If you're a musician or music-lover, have you ever thought of joining the enthusiastic network of volunteers without whom the running of ABRSM's exams would be impossible?
They are known as Honorary Local Representatives (HLRs) in the UK and number over 500. Their main responsibility is to help ensure that our exams run smoothly and to provide a network of support for local teachers and their students.
Representatives have been part of the fabric of ABRSM since its inception in 1889 and played an important part in ensuring the integrity of 'local' exams when they were first introduced. For this reason, in the earliest days they were not allowed to be musicians (this is no longer the case) and a list of the founding Representatives reveals a range of volunteers from a Lieutenant General in Cheltenham and a Rector in Aberdeen to a Justice of the Peace from Derby.
Giving back to the community
Today our volunteers have many different reasons for joining the ABRSM family. Many say it's an opportunity to give something back to their community and support music making in their area. Jean Stewart, an HLR of over 15 years from Doncaster, enjoys the opportunity to meet other teachers: 'As a private piano teacher it can be lonely at times, so it's a fantastic way of keeping up-to-date with what's going on and the latest from ABRSM.' Michael Sadka from Cornwall particularly enjoys 'feeling part of a community and helping spread the beauty of music'.
But it is 'not a job to be taken lightly' Helen Hopkins from Wales reminds us. 'It can be time consuming and exhausting, but I feel it is my duty to accommodate the exams. I love providing a welcoming atmosphere for the children.' Helen and her husband run Wilks Music Store, the oldest music shop in Swansea, and have been holding exams in a purpose-built room adjoined to the shop for over 30 years, with a lengthy visitors' book to prove it.
Another optional role of a Representative is to organise High Scorers' Concerts. These provide a fantastic opportunity for local children to come and play their pieces in front of a friendly and supportive audience and celebrate their success. They always have a 'real buzz about them' and are 'a joy to arrange' notes Jean.
Qualities and skills
So what qualities and skills do you need as a Representative? You should enjoy working with young people, have plenty of patience, good organisational skills and tremendous diplomacy. As a Representative you will deal with the ordinary to the bizarre, from flat tyres and late candidates to noisy neighbours, forgotten music and occasional examiners locked in toilets! You also need unfailing patience and the ability to keep calm under pressure. We want to ensure the conditions are right for each candidate and that their experience of the exam is positive.
And what are the benefits to you? As an HLR you are assured of full support from staff at our offices in London and are kept up-to-date through our regular newsletters. You also receive discounts on our publications and free or discounted places on our courses. A more unusual benefit for Helen (and one we can't guarantee!) was the invitation by one of the examiners at her centre to sing Elgar's Sea Pictures with his orchestra in London. 'It was such a wonderful and unexpected opportunity,' Helen reminisces, and really 'encouraged me to pursue my singing!'
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