Hitting the high notes of a life in song

July 23, 2013

For Stan Andrist, OD, singing barbershop-style music hits the sweet spot. Over the years, Dr. Andrist has been in a series of barbershop quartets and continues to perform for a variety of local and regional audiences.

Stan Andrist, OD, can’t imagine his life without singing. Whether it’s gospel, doo-wop, or barbershop harmony, he has been singing in front of audiences since he was a child.

“My mother was a piano teacher, and we always sang at church,” recalled Dr. Andrist, who practices in Moorhead, MN. “As far back as I can remember, there was always singing in my home.”

Dr. Andrist chose to pursue optometry vs. singing as a career because his strengths have always been in math and science. While singing gives him a great deal of satisfaction, he said his voice is simply fair, joking that he makes a much better optometrist than singer.

Still, that never stopped Dr. Andrist from joining various choirs at church, middle school, and high school. While a student at the University of North Dakota, he belonged to the school’s all-male chorus, The Varsity Bards, performing with the group for 3 years.

Dr. Andrist’s barbershop quartet, Good Fourtune. Left to right: Tim Noteboom, lead; Ryan Brehmer, tenor; Jeff Tweten, bass, and Stan Andrist, baritone.Then Dr. Andrist’s career, marriage, and family took over, limiting his vocalizing mainly to church services on Sunday mornings. After their children were grown, Mrs. Andrist encouraged her husband to join a local choral group, Great Plains Harmony, which consisted of 45 members. While still part of Great Plains, he and other chorus members formed barbershop quartets.

That was roughly 10 years ago. Currently, Dr. Andrist sings with his third quartet, Good Fourtune, playing to audiences about seven times each year. Over the years, he has been in a series of barbershop quartets because the previous groups were forced to disband when members moved out of town.

Singing’s shortcoming

While singing comes naturally to Dr. Andrist, the ability to sing in front of an audience is a totally different matter. He has rarely performed without experiencing stage fright.

“By junior high, I knew I wasn’t one of those people who could walk out on stage and feel at home,” he said. However, over the years his stage fright has decreased. Now, to minimize his tension or anxiety backstage before a performance, Dr. Andrist engages in deep breathing exercises and jokes around with other members of the quartet.

Likewise, the quartet rehearses, rehearses, and then rehearses some more. “The more prepared you are to sing a song well, the more confident you become about your performance,” he said, adding that rehearsing also helps combat stage fright.

Another performer once gave him a helpful tip for overcoming stage fright: Realize that your singing is not being judged.

"As amateurs, you’re frequently consumed with the notion that you’re being judged,” Dr. Andrist said. “If you can turn that around in your mind, reframe it that you’re giving a gift to the audience, you can think your way past stage fright.”

Fame, not fortune

All these tips have come in handy as Good Fourtune continues to perform for audiences about seven times each year, at a variety of venues-minor league baseball games singing the national anthem, and at local conventions, churches, civic group luncheons, or banquets. A highlight of the group’s career was recently qualifying in a district-wide competition to compete in a regional competition against 25 other barbershop quartets from North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Manitoba and Saskatchewan provinces in Canada.

Meanwhile Good Fourtune still performs at Great Plains Harmony shows twice a year, singing before audiences that sometimes number as many as 1,000 people.

“The songs we sing show off our strengths as a quartet,” he said. “We hired a coach, a seasoned director of barbershop music, for several sessions to help us perfect our sound.”

Although the barbershop quartet is paid a stipend for performing-which typically covers the cost of travel, music, dry cleaning their outfits, and other event-related expenses-individual members are never paid.

Back at the office, some of Dr. Andrist’s patients have seen his shows, praising the quartet’s performances. But, his optometry and singing careers rarely cross over. He never sings in the office or chats about his quartet, unless patients bring up the topic. He prefers to keep his two lives separate.

Meanwhile, singing barbershop-style music hits that sweet spot for him, he said. “It’s a place where I found home. I found good friends who are amateur singers, who work hard to sing well enough so that other people want to listen. Singing is just one of those things that makes life worth living.”ODT

Stan Andrist, OD

Dr. Andrist practices in Moorhead, MN. Contact him at standrist@moorheadvision.com or 218/233-1624.

 

Take-Home Message

For Stan Andrist, OD, singing barbershop-style music hits the sweet spot. Over the years, Dr. Andrist has been in a series of barbershop quartets and continues to perform for a variety of local and regional audiences.