By Marilyn Schempp
It has been a wonderful experience serving as the North Central Regional Councillor for the last 4 1/2 years. I must admit that I felt a little like Moses when I was asked to run for this position. I wasn’t sure I was equipped to serve as a leader for so many talented, gifted folks, but I’ve learned so much along the way. I’ve been a member of the American Guild of Organists for over 30 years and have attended many of our regional conventions in the past. Because of that, I feel as if I know so many of our regional members. It has always been fun to connect with other AGO members at both the regional and national conventions. Serving as a regional councillor has allowed me to continue to connect with folks I already know and to meet so many more AGO members, particularly the many volunteers who serve on the National Council and the many other regional and national committees for the AGO. I thought I would share what I have been doing during this time as a regional councillor.One of the first things that I had to do was to agree to disband a chapter. There have been a number of smaller chapters that have disbanded during my time. The face of our AGO organization is changing with many members retiring and getting older. We all know organists in our cities and towns who don’t belong to our organization. Who knows why—part-time organists who don’t want to pay the membership fee or can’t see the benefit of joining, less experienced organists who feel they aren’t qualified to be a member, organists who don’t know about AGO—there are many reasons out there. If you haven’t seen last year’s marketing survey, I hope you take time to look at the findings. You should be able to find it on the national website. You can also see the report in the April 2015 TAO.But it is also exciting to see those pockets of talented young people who really love the organ and enjoy associating with other organists who have the same interest. I see that particularly in the Pipe Organ Encounter camps (POE’s) that I have participated in. It is always amazing to me how quickly these young people connect with one another because of this common interest in the organ. It is also exciting to see more young people attending our national conventions. In Houston, former President John Walker hosted a social time for the under 30 AGO members and how wonderful to see standing room only for this event! The national organization is working hard to draw in young people to AGO. One of the newest initiatives is the AGOYO (AGO Young Organists). Those AGO members under 30 automatically are a member of this group when they join the AGO. Thank you to Matthew Burt, the Regional Councillor from the West Region, and his committee for developing this group and helping it get off the ground. Kevin Neel, a young organist from Boston, is serving as the convener of these seven regional AGOYO chapters and meets frequently with the officers. They have started a Facebook page entitled AGO Young Organists and are beginning to share ideas on many topics with each other. You can help these AGOYO chapters grow by spreading the word to other young people to join AGO and encourage them to be a part of the AGOYO Facebook page.In case you are wondering what a regional councillor does, here are some of the highlights:
- We visit and support chapters—I would love to say that I visited with all of our regional chapters before my time is up. We’ll see if that happens, since there are thirty chapters in my region and they are pretty spread out. We also stay in touch with chapter leadership through newsletters and many emails about one thing or another that is AGO related.
- It is our responsibility to find chapters that are willing to host POE’s, January Jubilees, and regional conventions, so some of my visits to chapters have been to encourage them to host these events and talk about what is involved. Every other year I also spend considerable time staying in touch with the chapter that is hosting the regional convention. The wonder of electronics is that I have the option not to travel to meetings—I’ve sat in on regional planning meetings through facetime on my ipad—much cheaper that way and less time consuming. During the regional conventions, councillors help oversee the Quimby/RYCO competition and lead the regional meetings, in addition to spending time visiting with regional members in attendance at the convention.
- Regional councillors now attend one national council meeting a year. In the fall before a national convention, that meeting is held in the convention city. So I have had the opportunity to spend time in both Boston and Houston before those conventions. Having our meetings in the convention city allows national officers to see the venues and then help spread the excitement about the upcoming national convention. Before national council meetings, we have to write a report about what is going on in the region and at the end of the year we put together our regional budget. The seven regional councillors meet about once a month through WebEx to discuss concerns.
- We are responsible for seeing that we have chapters to offer the upper level certification exams. Those chapters that have at least two members who hold either the FAGO, AAGO, or ChM certificate can serve as exam centers.
- During my first term I was very heavily involved in the Regional Young Artist Competition held in Springfield, MO. Now we have a new leadership position in each region—the Regional Competition Coordinator. That person helps to coordinate all of the chapters that will host local competitions and sees that the winner information is shared with national headquarters. Then he works with the competition coordinator in the regional convention city to help schedule, find judges, and work on all of the details that help make that competition run smoothly. This has been a great help to those of us serving as regional councillors.
- We attend all or part of the POE’s in our region and talk with the students about AGO to help create awareness of our organization. I’ve had the opportunity to teach, play in faculty recitals, and present workshops for the POE students. We do the same for the January Jubilees—attend when we can, talk about AGO, and even serve as a presenter when asked to participate in that way.
- As a member of the national council, we are also called on to serve on other committees. The one that I am serving on is the Committee on Shared Skills and Resources (COSSR). This is the committee that works most directly with the January Jubilees and approves those budgets, programs, and brochures. You may also have noticed the columns in The American Organist entitled Musicians on the Side and The Practical Organist—they are under the auspices of the Committee on Shared Skills and Resources. This committee concerns itself with the part-time musician and the musicians that may not have as much musical training as those with master’s and doctoral degrees in organ.
A Regional Councillor can serves for two year term, with the possibility of a total of six years in this position. My six years will be up in 2018 when we run our next round of national elections. I hope that there will be new, qualified AGO members that will say yes to the calling to serve in leadership positions in our national organization. It is an opportunity to grow in so many wonderful ways and meet other fantastic, dedicated musicians. Thank you for the support of the many folks with whom I have worked during my time as Regional Councillor.Marilyn Schempp