A Week with the RMA Membership Development Officer

Ever wondered what happens behind the scenes of the RMA and the Student Committee? Our Membership Development Officer, Helen Thomas, shares a typical week with us.
 
I don’t know what you think, but we behind the Student Blog are impressed! As well as working for you at the RMA, Helen is a Research Associate for Newcastle University’s Creative Aging, an oboist for the Ormskirk Music Society, a Mum, and a dog lover – absolutely full of life! Helen has also recently completely her PhD.
 
 

Thursday 20 March

Working from home today.  After getting sons (aged 15 and 13) off to the bus stop, walked the dog and was at my desk by 9.  I had set aside this morning for RMA administration. Two new book announcements have come in and I pulled an image and blurb off one publisher’s website but had to contact another to get this information and negotiate a discount on the price for members.  Drafted a press release for the launch of the new-look Annual Conference.  It is rewarding to see real change being implemented on the basis of the membership survey we conducted a couple of years ago.

Three more members have contacted me about the status of their membership following Jeff’s alert in the e-bulletin regarding the computer error at Routledge.  I feel impotent at being able to do little more than acknowledge and forward to Routledge.

At least things seem to be being sorted following the ‘emergency’ meeting in London last week.  Afternoon visit to the osteopath and then pick up boys, get fish and chips to take for dinner at mother-in-law’s (a Thursday night ritual).  Evening rehearsal of Ormskirk Music Society – an all Russian programme which I know a bit more about now having written the programme notes!

Friday 21 March

Up at 5 in order to go to Newcastle University for the day, but one look out of the window at the much heralded blizzard was enough to persuade me that a trip across the Pennines wasn’t a good idea.  The main purpose of today’s visit was to join the Steering Group meeting for our project on arts, wellbeing, and ageing called Ageing Creatively. This is a pilot project funded by the Medical Research Council. The Senior Researcher and two Associate Researchers (of which I’m the one assigned to the music programme) have drafted the final report. I have spent much of the week collating findings from the participants in the Exploring Music and Singing programmes. This has involved analysis of interviews, reflective journals and the feedback we received from the Discussion Days in January and collating the findings around topic headings. Fortunately, Newcastle is able to set up a conference phone call which I join for three hours! It is the first time I have ‘met’ this way and I am surprised how quickly I become accustomed to the medium and find it quite easy to join in with the discussions.  There is some heated debate over the order of our research questions but we eventually agree that it is possible to invert them depending on the intended audience.  The afternoon is spent drafting an invitation to the Participants’ Symposium next month and then sending it out with personalised emails.  I finalise the RMA press release and prepare a circulation list ready for next week.  As the snow continues unabated the family settles down for the evening to watch football – England vs San Marino – on television.

Saturday 22 March

There is still a lot of snow on the ground and tonight is Ormskirk Music Society’s Spring Concert. I make a quick dash into Liverpool to drop off my younger son’s trombone for repair and get confirmation at 11.30 that the concert is ON. We rehearse at the local school from 2-5 but it is cold and condensation keeps forming under the Bb pad of my oboe causing unseemly gurgles. Two things I like best about performing are the analytical insights that come from playing and the camaraderie of an orchestra.  The former does mean that sometimes I miss an entry though. Today I am distracted by the full trombone section and for the first time I hear the chant that opens Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Overture return in augmented form as a sort of cantus firmus in the middle section! Three fellow woodwind players come back to our house for tea and as usual my fantastic husband David has everything ready. The concert goes well despite a rather small audience. Off to the pub afterwards where I catch up with a viola player who is just finishing his PhD at Salford. The conversation drifts away from music and onto the ethics of food in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.

Sunday 23 March

I am tired today. After a lie-in I walk the dog for an hour in a bitingly cold wind although it blows away some of the ear-worms that took root after last night’s concert. The day is spent with the family, doing some domestic chores, and a bit of piano-playing for pleasure. In the evening the boys go off to the youth club for a couple of hours; my husband, the dog and I curl up together on the couch and watch the TV programmes we’ve missed this week on i-Player.

Monday 24 March

Up at 6.30 and at desk by 7.30. Respond to emails and look through the latest bulletin from jobs.ac.uk. There is nothing I am either qualified for or want to apply for. This is worrying as my contract at Newcastle finishes in ten weeks time and I have no idea what I will do after that. Email the RMA press release. Book train tickets and accommodation for upcoming Newcastle trips and then settle to thinking about dissemination strategy for the Ageing Creatively project. Each researcher is going to act as lead on a couple of jointly authored papers. That means a potential six papers from this project which would help my CV no doubt. I search the internet for Guidelines for Contributors on the journals that I have in mind as suitable for the papers I would like write and spend the rest of the day sketching out and refining ideas.  At 16.30 I leave my desk to go to pick up my sons who have band practice after school on Mondays. Home in time for tea (again cooked by my husband). I rehearse our elder son’s play script with him in advance of his GCSE exam tomorrow, and then go over the road to a neighbour’s house for a local Book Group meeting. I have not finished her book choice – again!

Tuesday 25 March

A quiet day at my desk.  I prepare two abstracts for potential papers on the Ageing Creatively findings. One of these is close to my heart: an analysis of metaphors employed by participants in the interviews I have done with them. My PhD thesis used metaphor analysis to look at how avant-garde composers express concepts of musical time and I enjoy the painstaking process of reading through different discourses on music, locating metaphors and then looking at the patterns of thought that they relate to. The second abstract is for the SEMPRE conference next month which is taking place in Folkestone. I am more nervous about this one because, necessarily perhaps, the Medical Humanities draw on such a wide variety of disciplines – neurology, psychology, therapy, ethnography etc. – and I am very aware of my lack of knowledge in some of these areas.

Wednesday 26 March

It is nearly Easter and I am looking forward to a few days off. This morning is spent doing various administrative tasks and then I prepare to send out details of the final arrangements for the Participants’ Symposium for the Ageing Creatively project to all those people who have taken part in the music classes. The Symposium on 12 April is an opportunity for the Research team to feedback our findings to the participants. I would like to make this a fairly formal occasion with a series of presentations and short talks that give these stakeholders an idea of how we are analysing and interpreting the information they have given us. However my boss is going with a much more creative approach with freestanding displays and interactive exhibits. I am concerned that the emphasis is on form rather than content and do not want to patronise the participants. After some discussion I rather reluctantly accept that her approach is the one we will go with as she is insistent that too much information will overwhelm them.  I break for lunch to meet up with the supervisor of my MA thesis and we have an animated conversation about teaching, politics and ageing. Back at my desk I finally start the presentation for the SEMPRE conference and feel good that at least the structure is mapped out before the Easter holiday.

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