The Future of SAM: Diversity and Development

The long-range planning process began at the 2010 SAM annual meeting in Ottawa, where President Thomas Riis held a lunch meeting that included the former presidents of the Society and President-elect Katherine Preston. The conversation around the table led to a decision to examine and perhaps revise our Long Range Plan, which had last been revisited in 1999-2000. The Society's executive committee subsequently met in May 2010 to discuss this proposal, and made plans for a retreat in the fall to continue the process. This retreat took place in September 2010 outside Pittsburgh with the participation of a diverse group of SAM members. Participants decided that we should share the results of our discussions and—even more important—solicit feedback from SAM members about the ideas discussed and values asserted at the retreat. An ad hoc subcommittee on long range planning was formed to oversee this process, chaired by Mark Clague. Its main task was the execution of an online survey.

The survey, which focused on the values of members and perceived challenges to the Society as well as such issues as fundraising and demographics, revealed that SAM members—to a remarkable extent—share beliefs about the ideals and goals of the Society. With 95% support, respondents identified the organization's primary goal as the pursuit of and support for high-quality research. Respondents also expressed strong support for the welcoming and inclusive spirit of SAM, recognized that the organization needs to identity additional financial resources, and supported education initiatives within the broadest notions of American music for wide constituencies. There was particular interest in sharing teaching tactics and materials for higher education and for mentoring graduate students. Members also articulated interest in Society support for the maintenance and use of archives, the creation of digital repositories, and the sharing of information (and lobbying) about copyright questions and other issues of concern to scholars, teachers, performers, and composers of American music.

Many respondents noted that increased diversity in terms of membership remains a serious concern, for the survey revealed clearly that the majority of our members are white musicologists working in higher education. Nor is the issue of diversity limited to ethnicity. Some expressed the need for SAM to redouble efforts to reach out to composers, K-12 educators, information specialists, performers, historians, independent scholars, non-academics, and others who may have once played a larger part in the make-up of the Society. American music is itself wonderfully diverse; SAM and its support for different approaches to the topic should be likewise. Survey results were shared with SAM members at a March 11 Open Forum during the 2011 national meeting in Cincinnati.

SAM's leadership is committed to transforming these insights and concerns into actionable initiatives and volunteers are needed to move this agenda forward. Please contact SAM's executive director Mariana Whitmer with your ideas, concerns, and interest in participating.

Look at the raw data from the Survey

Read the Summary of the Survey

View the PowerPoint presented at the Long Range Planning Forum

Read the Minutes from the Forum