This is the last column I will write as Chair, and by the time it appears in print, a new Board of Directors will have taken office. In my previous column, I reflected on the significance the OHS has had in my musical growth over the eight years that I have been an elected officer of the Society. For this final column, I’d like to reflect on other things that I have learned. Through observing and implementing the many changes to the structure and operation of the OHS over the last eight years, I’ve learned an enormous amount about governance of organizations, in some ways leading to a new direction for my own career, towards academic administration.
A turning point for me personally and for the OHS was the 2013 convention in Burlington, Vt., the first time that we engaged a parliamentarian, Marie Wilson, to help run our annual meeting. I was truly impressed at the difference Marie (who is still working with us) made in the efficiency and productivity of the meeting. Having sat through some unruly faculty meetings and committee meetings at my university, I quickly saw the utility of understanding parliamentary procedure. The basic principle of parliamentary procedure, embodied most notably in Robert’s Rules of Order, is to allow every member of an organization to have a voice in collective decision making. Used well, these procedures can be very effective in helping people work together to reach consensus.
Not long after this, I participated in rewriting the OHS bylaws, the goal of which was partly to establish a new Board of Directors, along with some other structural changes, and partly to make them simpler and easier to follow. This was an eye-opening process that helped me understand governance and structure in a way I never had before, and not just related to OHS. (Since then, I’ve helped write bylaws in two other organizations!) Like parliamentary procedure, bylaws are intended to make a structure in which people in the organization can function more effectively together to achieve a larger set of goals.
In the same way that my musical experiences with OHS intersected with other parts of my musical life and broadened my horizons in unexpected ways, the concepts and skills I have learned about governance, meeting management, and organizational structure have significantly impacted my daily work. My interest and recent work in academic administration is in many ways a result of these experiences that have supported my ability to function well as an administrator.
Oddly enough, all of these “rules” of parliamentary procedure and bylaws — which many people find dry and impersonal — are about people. Like any other organization, the OHS is not just a structure and a set of rules and goals. It is a group of people who love the pipe organ, who want to learn more about the instrument, share their enthusiasm, and ensure the instrument’s recognition as a significant part of our American history and culture. It is the people — you, the members — who are important, not the structures in which we operate, even though those structures allow us to operate more effectively.
I’d like to conclude this final column with two points based on all of the above thoughts. One: you, reader, are one of the people who make up the OHS, and the OHS needs you. Be active, volunteer, participate in governance, vote in elections; otherwise, the organization becomes a structure without any purpose. Each member has a unique set of skills and experiences that can benefit the OHS. Two: you never know how your work with the OHS may benefit you in unexpected ways, as it did me. Although dedicated involvement in an organization like the OHS takes a great deal of time and energy, the payoff in unpredictable and sometimes intangible benefits to you will be worth it. As I end an eight-year journey as an elected officer of OHS, I can only reflect on how much I’ve grown, musically and personally, through that experience. I encourage you to participate, too, and look forward to seeing you at future OHS conventions.