Sound of the Rockies chorus members’ hearts are full after experiencing three memorable, sold-out Christmas concerts, honoring Darin Drown’s legacy and service to our chapter and the Front Range community. What began as a year of uncertainty and challenge for the Sound of the Rockies, has turned out to be a wonderful one, filled with memorable performances, significant achievement, and elation, as we celebrated what Darin has meant to us, both musically and personally. The men of the chorus would like to acknowledge Darin’s amazing vision, inspired leadership, masterful direction of our musical program, and unflagging dedication to the Mile High Chapter, the Rocky Mountain District (RMD), and the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS) over the last 15 years. Darin has not only led us all on a wonderful journey to musical excellence, he has firmly established the chapter’s unique family culture by being a trusted friend, advisor, mentor and role model to us all. We offer our heartfelt appreciation to Darin for the joy and amazing gift he has brought to our lives, as well as best wishes for success in his future endeavors.
What follows is a brief history of Darin’s musical life and how the singers of Sound of the Rockies, as well as our families, friends, competitors, and fans from around the world have come to know him.
Darin is a second generation barbershopper, having grown up watching his father, Gary, sing in the comedy quartet, Chordial Celebration, formed in the late 1970s in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. The quartet consisted of Gary, Dan Clark, Rod Businga, and Steve Libsack. Sons of three members, Darin, Syd Libsack, and Jim Clark, grew up together, attending several International Barbershop conventions with their extended quartet family from 1985 through 2000 before forming their own quartet, Storm Front, in 2001.
Scottsbluff’s BHS chapter, the Sugar Valley Singers, is Darin’s home chorus. The chorus was directed briefly by his father Gary in the early ‘80s and is still directed by his father-in-law, Dan Clark. Darin would see many of his quartet heroes headline the Scottsbluff shows, from the Bluegrass Student Union, to The New Tradition, to the Classic Collection.
Darin played trumpet at Scottbluff High School and also starred in musical productions, playing Nicely-Nicely Johnson in ‘Guys & Dolls’ as a junior and Gaylord Ravenal in ‘Showboat’ as a senior. After graduation, Darin attended the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, where he was a scholarship trumpet player with the Plymouth Brass and graduated with a Music Education degree in 1992.
After graduating, Darin married Jenny Clark, Jim’s sister. Shortly after their wedding, Darin sang in the inaugural College Barbershop Quartet Contest in New Orleans in 1992; his quartet, The Four Hoarsemen, placed second. He began his teaching career in Oskaloosa, Kansas before moving to St. Joseph, Missouri. There, Darin formed the quartet, Freefall, with Jim singing tenor. Freefall won the 1995 Central States District championship and went on to make four International competition appearances.
During the 1996-97 school year, Darin received a phone call from George Davidson, baritone of the 1982 International Quartet Champion, Classic Collection. George knew of a mid-year opening at Cherry Creek High School in the Denver area and wondered if Darin would be interested in interviewing. Darin went through the interview process, but declined to pursue the opportunity further as he did not want to abandon his current students at St. Joe Central. Darin would be named ‘Teacher of the Year’ that year in St. Joe.
In June 1998, John Buckner reached out to Darin about a Choir Teaching position at Overland High School, also in the Cherry Creek School District. Darin interviewed once more, and received the job offer via a phone call while attending the International Barbershop Convention in Atlanta that July. In August, Darin moved his family to Aurora, Colorado to begin his teaching career in the Cherry Creek Schools. Shortly after the move, Darin joined the Denver Tech Chorus, adding his sizable voice to their bass section. He would compete with the chorus in the RMD Contests in 1998 (St. George, Utah), and 1999 (Ogden, Utah).
A week after the Ogden convention in 1999, George Davidson called Darin, offering an opportunity to direct the Denver Tech Chapter. Within days, Darin received a call from RMD mogul, Fred Weise, inquiring about his interest in directing the Denver Mile High Chapter. Having watched the split between the Denver Tech and Denver Mile High chapters as a teenager, Darin always harbored a hope the two would eventually remerge. He suggested this idea to both chapters, beginning the long merger process. The new Sound of the Rockies chorus was reborn on January 1, 2000, with Darin as Director, and Bobby Gray, Jr., Ed Davis, and Jim Clark serving as Assistant Directors.
Darin maintained a busy schedule of small ensembles as well. Having sung with his father, Gary, father-in-law Dan Clark, and brother-in-law, Jim, in the 1998 RMD silver medalist quartet, New & Used CDs, Darin would form the 1999 RMD Champ quartet, Crazy Rhythm, and in 2001, his current quartet, Storm Front, 2002 RMD Champs and 2010 International Quartet Gold Medalists. Darin would also spent 10 years directing and singing in the mixed octet, The Denver A Cappella Project, alongside his wife, Jenny, sister, Dana, in-laws, Jim & Rhonda Clark, Mark & Diane Zenk, Mike Davidson, John Griffith, Ryan Wilson, and Clarie & Steve Smith. Most recently, Darin placed 3rd in the Rocky Mountain District in ‘Genetic Harmony,’ singing with Dan Clark, Jim Clark, and his teenaged son, Colin Drown.
Sound of the Rockies quickly established itself as a formidable chorus in the region. Darin ultimately led the chorus on an incredible journey to musical excellence, resulting in 13 straight Rocky Mountain District chorus championships (2002-2014), 12 consecutive Top 10 International Chorus Competition finishes (2002-2014), and 7 consecutive Top 4 International Chorus Competition finishes (2007-2014). During his tenure, Darin propelled the Sound of the Rockies into the spotlight, both locally and internationally, and built an enduring legacy as a director, arranger, vocal coach, motivator, patriarch, and bedrock of the Sound of the Rockies family.
After 15 years at the helm of Sound of the Rockies, Darin has made the decision to step down to focus on his other successful musical pursuits. His accomplishments with the chorus will never be forgotten by those who have heard the results of his labors, as well as by those of us who have had the privilege of working with him. We have also learned some tremendously important life lessons from Darin as he has guided this organization: the power that comes with uniting under a common objective; the impact that a focus of continuous learning can have on results; the impact that music, delivered in an inspired way, can have on the lives of those who experience it; the support that comes from being part of a group of men who truly care about each other.
Darin will now have more time for his wonderful family: wife, Jenny; son, Colin; and daughter Mary. As Director Emeritus, he plans to rejoin the chorus on the risers after a well-deserved break, will be a trusted advisor to new director, Mark Hale, will continue to be active with Storm Front, will continue quartet coaching and chorus clinician work worldwide, and will elevate his already prestigious Grandview High School vocal music program to even loftier heights.
For Darin, barbershop truly is “family.” From his early days watching his father’s quartet entertain audiences far & wide, to embracing his true calling as a natural-born educator, to putting the needs of his students (both at school and in barbershop) on par with the needs of his family at home, Darin has treated everyone around him like family for over a generation. He has made a dramatic, positive impact on countless lives through his teaching, his directing, his friendships, his church, his life. We thank him for leading us, teaching us, and transforming us into better than we ever believed we could be.
By: Jim Clark, George and Mike Davidson & Gian Porro – December 2014