Bob Thomas

Let’s get to know our former chapter president, Bob Thomas.

Bob is a native of New York, growing up in Scarsdale and finishing high school there. He was involved in intermural sports and (of course) the music program, playing tuba in the symphonic band and jazz band.

I say “of course” because Bob’s family was heavily involved in music. He and all of his siblings played instruments. His mother, with a master’s degree in music, was accomplished on both piano and organ and his father performed in off-Broadway musical theater as well as on many other occasions, accompanied by Bob’s mom. In those years, Bob sang in the church choir, where his mother played organ and directed six choirs.

Bob says his earliest (and very favorable) impression of our musical style was seeing “Music Man” for the first time, around age 10. “I’d like to be like those guys some day” was what he came away with. Hmm, looks like he made it, huh?

After high school (this would be around 1972) the family moved across the country and settled in Lynden, Washington. For his college choice, Bob wanted to be far enough from home to be independent, but close enough to visit occasionally. He chose University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, where he spent the next four years earning a business degree, later followed by an MBA, also from UPS. University did not leave time for much in the way of music…but that came later.

Putting his college training to use, Bob’s longest position (over 20 years) was with a foam rubber and upholstery firm in the Portland area. Other positions have included sales, branch management, and purchasing. Maybe I should include show chairmanships, and chapter president…as we have clearly benefited from his clear business head and take-charge management style, here in Northwest Sound.

One day in the late 80’s a gentleman came into the upholstery firm in Portland, looking for foam rubber. In the ensuing interview, Bob learned that he needed to make rubber chicken-feet for a costume he was wearing in a singing contest, of all things. Bob’s reaction: “This, I gotta see!”

Thus began what has turned into nearly a quarter-century-and-counting relationship with the Barbershop Harmony Society. Singing in those early years with the Tualatin Valley Harmony Masters of Hillsboro, Oregon, Bob acquired his own set of chicken feet, cave man outfit, and whatever else the costume du jour called for with that entertaining group.

Bob eventually moved back to the Puget Sound area, and married Janice and son Drake (Janice has two older boys 30 & 34 by a previous marriage). He sampled the choruses in the area and finally settled with Northwest Sound.

Quartetting has been a fulfilling part of his BHS experience, participating in:

• Rain City Four
• Them There Guys
• Fellowship of the Ring
• Rain City Slickers
• Varicose Harmony

You can’t participate in that many quartets without accumulating a few rich stories along the way. But you have to hear them first hand from Bob. Be sure to ask him what it’s like to sing in a tux while all the while knowing that inside you are really an Indian in a loin cloth, just waiting to escape. (That’s the kind of predicament you find yourself in when you compete with two choruses and the schedule has you singing eighth and tenth.) Another question you’ll want to know is how the heck do you pull off winning a quartet contest while singing songs for which you need to hold music, just to get through. Scout’s honor… ask Bob.

There’s lots more going on in our fearless leader’s head, unencumbered by hair as he is. But then you already know that, since you get like fifteen e-mails a day from him. See, he as a sense of humor too…letting me keep that line in his profile. Bob Thomas, what a guy.