As a board member of the Suzuki Association of Massachusetts, I always look forward to our statewide Suzuki Festival, our biggest event of the year. This year, our festival directors chose the festival motto ‘Gather – Share – Grow.’ I loved this saying – it captured the feel of the festival, and also demonstrated what our organization works for throughout the year: to gather members of our community, share resources, and support growth as individuals and in groups. I’m grateful to be part of an organization that both supports events like the festival, and provides our statewide community with resources year-round.
An SAA Chapter Affiliate (a state or regional organization, under the umbrella organization of the SAA) is a special entity. The SAA serves as a large (actually, huge!), structured, international organization. It offers us access to a massive directory, dozens of institutes, a professional conference, and countless other resources. These resources would be difficult or impossible for a smaller organization to offer. But the good news is, as Chapter Affiliate members or leaders we don’t need to fill those shoes. We have a unique opportunity – to observe the more specific needs of our state and local communities, and create a more customized, flexible approach to addressing those needs.
As Chapter Affiliate members and leaders, we can support and connect with our community in ways that the SAA might not be able to. We have a local presence, more personal relationships to draw from, and a greater awareness of the particular strengths and needs of our area. It can be challenging to define a Chapter Affiliate’s role in the state and region – but as our board has grown, our varied perspectives and shared goals have clarified which efforts will be most worthwhile.
Of course, our effort is ongoing – at no point do we ‘arrive’ at fulfilling all of our goals. We’re part of a large and complex community – once we started identifying ways to support it, we had a bit of a ‘down-the-rabbit-hole’ experience. Oh, we want student events! How many? How big? What about teacher events – enrichment and training, that sounds good! And of course we need to keep building our membership…how do we do that? We’d better develop our resources…newsletter…website… and let’s offer scholarships….oh, in that case, how about fundraising? Wait – who was doing the agenda for this month?
The good news is, when we consider all these options as a group, the answers usually make themselves apparent. We look for a balance of what the community needs most and what’s practical in terms of our resources, which makes it much easier to prioritize – and makes our efforts more likely to produce worthwhile results. I’m proud to share that Suzuki:MA has reached a few goals in recent years: expanding the board, updating the website, re-launching our newsletter, hosting a few teacher training events along with our annual festival, offering scholarships to students and teachers; and, most importantly, reaching out and increasing our membership numbers.
This is not to say everything runs smoothly all the time; we learn from each endeavor. As a small non-profit, with an all-volunteer board (typical of Chapter Affiliates), we’ve also had to recognize our limits. I’m lucky to work with a board that has depth in both skill sets and mutual support, but we all have to judge carefully what we can commit to. The good news is, the Suzuki community by definition has members with shared values and goals. While our perspectives can vary, there’s good collaboration and common ground, so finding that path together can be a joyful process.
My work with Suzuki:MA has been deeply fulfilling, both personally and professionally – not to mention fun; I’m grateful for the organization itself and each person contributing to its success, and also to those who initially founded the group and kept it going over the years. It’s my hope that everyone in our broad, international population can continue to enrich their experience as a member of the Suzuki community. I’d encourage anyone who feels connected to the Suzuki philosophy to look around your neighborhood or state, and find ways to connect and contribute, whether it be through activities with an existing Chapter Affiliate, or making the leap to found one where there’s a need.