Tuesday, May 05, 2009

End-of-the-year Thanks and Update

As our chapter program years draw to a close, I want to thank all Chapter Deans, elected officials, and volunteers for all of the work you have done for Guild members and friends of the organ in your area this year. I am grateful for all of your time, talents, and energy!

Two weeks ago, I attended AGO national council meetings. During four days of very challenging and very productive meetings, we discussed many topics and also participated in long-range planning for the future of the AGO.

There is good news to share: Guild membership is UP nationally, reversing a downward trend of several years! The fastest-growing category is that of Independent Member, especially in Regions like ours, in which Guild members may live long distances from the nearest chapter. All of us will need to find ways to connect with our fellow AGO members, perhaps through increased use of technology to “virtually” diminish the distance between us.

More good news: individual and chapter donations to the Annual Fund are UP nationally! The Annual Fund provides vital support for many, many Guild initiatives. An example: a software program is in development which will soon allow on-line membership renewal, changes of address, etc., thereby considerably reducing the paperwork burden on chapter registrars and treasurers. Another example: free insurance is supplied to every AGO chapter for chapter events. (The cost of that insurance alone is almost $3 per member. If you or your chapter are not yet contributing to the Annual Fund, I highly encourage you to consider contributing at least that much.) Contributions are easily made on-line here. Thank you to the chapters who contributed to a 7% increase, and to the individuals who increased giving by 6%, in our Region this year.

Yet more good news: more young people are getting involved with the Guild! This is due in great part to the phenomenal success of the Pipe Organ Encounter (POE) program. Each POE participant is given a one-year AGO membership. During the twenty-year history of the POE program, many of these students have become active chapter members, bringing much-needed youthful energy and ideas to the Guild. Remember, we have two POEs this summer in Region VI: in Sioux Falls, SD, and in Kansas City, MO. Considering the amount and quality of instruction and activities, with all housing and meals included, these “camps” are a fantastic value for the dollar compared to other summer activities available to young musicians. Click here to learn more. It’s not too late to enroll in these fun and inspirational programs!

Our adult members also have an opportunity for inspiration and fun this summer: Pipes on the Plains, the Regional convention in Wichita, June 15-18. A unique pre-convention event is a fun family organ fair the Sunday preceding the convention. On Monday, join in an organ crawl or hear our most talented young organists in the Regional Competition, before the convention’s opening convocation that evening. Help us fĂȘte the first-ever Regional honoree, Quentin Faulkner, during the Regional dinner. There is too much wonderful information to list it all here – suffice it to say that we will hear many wonderful programs and instruments … we’ll participate in inspirational worship services … we’ll learn from talented workshop presenters … and perhaps most importantly, we’ll share in the fellowship and networking that are so important in these challenging times. The convention hotel is a bargain, and the room rates include a breakfast for each guest. Your convention registration includes another five meals – what a deal! It’s not too late to register. Learn more here.

Of course, as well as good news to share, we also face challenges as an organization and as individuals, in large part due to the current economic climate. Income from the Guild’s investments is down, and facing that fact was the main focus of our national council meeting. We are committed to the financial health of the Guild, and we request and appreciate your continued help and contributions to carry out the AGO’s many worthy initiatives despite current economic challenges. If your personal financial situation would allow you to help someone else with their membership or convention registration … if you can make a contribution to the Annual Fund … if you can support the POEs or Regional convention by writing a check … I urge you to consider helping the Guild continue to function well during this economic downturn. Thank you in advance for your thoughtful consideration of this request.

Please remember that the first task of Deans (either outgoing or incoming) for the new program year is to submit the Officer Report Form (ORF) for your chapter. It’s easily done on-line, and is an important component of maintaining your chapter’s not-for-profit status. Even if your officers remained the same this year as last, the form still must be completed again. As soon as you have elected your officers for 2009-10, please click here to complete this form.

I highly encourage all members to frequently visit the AGO national website. There is much helpful information there, on many subjects, free for the downloading. Incoming Chapter Deans will find the Chapter Management Handbook particularly valuable.

Please join me in thanking your District Convener, and Marlene Hallstrom and Jeff Verkuilen, our Regional Coordinators for Professional Development and Education, respectively. Their current terms expire in June, like yours; several who have not reached their term limits have agreed to serve another two years. The current and new DCs and Coordinators will be introduced at the Regional Convention, and in a convention follow-up letter from me. I am grateful to all of them!

I hope to see you at Pipes on the Plains or at one of the chapter events I’ll be visiting in the coming program year. All good wishes to you!