If folks praise your amateur singing ability - or perhaps more importantly, if you've never explored it - The Oceanaires will help you lift your voice with free lessons, on six consecutive Tuesdays in Toms River.

The Oceanaires (oceanaires.com)
The Oceanaires (oceanaires.com)

Ocean County's nonprofit, close-harmony aggregation, one of about 800 nationally affiliated with the Barbershop Harmony Society, marks its 60th anniversary with the initiative called "Ready, Set, Sing!"

Lessons, under the guidance of Music Director Ritchie Lavene, begin May 23, and continue through June 27, at New Life Church, 700 Main Street in Toms River. There are no age restrictions and no skill requirements.

"If you can sing 'Happy Birthday,' and we can recognize it, you're eligible," quipped member Joe Mack. "We can teach the rest, and that's what we'll do with our free lessons."

What really matters to the Oceanaires is the desire and commitment to become part of the group that has thrilled people of all ages in concerts, fund-raisers, community events, health care centers, parties, even your doorstep - anywhere that fun is amplified by their live soundtrack.

And, of course, they fervently hope that more than a few attendees will become the next stalwarts of the group, as it heads into its seventh decade.

The Oceanaires consist of people from widely diverse backgrounds, occupations and even faiths. The gentlemen in our accompanying video spend their daily lives repairing heating and ventilation systems, assessing taxes, building structures, administrating telephone systems, managing advertising and fighting fires.

"Four-part harmony is a purely American art form," Mack related, and its echoes can be heard in settings as divergent as the Modernaires of big band fame, Four Preps, the Beach Boys, boy bands of the '80s such as N'Sync and Backstreet Boys, and even Mumford and Sons.

The Oceanaires aren't a stag organization, by any means. The Oceanettes is the distaff side, and a good listen will find you drawing connections to everyone from the Boswell Sisters to the Chordettes to Wilson Phillips.

And, the group has vastly expanded its repertoire, dedicating their 60th year to songs that reached fame on Broadway, and adding selections from the Great American Songbook that Frank Sinatra popularized.

"Some people might want to just improve their own singing," Mack said. "We'll meet people on every level - beginners, who think, 'I've only sung in the shower!,' to people who might have sung on the stage before. Our six lessons are designed to make everybody a better singer."

Ready to unleash your inner Caruso, Streisand, Sinatra or Legend? Email the Oceanaires to find out more about their offer, or call them at 732-503-8611.

And who knows? You might end up sounding like these fine gentlemen:

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