harmony Chorus, Region #34. ‘I became one of her assistant directors,’ she recalls. ‘She was director of musical activities at the time, and she got me into the regional education faculty program in 1999. She saw that in me and encouraged it and put me in the way of the education I needed to go forward.’ Joanne has worked to ensure that Sweet Adelines in Australia have the opportunity to excel. ‘Australians are a weird combination of extremely laid back and extremely tenacious,’ she says. ‘For the last 30 years, until the online revolution, it was a major economic and logistical exercise for us to get access to coaches and other education. We had to work twice as hard to get it, but that fed our thirst for knowledge.’ For years, she worked as part of an international directors’ program that offered video coaching, and eventually she helped begin Region #34’s MLP. ‘The MLP was Lindsey’s brainchild,’ she says. ‘It focuses on section leaders and assistant directors. Lindsey was a great ideas person, and I worked out the logistics, transforming it from a thumbdrive of PDFs to a fully online education program.’ Australia is geographically huge, with many choruses far away from each other. ‘It’s very important to us as regional education faculty in Australia to reach every chorus and make sure that even our smallest and least-experienced choruses gain as much knowledge as possible,’ Joanne says. All of it comes from a deep love of barbershop music. ‘I could talk for days about barbershop to another barbershopper and never be done talking,’ she says. ‘I just love it. It’s my passion, so why would I not want to help other people connect to the same joy and thrill and fascination? You make these wonderful connections with people when you’re meeting to talk about music. You form relationships with people who live on the other side of the world, who live a completely different existence. The family of Sweet’s a pretty amazing thing.’