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On Being a Joiner

On Being a Joiner

Why Join?

It occurred to me to do a piece on being a joiner when I realized how few of my students were. So this is a bit of cheerleading for a certain way of leading life as a guitarist. 

In the most general terms, a joiner is someone who participates. In this piece, I'm referring to joining the organizations whose missions are related to what we do. Such organizations might include, but are not limited to, on the national level (USA):

GFA: the Guitar Foundation of America

ASTA: the American String Teacher's Association

LSA: the Lute Society of America

CMA: Chamber Music America 

MTNA: the Music Teacher's National Association

GAL: the Guild of American Luthiers

On the regional level, organizations such as (in my area) the:CCGS: the Cleveland Classical Guitar Society 

CCG: the Cleveland Composer's Guild

CMSO: the Chamber Music Society of Ohio

OAPN: the Ohio Artists Presenters Network

And on the local level, groups like our: University of Akron Guitar Club 

and the Oberlin Classical Guitar Association.  

One can participate in a multitude of ways. You can simply pay the annual fee (if there is one) and, in the case of the national organizations, receive their journals and newsletters, get added to their email list, and so on. For regional or local organizations it might be as little as giving them your email so you will receive their announcements. In this way, you would be supporting those working to improve our lives as guitarists, whether that means presenting live concerts, publishing new research, developing new instrument building techniques, or something else. Further, you'd end up better informed of trends and events pertinent to your area of interest, and in the case of local and regional organizations, events near you. 

You can take it up a notch. You could get more directly involved. You could volunteer at the events sponsored by your local guitar society. Trust me, they need all the help they can get. Producing concerts requires people to help with box office, ushering, stage managing, parking, advertising, web site design and maintenance, social media presence, driving guests to and from airports, even hosting guests. 

National organizations have the same needs and many more. When I last hosted the GFA (Oberlin, 2005), I had an Oberlin studio of ten performance majors. I assigned each one to a substantial and critical task to help me run the convention. They were my:Adult Competition coordinatorYouth Competition coordinator Master Class coordinatorRetail sales managers (2)Box office managers (2)Trade show facilitators (2)After hours events coordinator

Of course the convention required many more people to make the event run smoothly. There were a large cadre of ushers. There was a full-time staff of five in concert productions, producing programs, stage managing, updating bulletin boards, populating the website, writing press releases for local journals, and others still, driving guests to and from, arranging shipping for vendors, designing the program book, selling advertising, arranging receptions, clean up, etc. etc. 

Volunteering to help run these events is a great way to give back for all the riches of artistry shared in those short but activity-packed days. It also facilitates meeting and getting to know those in charge as well as the many others involved in a more direct way than otherwise possible. 

After the GFA, my students declared unanimously that they LOVED doing this. It put them at the center of the action, with real responsibilities, and assured that they would meet lots of the visitors (rather than stay in a huddle with their current pals). They got a taste of adult responsibility and felt (and were) critical to the success of the event. In some cases, their responsibilities made it impossible to attend one or another event, but they agreed it was well worth it. 

I've had other students and alumni volunteer to help with such productions, both for GFA and for regional events sponsored by our CCGS. All experiences were immensely positive, and their services were mightily appreciated. 

But most of all, I champion joining because doing so increases your network of friends and colleagues. The more friends you have (and here I'm talking about real friends, not the FB kind)--the richer and more varied your life promises to be. It is always good to get out and meet people with common interests, and volunteering like this is a fantastic way of doing just that. Plus, it signals to those around you a genuine willingness to contribute, a generosity of spirit that is widely valued and appreciated. Plus, it's fun. 

Many of these types of organizations will thank you for volunteering by offering free or reduced entry to events in exchange for services. Students on a budget, take note!

Look around--are there such organizations you might consider joining? Events you might consider volunteering your services for? We become accustomed to the readily-available stream of information on the web and so forget the simple pleasure of being connected to like-minded folks in a more tangible way than through social media. I like this notion partly because it feels good to support such organizations, and partly because the networking it offers can have a positive effect. But I like it mostly because it leads to meeting people and making friends, and in the end, that seems to be the thing that really counts.

Guitar and the Fulbright, Part 2

Guitar and the Fulbright, Part 2

University of Akron Guitar Ensemble Concert 11/13/14

University of Akron Guitar Ensemble Concert 11/13/14