Bob Velazquez


Heart of America Chorus

Roberto “Bob” Velazquez

Bob comes to Heart of American chorus with an incredible background in music. He graduated with a degree in music education (emphasis in voice) in 1977 and taught in several different schools systems in Kansas and New Mexico

(K-12 grade) until last year when he retired after 37 years in public education.

During that time, he directed award winning choirs as well as musical productions. In addition to his work in public education, he has served many years as a music minister and choir director. Additionally, he has been a featured soloist, performing at numerous venues.

In 2013, shortly after his wife joined Sweet Adelines, Bob met several members of the HOA chorus while performing at Crown Center in the production of Hello Dolly. The fact that they were such “nice guys” was enough to prompt him to explore the world of Barbershop and more specifically HOA. Continually in pursuit of knowledge and excellence, Bob has attended Harmony University every summer since joining HOA and he is presently pursuing a director’s certification with BHS.

Bob is also a committed family man. He has been married to his lovely wife, Janet, for over 40 years. His 3 amazing children and their families all live in the Kansas City area, so he is often on call as both dad and papa (to his 4 even more amazing grandchildren).


Carter Combs

Assistant Director, Heart of America Chorus


Carter is a Kansas City native and has been performing publicly since at age 5, he sang with his five brothers at a church pot-luck dinner.  In high school at William Chrisman, he sang in all the choirs and many vocal ensembles including his first barbershop quartet.  It was also during this time that he became interested in musical theatre as he played Will in his high school production of Oklahoma!


In college he studied mathematics, computers and business but never lost interest in his love of the performing arts as he performed in the college choirs and was the only non-music major to belong to a prestigious music fraternity.


After college, Carter worked briefly in Kansas City before taking  a position in Pensacola, Florida that lasted for 20 years.  During this time Carter amassed quite an impressive resume in the performing  arts.  You can view a complete list of his performances by clicking here: Carter's Theatrical Experiences


Carter has sung with several quartets in his thirty-five year barbershop career and most recently is the tenor in the 2015 Central States District Senior Quartet Champions ArmChair Chorderbacks!


Carter returned to Kansas City in 2001 and is employed by Helzberg's Diamonds.  Carter is an amazing talent and an invaluable asset to the  Heart America Chorus. He is presently HOA's Immediate Past President.


The HOA Director Emeritus and a Society Master Director



Jim is a third-generation barbershopper (out of four), a 50-year Society member and has just completed his third stint as HOA arm-waver. He moved to Kansas City in 1971 and was assistant director under Dan Henry for two years before becoming director in 1974. He resigned in 1983, and during the next seven years served in a variety of chapter positions, including president in 1989. Jim returned to direct in 1990, and retired again in 1996, becoming HOA performance coach. He returned for third and (he vows) final time in December of 2001, retiring December 2007. He has been Barbershopper of the Year and Ozzie Award winner with our chapter. Jim won 10 CSD titles and directed HOA 13 times in international competition, placing as high as 6th.

Jim also is former assistant director of the Oklahoma City Chapter, and directed the Lawton, Okla., Chapter, and Lawton-Elgin Sweet Adelines before moving to Kansas City. In this area, he directed the Cass County and Independence Sweet Adelines.

Since singing with the Bagby Brothers at age 11, Jim has been part of a dozen registered quartets in the Southwestern and Central States districts. Those include Harmony Spectrum, 1982 CSD champs, and Rural Route 4, 1986 Society gold medalist. He currently sings with Tone-Henge, 2001 CSD senior champs.

In the CSD, Jim has served as Director of Musical Activities, been named Mr. Music, Barbershopper of the Year and -- with the RR4 -- to the District Hall of Fame. He is currently vice president of contest and judging for the district. He has coached a half-dozen CSD quartet champs. And he's the only Society-certified Master Director in the CSD.

At the Society level, Jim served on the Futures II Committee, Public Relations Committee, Style Examination Committee and three years on the Society Board of Directors. He has been a Harmony College faculty member a dozen times, COTS faculty chorus director instructor, former Stage Presence judge and now a Presentation Category judge. He also serves on the PRES Board of Review, and has judged three times at the international level.
He is a frequent contributor to the Harmonizer, which was edited by his late father, Jack Bagby, for two years. And he has 34 Men of Note pins.

Jim has been married 41 years in April to the former Joann Robbins of Seminole, Okla. They have one daughter, Kristin Calhoun, and three grandchildren: Blake, Hayley and Landon JAMES, of Rogers, Ark. Professionally, Jim has spent 34 years with The Associated Press, retiring in April of this year as the broadcast editor in the Kansas City bureau.

Jim retired as the Heart of America director on December 31, 2007. As a tribute to Jim's longevity and contributions to the HOA Chorus and KC Chapter, he received the HOA Director Emeritus distinction by proclamation of the HOA Board of Directors on January 5, 2008 by the 2007 Chapter President Tony Strub. As long time friend Keith Schweer put it "Jim has been and will continue to be the heart and soul of HOA!"

Other interests: he is a member of the Ancient and Beneficent Order of the Red, Red Rose; a member of the DeMolay Legion of Honor; a trout fisherman, tennis player and sometime golfer.


Jerry Garrard

BHS Certified Director

 Director, Heart of America Chorus -On leave of absence


past Director of the Leavenworth, KS Cody Choraliers Chorus

Photo by Vince Perry

On April 13, 2014 Jerry became HOA's 12th director.

Jerry Garrard is a native of the Kansas City metro area.  His love affair
 with Barbershop began as a junior high school student at a Youth In Harmony event
 — known today as Harmony Explosion — sponsored by the Heart of America Chorus.  
That quartet, 'The Overtones' won first place solidifying his passion for barbershop harmony.  
Jerry’s lifelong love of music brought him through college as a Music Education 
major and has allowed opportunities to sing with the Kansas City Chorale and Kansas 
City Symphony Chorus for several years. Interest in Barbershop takes many different 
shapes and sizes with Jerry. He’s given back to the hobby by serving as previous director for the Cody 
Choraliers of Leavenworth, KS, the current director of our very own Heart of America Chorus of Kansas City, MO, 
and most recently accepting the directorship of Riversong, the Sweet Adelines International (SAI) chapter 
out of St Joseph, MO. Top that off with an impressive list of CSD competing quartets including his current 
foursome, Priorities. 

Throughout his musical career, Jerry has performed with various ensembles as well 
as a soloist on the world's leading performing arts center stages—such as Lincoln 
Center's Avery Fischer Hall and Carnegie Hall directing the Heart of America Chorus and the Barbershop Festival Chorus during his most recent visit to New York
Unbelievable as it may seem, Jerry still has time outside Barbershop for a 
rewarding IT profession as a Cloud Architect.  Purely personal pursuits include 
his continued ambition of proficiency as a private pilot and enjoying his 



Mark Fortino
Heart of America Chorus Immediate Past Director

July 2012- April 2014


On July 30, 2012 Mark became HOA's director. Mark loves life and feels like he is the luckiest guy on the face of the earth. Why does he feel this way? Mark, as the lead singer, has qualified for International competition every year since 1994. 12th Street Rag, (1994 Central States District [CSD] Quartet Champions) qualified from 1994 to 2007, High Definition, (2007 CSD Quartet Champions) qualified from 2008 to 2010, and Voices Unlimited (2011 CSD Quartet Champions) qualified  in 2011 and 2012. 12th Street Rag placed as high as 11th twice, 2004 and 2006. High Definition placed as high as 12th in 2010. Mark is the Lead Section leader and the Director of the Heart of America Chorus. He is also the assistant director of his church choir, cantor, and a regular soloist at weddings in the Kansas City Metro Area. He started IN-Tune Production studio in his home in 2006 and has produced several recordings including, High Definition’s “entertainment” the 2010 Best Barbershop Album of the year awarded by the Contemporary A Cappella Society. Most recently he produced the 2009 Queen’s of Harmony Zing’s recording “Best Seat In The House”. By profession, Mark is the Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of a Bank. He is the proud father of four children with ages ranging from 19 years to 6 years old. So again, why does he feel like he’s the luckiest guy on the face of the earth? Not because of all the above things. NO! Because he is married to the most wonderful woman in the world that supports him in everything he does and makes all of the above a reality! Now that is LUCKY…or is it just LOVE?

Speaking of LUCKY, HOA is lucky to have hadMark Fortino as our director!

(Many thanks to the Voices Unlimited webpage for providing most of the bio text above.)

Photo Courtesy of Rich Huyck



David Krause - Past HOA Director

David Krause Steps Down from Directing HOA for the second time. His first stint was from Nov 1987 to June 1990 and the most recent Jan 2008 to July 2012.

 Along with his membership in the Society since 1975, David brought a wealth of experience as a member of  (as David says) "too many quartets to name", two CSD District Champion Quartets: 1984 Special Touch & 1982 Harmony Spectrum. He has been in numerous quartet and chorus contests at both District and International levels singing all parts except one. He says "Bass is out of the question!"  He also has been the BHS International Historian, has served on the Archives Committee and is a Certified and active Presentation Judge.  He has received both the Barbershopper of the Year and the Oz Newgard Awards from HOA and is a member of the Central States District Hall of Fame.

It's out he also has taught a variety of classes in  the District and at Harmony University. When asked to enumerate the highlights in his musical life, he responded: "Highlights include my many appearances as a quartet lead at the International competitions especially one sixteen place finish, attending and teaching at Harmony University for thirty years, all my years of directing church choirs, two summers of singing in a quartet at World's of Fun, judging in Germany, coaching in Great Britain, and performing in a professional production of The Music Man at the Starlight Theatre in Kansas City. He's also known for his great contributions in the area of youth outreach programs by being a clinician for high school and middle school students. To his credit he has introduced barbershop harmony to well over one hundred thousand students and their teachers. David has also served his home chapter, the Kansas City Chapter by holding several positions including section leader, choreographer, assistant director, associate director, coach, and director.

David graduated Summa Cum Laude at Central Missouri State University (Warrensburg) with a functional major in Social Studies and earned his Master of Arts Degree in History from The University of Missouri- Kansas City. In addition he has earned forty-eight post master's hours at various universities. David taught Social Studies at Winnetonka High School in North Kansas District for nearly thirty years retiring in 2005. While a teacher he often sponsored various clubs and activities and coached scholar bowls while also being a high school tennis coach. On the musical side he was a teacher and counselor at Northwest Missouri State University's Music Camps in Maryville, Missouri for twenty-five years.

David's family has been and continues to be number one in his life. His wife, Gail, also a teacher, is looking forward to joining David in his retirement very soon. David and Gail's daughter Jessie is in Vet School at MU and according to David "is taking most my extra money!" Their son, Ryan is "a starving musician (are there any other kinds) and also is taking more of my money!" They also have a  semi-adopted son, Sam, who is a high school honors athlete being courted by Division 1 colleges for football.  David adds: "He's probably a future NFL star who'll make me famous someday but... in the meantime... is currently  taking the rest of my money!" David has also been busy directing several church choirs for the past thirty years. At present David is the choir director at McMurry United Methodist Church where he has been for over sixteen years.

David is an avid woodshedder and loves to sing tags with anyone in his presence. David stresses that "Barbershop is many things to many people but whatever it is, it must be first and foremost "FUN!" HOA is lucky to have had David!!

David has been a Barbershop Harmony Society member since 1975.

Photos compliments of Matt Bostick © 2008