Photo courtesy of Sam Booth
The Northwest vocal project poses for a picture in Whistler, Canada where the chorus earned a position to compete in the International Barbershop Competition in Philadelphia.

The Northwest Vocal Project: Seattle’s best kept musical secret?

By Christopher Duclos

They sing. They dance. They dazzle.

They are the Northwest Vocal Project.

On a summer day in 2007, after a rehearsal with the Bellevue Northwest Sound Chorus, Seattle barbershop singers Ian Kelly, Matt Schoonmaker-Gates and Sam Booth contemplated a new venture. The idea was to create a Seattle based barbershop chorus that was focused towards the youth environment in the Northwest.

Their discussion led to the creation of one of the most pristine and colorful groups of singers which now ranks among the best barbershop choruses in the world. Through a short period of time, the chorus gained steam and their numbers expanded. With the help of the Bellevue Northwest Sound, three men turned into a whole chorus.

Sam Booth, one of the cofounders of the chorus was once a graduate of Ballard High school, now studying music at Central Washington University. His father, Neal Booth runs the role of musical director. His job involves shaping the group’s blend, intonation and choreography on every rehearsal.

More than just a ragtag group of gentlemen belting tunes, barbershop groups also often incorporate rehearsed choreography which is pleasing to the eye. The group rehearses weekly to ensure that their performances are at the highest level.

The Northwest Vocal Project not only prides themselves on their musical achievements but on its tight knit “fraternity brotherhood” that has formed amongst them. Through the support of one another, the chorus has built lifelong friendships between one another, sharing the common interests that connect them outside of their musical activities. The Vocal Project encourages new singers of all skill levels to attend rehearsals so they can both experience the culture and immerse themselves in barbershop music.

The group performs regularly for publicity and for competition. Ranking as one of the top Barbershop choirs in the world, the Northwest Vocal Project has won many prestigious placements. They have traveled and competed four times in the international Youth Chorus Festival that is held annually in the United States, winning the contest three times out of four appearances. Since the creation of the group, they have competed at the district level, winning three straight years, from 2009 to 2011. Also, in 2011, the Vocal Project succeeded in winning 1st place at the Harmony Foundation Youth Chorus Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Their past three wins at the district competition granted a ticket to the International Competition, in which they have competed in twice. Their first trip, they earned a 12th place world ranking. In their last trip, 2011, they made an astronomical leap from 12th place into 6th.
When asked about his experience since the founding of the vocal project, Ian Kelley had this to offer:

“Well for me NVP is a great example of the power of music, especially barbershop. Some of the most powerful moments of my life have been through singing with NvP. Founded in August of 2007, NVP strived to progress barbershop music. To bring young guys to the special style of music, to sing modern barbershop arrangements, and show people that this art form is special, and we won't let it die.”

For booking, learning more or simply having an interest in joining the chorus, visit

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