My reflections on being an ISM Local Group representative Jump to main content

My reflections on being an ISM Local Group representative

As a longstanding representative for the ISM Oxford Local Group, Carolyn King steps down after 10 years on the committee. She reflects on her time presenting events for members in Oxford and the surrounding area.

In my decade of being an ISM Local Group representative, the life of teachers and performers has changed considerably and technology is more prevalent than ever. Every local group will run themselves differently but there are shared similarities.

Working with other musicians

One of the positive aspects of being a Local Group representative is working alongside other experienced local musicians. For our group in Oxford that’s Robert Secret - a viola player and conductor who is very knowledgeable about singers and takes a keen interest in members' rights: and Paul Harris – a clarinettist, performer and teacher, lecturer and educator. Between us we have been presenting events for the members of the Oxford area (and surrounding areas) since 2014.

About arranging events

Probably the most important thing for us to decide is what kinds of events we would like to present. We aim to put on two or three in a year, which have included pupil concerts, talks by eminent musicians, lectures, recitals, social events, concerts, and opera visits. Fixing a date that doesn’t clash with school holidays, football finals, Mother’s Day etc can be tricky, but over the years we have mostly kept to Sunday afternoons. Not foolproof – there is always a choral society which prefers Sunday for its big concert – but preferable to weekdays and busy Saturdays.

When researching the most suitable venue, we take into account whether there are any technical requirements, whether there needs to be a very good piano, whether the location is near the centre of town and things like the ability of the venue to provide refreshments. Venues have ranged from school halls, churches, a few university seminar rooms or dining halls (we are well off for beautiful/prestigious venues in Oxford). A particular highlight was, on one occasion, Dorchester Abbey.

Some of our more successful events have included: pupils’ concerts either with solos or with an emphasis on ensemble playing with or without the teacher, talks by eminent local musicians such as George Caird, oboist and former director of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire or lecture recitals based on recently published piano exam syllabi. Other popular events have included a talk from John Lubbock about music and autism and Sally Daunt discussing music and dyslexia. We have even held a couple of talks by our very own Paul Harris.

During lockdown we embraced technology and held a couple of Zoom sessions. The first enabled us to meet other members who came up with some useful ideas and suggestions for future events. The second was a talk by Anthony Williams and the new ABRSM piano syllabus. In the future we are considering involving local members in an adult concert and providing opportunities for local singers.

There is an established routine for running events and managing the group's finances. With the advent of online banking, this is easier than it once used to be. We also liaise with the ISM staff team on advertising events to members, and for each event think about whether there are other local organisations we could invite to attend.

My final thoughts...

I have found Local Groups to be an important part of membership, and an important way to improve our knowledge of the music profession in some way. The opportunity for questions in person and discussion during the refreshment breaks is an invaluable way of bettering the sometimes isolated life that many musicians – especially individual instrumental teachers - lead. I have found the role hugely rewarding and encourage ISM members to support and get involved in their Local Group.