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SCI LOCAL CHAPTERS:
Does SCI have local chapters? While some think it already does, the situation is a bit more complicated. Many of you will recall that SCI began an effort toward the formation of local chapters about four years ago, but you may not know how things have progressed with that effort.
WHERE WE STAND
In 1994, a group of composers and a few new music performers in Birmingham, Alabama began meeting together to discuss the feasibility of combining the resources of several smaller local colleges. The purpose was to put on concerts, and to give their students the chance to interact with their peers in other local departments. In order to overcome the isolation felt by many composers in small music departments, this initiative was an attempt to broaden our base of support in the community. The group was still mostly restricted to "academic" composers, since few knew other composers in Birmingham. As many of the composers were also members of SCI, and as SCI had recently proposed the idea of local chapters, the composers decided to look into the possible benefits of such an affiliation. SCI offered the possibility of immediate fiscal sponsorship (serving as a tax umbrella for fundraising) if the composers wanted to try forming a local chapter, something new for SCI. The composers who had previous experience with applying for tax IDs and non-profit status quickly recognized the value of this proposed fiscal relationship.
Therefore, in 1995 the Birmingham Art Music Alliance was the first and to date the only local chapter to affiliate with SCI. This pioneering relationship has allowed both Alliance members and the SCI national office to gradually explore the concept of community composer groups and SCI local chapters, to examine local chapter organization, SCI support levels, and the boundaries and legal aspects of such an association. The Alliance has been very successful in its programs, including concertizing to a very large and receptive community audience, educational outreach in the form of master classes, a commissioning program, and a series of guest composer appearances. However, it has also had its share of growing pains. It has proved a valuable model both for local composers reaching out to each other and to their community, and for the chapter's relationship with the national organization. Recently, SCI's executive and national committees have discussed both the problems and benefits of such future relationships with other potential local chapters to the degree that the local chapter program has been officially adopted as an arm of SCI. Our by-laws were officially amended to include this category of activity under SCI's auspices.
Over the coming months, as local chapter coordinator, I will be drawing up a handbook for anyone interested in undertaking such a venture. The handbook will define the local chapter, and include: chapter obligations to the SCI national office, benefits of affiliation, and suggested strategies for successfully forming a chapter, putting on various types of activities, fundraising, and building audiences. However, obligations are few, and each local community will be strongly encouraged to develop programs uniquely suited to their resources and interests. Briefly, some basic definitions of a local chapter are:
1. The local chapter shall exist to generally promote the cause of new music.
2. The local chapter shall be defined by geographical boundaries, such as a 40-mile radius around a city or town, and the majority of its activities shall take place within said boundaries, encouraging local participation and community outreach.
3. Members of the local chapter will be composers, performers, students, and others interested in the promotion of new music locally, regionally and nationally. Ideally, this will include a mixture of current SCI and non-SCI members, although it may take some time to build relationships with community based artists.
4. All composer members of the local chapter will become members of the Society of Composers, Inc. through payment of national dues. Payment of local dues, if required by the chapter, will be set above that of the national dues level for local chapter membership in each of the above member categories.
5. The local chapter will have regular meetings.
6. It has been generally agreed that the SCI local chapter will be completely under the auspices of SCI, some part of the national dues paid will be rebated to the chapter (similar to the way regions work), and SCI may be used as a fiscal sponsor for receipt of tax deductible donations or grants.
I cannot state strongly enough how highly I recommend that those of you not currently involved with a community composer group channel some effort into a venture such as a local chapter. You will be amazed at how great and direct the benefits are to your compositional career. As a founding member of the Birmingham Art Music Alliance, I frankly have been overwhelmed at the results generated by the efforts put forth by about twenty people, and at the wealth of wisdom shared by that community. In a few short years, the Alliance has truly created both a place and an increasingly knowledgeable audience outside of academia for new music without compromising the quality of our art, and has done so in a community that wasn't exactly known for its support of the arts. We have also created a very tightly-knit group of individuals who support each other and inspire each other to keep working, composing, and exploring new avenues for their art. While it hasn't been exactly easy, I wouldn't say it was really hard, either, and it certainly has been fun. Gerald Warfield will be sharing the names of people who expressed an interest in forming a local chapter in their community, and I will be contacting those people directly via email. If you see yourself as someone who wants to become involved in a similar venture, even if you don't know of anyone else in your community who might be interested, please email me directly at:
Dorothy Hindman. I can give you lots of suggestions as to how to begin.
Local Chapter Coordinator