LP’s Last Post: Reflections on the CSW 2012-15

One day in July 2012, I received an invitation from Harald Krebs, then-SMT president, to take over from Patrica Hall as chair of the CSW. The timing could not have been worse: three days earlier, I’d hit a low point in my career and believed (mistakenly, as it turned out) that my days as an employed music theorist were over. So I told Harald that I didn’t think it made sense for the Society to give me a leadership role. His response was a model of simple Krebsian grace and kindness: “I don’t see why that should be a problem.” And so began three years of working with a host of wonderful people both on the CSW itself, across the entire Society, and beyond.

This period of the CSW has been something of a roller coaster, from the lows of the smt-talk debacle sparked by sexist music theory terminology in April/May 2013 to highs like our leadership of the opening plenary session at this summer’s SMA conference, an international panel entitled “Mind the Gap: Women in the Field of Music Analysis.” But roller coasters always end back down where they began, and this is definitely not the case for the CSW in 2015. For example, I note from one of my first e-mails to Harald that the CSW Facebook group had 115 members but was virtually silent; if someone posted a question or a link to spark conversation, often there were no replies. Today, it has more than doubled in size to 264 and is an active site for discussion, announcements, and sometimes wicked wit!

But our online presence expanded even more with the launch of this blog, thanks to the excellent work of CSW grad student representative Stefanie Acevedo. The home to many resources including our mentoring programs and “Share Your Stories” page, it’s now had over 4,000 views not only from the US and Canada, but the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Australia, Finland, Austria, India, Italy, Singapore, Brazil, Hong Kong, Sweden, Spain, Japan, Belgium, Colombia, Turkey, Indonesia, Bulgaria, Micronesia, South Africa, Switzerland, Norway, Pakistan, Mexico, Costa Rica, Romania, Russia, Nigeria, Belize, Poland, and the Netherlands. Phew!

Our mentoring programs have tripled since 2012, when we only offered the proposal mentoring program that had been launched in the early 2000s. Now under the energetic leadership of Inessa Bazayev and most recently Rachel Lumsden, we also offer an Article Mentoring Program to boost women’s chances of publication success. And last year we added our Situational Mentoring Program, allowing all SMT members regardless of gender the opportunity to contact directly with the mentor of their choice to chat about gender-related career issues, anonymously if they wish.

“Share Your Stories” also allows all SMT members to anonymously share experiences related to women in the field of music theory. As more people contribute, we hope this will provide members or other interested individuals with a sense of the day-to-day issues still facing women in the field, as well as the rewards of a career in a vibrant field that is increasingly open to fresh perspectives. (Send in your story today!)

Finally, in response to continued reports of inappropriate questions to our members—male and female—during music theory position interviews, we’ve revived the process of sending out reminders to search committees. But in keeping with the intersectionality of these questions, we invited the Accessibility, Diversity, and Professional Development Committees as well as the Queer Resource Group to collaborate on a revision of this letter and to co-sponsor it from now on.

Throughout these past three years, the guiding words of the CSW throughout even the worst of times have been “constructive” and “solutions-focused.” In part through our efforts but also those of many others in the Society, women now represent 32% of the SMT membership, the highest annual result in its history, and while we still tend to under-submit research articles to our journals relative to that percentage, last year the numbers of submissions from women to MTO and MTS nearly doubled. Women also now represent 50% of SMT’s Executive Board and official committees, ensuring that we have a strong voice in its future directions.

Much remains to be done; just read a few of the shared stories on our blog if you need more convincing. But our meetings this past week at SMT St. Louis, led in part by incoming chair Jennifer Bain, generated some exciting new project ideas and I know the CSW will continue to play a positive, dynamic, and inspiring role in the Society.

In closing, thanks to all of my past committee members—Stefanie Acevedo, Sara Bakker, Inessa Bazayev, Jane Piper Clendinning, Eileen Hayes, Ted Latham, Wendy Lee, Charity Lofthouse, Rachel Lumsden, Brad Osborn, and Abby Shupe—for all your contributions. What a dynamic group of people I’ve been privileged to work with! Presidents Harald Krebs and Poundie Burstein, Vice-President Michael Buchler, Publications Committee chair Matthew Shaftel, and many, many others have also helped make this past three years terrifically rewarding. Finally, thanks to all of you for your insights, participation, and friendship.

That’s it for me—bye all. Now, over to Jennifer!

Sincerely,

Laurel Parsons

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