A Letter from the Dean
My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth's lamentation,
I hear the sweet, tho' far-off hymn
That hails a new creation;
Thro' all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul –
How can I keep from singing?
Dear Jax AGO Colleagues,
These words by the 19th century minister Robert Lowry have echoed in my mind for the greater part of the last year and a half. In the time since the shutdowns first began, many of us experienced loss in some form. Church services ceased, music programs went on hiatus, businesses closed, and many of us were limited to communicating through screens. Meanwhile, our communities were shaken by protests, violence, and division. The magnitude of these losses were compounded by more than 600,000 deaths from an unfathomable virus.
We held Zoom meetings, gave socially-distanced concerts, livestreamed entire concert series, made old-fashioned phone calls; and many of us were tasked with creating “hybrid models” for offering performances, services, instruction, socialization, and connection through a combination of virtual and in-person mediums. In many ways it allowed us to retain some degree of community; but in other ways, we were left completely exhausted from trying to keep up. The time, energy, and money devoted to all of it has been overwhelming; but in spite of it, we have been able to move forward.
Our first virtual election yielded a new Executive Committee. Unexpected life changes resulted in sudden leadership transitions. The small-yet-mighty programming committee has been meeting to brainstorm how we can best serve our members and reach out to encourage new growth. In a few weeks we will hold a transitional Executive Committee meeting to pass the torch to the next group of chapter leaders. We will meet to discuss what the “new normal” might look like for us, and I know from conversations with several chapter members over the past few months that we are all excited to get back to working toward the guild’s mission.
So while plans are still being made, conversations with peers are still taking place, and some of us remain curious what the future of our chapter looks like on the other side of the pandemic, we can assure ourselves of one thing: we are ready to do the work. There will be opportunities to learn, study, grow, network, socialize, volunteer, and serve. Our program year should be finalized in August and our first chapter event should be held in September. There are a few things I’d like to draw your attention to as we prepare to kick-off our new season together:
· The Year of the Young Organist: The AGO National Council is committed to membership recruitment, retention, and growth within our organization. During the Year of the Young Organist, July 1, 2021–June 30, 2022, any individual under the age of 30 can become a member or renew her/his membership for free as part of this program. The Year of the Young Organist will provide opportunities for both personal and professional development. Programs will include master classes and webinars on a wide variety of topics. To take advantage of this opportunity, visit https://www.agohq.org/free-membership/
· Chapter Service Opportunities: The coming years will present many ways for chapter members to get engaged through service opportunities. Some of these will be long-term such as serving on committees, and others will be brief such as welcoming event attendees or providing refreshments at chapter events. We will be seeking presenters and performers as well. Do you have a favorite go-to voluntary that you’d love to share with our membership? Perhaps you have a wealth of knowledge about some aspect of managing a music ministry. Have you longed to get back to leading a room full of eager singers through a beloved ecumenical hymn? There will be as many ways to get involved as we have members in our chapter. I encourage you to think about how you can help the chapter work toward our greater mission. Precise service opportunities will be announced soon and throughout the year.
· Fundraising: The Executive Committee has had several conversations over the past year about the need to place an emphasis on raising funds for the chapter to continue to bring excellent programming to our area. While plans will come together over the coming months, I’d also ask that you consider how you might contribute to possible fundraising opportunities with your time and talent. Of course, there is also the opportunity to make an additional chapter contribution which will directly impact the sort of programs we may sponsor in years to come.
· Expanding Our Reach Online: We plan to continue to bring news and information to you through the normal channels (email and our website www.jaxago.org), but for those who wish to connect through Facebook or Instagram, those opportunities are available to you. In fact, our profiles on both platforms are public so you don’t even need a membership to view the content.
o To view the Facebook page visit https://www.facebook.com/jaxago
o To view the Instagram page visit https://www.instagram.com/jaxago/
I have full confidence that this year will be one to remember. It is an honor to serve the guild alongside so many wonderfully talented chapter leaders. I am thrilled to serve you as Dean and to continue to coordinate chapter communications. I hope to be your biggest advocate and most enthusiastic cheerleader. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me. Our community is only made stronger when every voice (high or low) is heard and every idea (big or small) is laid on the table.
Together we will continue in our mission to foster a thriving community of musicians who share their knowledge and inspire passion for the organ.
Brandon “Zeek” Smith, Dean
Jacksonville, FL Chapter
American Guild of Organists
June 29, 2021