For several years I’ve had the privilege of serving as an area representative for the International Horn Society, with one of my duties being to encourage and promote membership in the organization. Recently I received some information regarding the number of IHS members in each state here in the U.S., and the bottom line is that more horn players should join the IHS. I won’t reveal any numbers or name any names, but in my state the number of actual members was far lower than I expected, especially given the number of professional, student, and amateur players that are active in Louisiana. We did not have the fewest members of any state, but we certainly could stand to bump up our numbers. Rather than consider the reasons why horn players might not join the IHS – some of them possibly valid, some perhaps not – I thought the best way to help promote membership would be to list a few big reasons why you should join. Here are five, though the list could certainly include more!
- The International Horn Society Website: The official online home of the IHS, www.hornsociety.org, is a wonderful resource, with lots of great content available to everyone. Whether you peruse the classified ads and job listings, search the Horn Call index, or shop for music using the Online Music Sales page, there is a wealth of information on this site. However, the best content in my opinion is available only to IHS members, including electronic copies of The Horn Call, and video recordings from a 2010 survey on European horn playing conducted by Dan Phillips. If you are a frequent visitor to the site (including hornplayer.net) but have not yet joined the IHS, consider supporting it through your membership. Organizing, maintaining, and updating a website is no small task, and your membership would help defray some of the costs.
- Thesis Lending Library: This repository of horn-related knowledge and research is one of the most extensive collections available outside of a major university library, and is free for IHS members. A $45 refundable deposit is required.
- Commissions and Competitions: Each year the IHS supports the creation of new works for the horn through its Meir Rimon Commissioning Assistance Fund. If you’ve ever wanted to take part in commissioning new music for the horn but weren’t able to acquire the funds, consider joining the IHS and applying for an award from the Meir Rimon Fund. In addition to commissioning assistance, the IHS also hosts an annual Composition Contest, as well as several scholarship competitions aimed at supporting horn students.
- Membership is Relatively Inexpensive: IHS dues are very affordable, especially considering the variety of programs that the organization supports. A student or club membership (8 or more members submitting dues together) is $30 annually, which amounts to $2.50 a month. If money is keeping you from joining the IHS, consider that forgoing one cup of Starbucks coffee (or other suitable luxury purchase) per month would more than cover the cost.
- Networking/Collegiality/Friendship: Last but certainly not least on my list of reasons to join the International Horn Society is the opportunity to meet new colleagues and friends. As with any organization of its kind, the IHS brings together numerous backgrounds, interests, and experience levels, with the one common thread being a love of the horn. There are of course occasional disagreements among members about the direction and goals of the society, but in my experience the IHS is an incredibly friendly and welcoming organization, with a history of strong leadership.
Another component of the data was the number of libraries with memberships, and I assume that most of these come from universities and/or large public libraries. Again, these numbers were far below what I expected, even in states with very large populations. While I find the lack of individual memberships in the IHS difficult to explain, I think one big reason behind the low/declining number of library memberships is that many libraries are transitioning to digital databases which already include full-text subscriptions to journals such as The Horn Call. EBSCO host is one such database. I imagine that most libraries don’t see the need to join the IHS for the printed journal when they are already purchasing access to it through a database like EBSCO.
I hope this post has given you some food for thought, and I encourage all horn players of any level to support our official organization.