The year was 1990. Barbara Harlow had taken an early retirement from her position as choral director at Santa Barbara City College. Called back to teach a music theory class when the regular teacher became ill, she found herself teaching the students how to write a choral composition. A published composer, now in the theory classroom doing what she loved to do, she focused on a passion that had been on the back burner for many years-start a publishing company specializing in choral music. Three phone calls and the business was under way. The first call was to Charlene Archibeque who quickly got to work developing a Choral Series in her name; the next was to her former student Ben Allaway, whose recently commissioned BANDARI became a bright star in the early line-up of publications; and the last was to Santa Barbara's oft-published composer, Emma Lou Diemer, who offered up her delightful FEAST FOR CHRISTMAS and three precious madrigals. A first catalog was born. Barbara's oldest son Michael, a computer guru, designed a state of the art database for the company; middle son Doug set up the office, making the equipment functional. Soon, youngest son David was to join the company. When he walked in the door with his eye for design and his marketing degree in hand, the company was off and running full speed ahead.
Many years a choral conductor, Barbara had some distinct ideas about the look and content of SBMP publications. A little thing: Put the catalog number and title on the cover in two corner edges, easily visible no matter which way the piece was filed. A bigger thing: Include all the details the conductor would need to teach the piece, plus biographical information about both the composer and the poet. And an aesthetic thing: Have a black and white cover, inviting the real color to be the music inside the cover.
Lest you might think starting a publishing company is easy to do, one key thing was important to getting the business established. There was no immediate need to make any money. Barbara's husband, a successful business man, offered a loan for equipment, doubting he would ever see the money again. Don Hinshaw, publisher of Barbara's book, YOU THE SINGER, had warned her, don't expect to make any money for a long time. He was right on. For ten years she put all the money that came in back into the business, and yes, re-paid her husband for his loan.
Now, year 2011, VOICES, the 1000th piece soon will be released. Twenty-six outstanding choral directors have generously contributed to the SBMP dream as Series Editors. 289 composers from 16 countries are represented in the catalog. The company has continued it's vision of nurturing the choral art with the publication of five videos and six books, all aimed at making the choral director's job more productive.
Technology rules the day, keeping us all on our toes with "what's next to conquer." Webmaster David Harlow has just finished re-designing the website using the latest available technology. Thanks to the endless reach of the internet, on any day there may be a choir singing our music in Spain, New Zealand, Tokyo, South Korea, or Indonesia, as well as here in home town Santa Barbara. Who knew all this was possible back in 1990!
Barbara Harlow, Editor