RMA Council – Quick Start Guide

Welcome to the RMA Council: A Quick-Start Guide for New Members

Back to basics… (from the Mission Statement)

“The Association aims to sustain and enhance the culture of music studies at its broadest, to celebrate and promote diversity in musical and scholarly activity, to create an inclusive and interdisciplinary environment, and to recognise outstanding scholarly and creative achievement by individuals worldwide.”

What is the structure of the RMA?

The RMA Council is the main, overarching body of the organisation. The (sub)committees do most of the work of the RMA. They meet separately and then report back to the Council. They’re listed here. You can expect to be asked to join one or more of these when you start, but if you have particular areas of interest, let the President know. The Council meets three times a year, including at each of the main conferences (Student Conference in January; Annual Conference in September). 

The RMA is led by a President, supported by Vice Presidents (who tend to chair committees). These roles have defined term lengths, as do the Ordinary Members of Council. There are Officers who are employed by the RMA to undertake specific, administratively weighty roles. These include digital technology support, communications, research training events, student liaison, conference co-ordination, and so on. They do not have defined term lengths.

The Executive Officer is a particularly crucial role in overseeing the running of the RMA. If you have questions related to process, administration, and the like, the Executive Officer is the best person to ask (execofficer@rma.ac.uk).

Who is on Council?

President, Vice-Presidents, Honorary Treasurer, Officers, Ordinary Members, and the immediate past President attend Council. They are joined by other members who have either been co-opted because of their expertise, specific perspectives they can share, or if they serve particular roles for the RMA (such as editorial roles on RMA publications).

What are the Committees?

The main Committees enshrined in the RMA’s Rules (see below) are:

  • Events Committee: Focuses on the Annual and Student Conferences, but also deals with association of Study Days and Affiliated Conferences. 
  • Publications Committee: Primarily concerned with the Journal of the RMA, RMA Research Chronicle, and the RMA monographs series.
  • Finance, Membership, and Communications Committee: Focuses on flow of finance in the charity, and how initiatives are funded, as well as the collection of funds. 
  • Awards Committee: Oversees the award of the Dent Medal prize, Tippett Medal for composition and other book and research prizes. 
  • Search Committee: Focuses on attracting and appointing staff and volunteers to positions in the charity.
  • External Affairs Committee: Responds to external events and context (e.g. government consultations, threats to Departments, etc.). 
  • Student Committee: Supports the student membership of the RMA, including producing the RMA Student Blog, and responding to issues related to students.

From time-to-time, other ad-hoc Working Groups or Initiatives will be set up by Council, and they may be ongoing or time-limited. For instance, an important current Working Group is the EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) Working Group, and there is also an Education Initiative.

What are Study Groups and Chapters?

Study Groups are affiliated groups of researchers focusing on a particular topic, theme or mode of research. While they submit reports to the RMA, they run autonomously, and are not usually involved in the day-to-day work of the RMA, though we expect them to maintain contact, and they often provide representation at one or more of the Conferences. There are two RMA chapters, one in Scotland, one in South-East Asia. They are geographically-specific groups that help to publicise the RMA but also provide regional events and initiatives. Like the Study Groups, they mostly run autonomously.

How does the RMA work?

There are two main guiding documents for the RMA.

  1. The RMA “Rules”. These are official and public. They are binding and can only be changed by Council. They are available publicly on the website, under ‘constitution’.
  2. The “Operating Manual” aka, “The Black Book”. This is a more informal volume that provides guidelines for the RMA, based on historical knowledge and practice. This is more extensive than the “Rules” document, but it is not publicly available. You should be given a copy when joining Council, but ask the Executive Officer if you don’t have one.

There are also some further non-binding documents that provide support for specific RMA activities, like the Flagship Conference Handbook. These are usually held by the Executive Officer or the officer most closely connected to that aspect of the RMA’s business.

How do I get involved, and what’s expected of me as a Council member?

In general, tasks to further the RMA’s mission will be raised at Committees or Councils, and either individuals are approached to take on those tasks, or volunteers are requested. Everyone has different demands on their time, and therefore has differing capacities for taking on RMA work. Such capacity usually varies significantly throughout the year. We trust that members volunteer to take on what they can, when they can, depending on what is practical for their individual circumstances. Don’t hesitate to speak to Vice Presidents, Committee chairs or the President if you feel as though you have been asked to do more than is feasible, or, indeed, if you’d like to get more involved!

We expect to see Council members at the two main RMA conferences, provided it is feasible and realistic for them to attend. The RMA will cover accommodation, travel and registration for the conferences for Council members. We would hope that you would continue to champion the RMA, and keep your ‘ear to the ground’ within music studies: the RMA relies on its Council members’ diverse experiences, knowledge and perspectives to further the RMA’s mission, it needs your input! Please consider how you think the RMA can serve its members and mission best, even if that means raising sometimes difficult questions and topics of conversation. 

Don’t hesitate to ask questions at Council, or, if you’d prefer, approach a Vice-President, Officer, another member of Council, or the President individually. If you have an idea or would like to share information relevant to the RMA’s mission, approach the relevant Committee chair (the latest listing is on the website). 

The RMA has a Code of Conduct that outlines expectations of member behaviour, and a complaints procedure, should the situation call for it. It’s worth bearing in mind that, in some situations, you may find yourself representing (or appearing to represent) the RMA externally. As such, standards of conduct are very important, and it may be necessary sometimes to clarify whether you are speaking on a personal basis, or in your RMA capacity.

We are very grateful to everyone who generously gives their time and energy to the RMA, and we look forward to working with you. We hope you find this an enjoyable and rewarding experience!