"The Men of Independence is truly an 'everyman' chorus. Very few of us are professional musicians or have formal music education beyond high school. What we share is a love for barbershop harmony, a drive to be the best we can possibly be as individuals and as an ensemble - and a genuine love for each other."
Learn about our director, Gary Lewis in his own words...
(Excerpted from the Cider ExPress, April 2019)
"As a child, I was fortunate to sing in the adult choir at my church, because my dad was in the choir. The church is where I fell in love with singing. I attended Whitmer high school in Toledo, OH (1989). In high school, I was very involved in vocal music, but I didn't really get any formal musical training. By the grace of God, I was accepted to Bowling Green State University as a music education major. I could not read music. My music theory skills were severely inadequate, such that I had to take a remedial course in basic theory. The very kind and patient professor helped me to put a name to sounds I'd heard my entire life. My first barbershop quartet experience was in the fall of 1990, when I was selected as a bass singer for one of the Varsity Quartets of the BG Men's Chorus. I've been quartetting ever since. Many people falsely believe that BGSU had courses in barbershop harmony. While there was no coursework in barbershop, one of the professors fostered quartets. R.D. Mathey is responsible for a large number of international barbershop quartet champions...I believe Mike Sisk has the entire and accurate list. I graduated BGSU in 1993 with a bachelor's degree in music education. While an undergrad, my quartet was coached by Ric Roberts. Ric had a tremendous passion for barbershop, and he helped me believe in myself as a quartet singer. Ric was also the frontline director of my first chapter, the Maumee Valley Seaway Commanders. I also received some top-notch training while working as a professional singer. For three years (1996-1999), I performed with Disney's acclaimed vocal ensemble, The Voices Of Liberty. Derric Johnson, founder and arranger of the Voices, was a great influence in my musical path. The remainder of my musical training is non-formal, but worth noting. In 1997, I was fortunate to be asked to sing bass with 1992 champions Keepsake, when their bass singer relocated to North Carolina. I learned a great deal about many aspects of barbershop from barbershop legends Tony DeRosa, Joe Connelly, and Roger Ross. That training continued when my next quartet was formed. In 1998, Joe, Tony, and I joined forces with Kevin Miles, a Voices Of Liberty legend, and created PLATINUM. PLATINUM went on to win the international quartet championship in 2000. Additional musical training was obtained in my next quartet. Max Q was formed in 2002, with Greg Clancy (t), Tony DeRosa (l), Jeff Oxley (bs). The men of Max Q taught me even more about barbershop. I continue to learn from them. I have received instruction and support from Greg's father, Jim Clancy. Jim is my ultimate barbershop hero, and I am honored to have a great relationship with the Clancy family."
With the encouragement from Daryl Flinn, Gary started directing "Men of Independence" (MOI) in 2010 and has taken the chorus from good to great over the years. MOI has won the JAD Chorus Championship in 2010, 2013, 2015, and 2019 and have traveled annually to International Chorus Competition since 2013 where they finished 14th (81.8), then 20th (83.0), then 11th (85.1), then 18th (81.9), then 14th (84.3), then 18th (82.3). We'll see what happens in Salt Lake City!
Gary is hopeful to put together a chorus of at least 100 men for the 2021 Cleveland Ohio International.