Isabelle Osbourne, Jazz Society President writing in March 2022
I wanted to be part of the Jazz Society Committee from the very start of my undergraduate studies. Having been a jazz musician for many years before arriving at UCL, I was eager to become a member of the Jazz Society. Seeing the incredible opportunities the Society offered once I joined, I was really keen to join the Committee and be a part of the running of the Society for the incredible community it brought together.
So, when the Gigs Manager vacancy came up in my first term at UCL, I took the opportunity and was elected. And that’s where my Jazz Soc journey began!
In the second term of my first year, I briefly entertained the possibility of running for President in my third year, but I quickly brushed off the idea as I thought I would not be able to carry out the responsibilities of the role alongside my final year studies.
I had another great year with the Society as their Big Band Manager in 2020-21, but I still was not sure whether I would thrive in the President position.
I was inspired to go for it when I reflected on how much the Society had meant to me, from my very first week at UCL. I cannot imagine not having the Jazz Society as part of my university experience, and I am indebted to all my predecessors for creating such incredible opportunities throughout my time here. By running for President, I knew that the Society would remain active for another cohort of students who, like me, love making music and are looking for a community to share that with. As the elections came around, I came to realise that Jazz Society had been a family for me at UCL. I really wanted to give something back to the community that had been such a monumental part of my time at university and had helped me grow both as a person and as a musician, ensuring the Society remained a welcoming place for all students to share their passion for jazz.
Fast forward a year from when I thought I couldn’t manage being President, and I ran for President. It was incredibly nerve-wracking, but I was excited to get started.
The President position encompasses many different responsibilities, especially when being President of as active a Society as Jazz Society. Sometimes you feel as though you are being pulled in a million directions and your attention is being demanded left right and centre; there’s not enough hours in the day to achieve it all, and it is often easy to feel as though you are letting people down if you have to prioritise one job over another. Remembering that you are only human is the most important way to deal with these thoughts. And, your Committee is there to help you. Working closely with our wonderful Treasurer, Sophia, I have been able to manage the demands of the job by balancing the duties and communicating openly with my team.
Being the leader of a Committee who have shown unquestionable dedication to and pride in their respective roles has made the experience so much more enjoyable than I could ever have imagined it would be. It has been a privilege to work with other like-minded students who are united in their commitment to creating fun and exciting opportunities for musicians, vocalists, and jazz appreciators, and we have really pulled together and supported one another to ensure we keep loving what we are doing and we create meaningful experiences for our members. You cannot really foresee what responsibilities the role will bring until you are in the position, but that makes it all the more satisfying when you are able to overcome the difficulties.
Bringing the Society into a new era post-pandemic and navigating all the trials and tribulations of COVID-19 has also been challenging at times. Though our programme of events has largely seen a return to normality, the presence of an unpredictable virus has lingered; this has ultimately meant most of our events have required more thorough analysis and strategy than was involved pre-COVID. However, with an excellent team of people to work with, we have balanced all the tricky and unanticipated scenarios by sharing concerns, thinking strategically, and keeping the energy high.
I would be lying if I said it has all been plain sailing. But what I have learnt is that often the most challenging of situations bring the most remarkable outcomes.
The President role involves a lot more administrative duties than I anticipated, many of which are a consequence of the pandemic (registering attendees, submitting risk assessments, implementing track-and-trace measures when necessary). Though sometimes overwhelming, I would not have gained this experience elsewhere; I now have experience in budgeting, risk assessing, organising election meetings and Committee meetings, and much more.
It is yet to happen, but I’m confident that our Bloomsbury Show in March will be the biggest highlight of my Presidency. After a full academic year of largely remote activity and having not had a show in the Bloomsbury Theatre since November 2019, it will be a huge achievement for everyone involved. Celebrating what the Society has achieved this year by showcasing the diversity of the Jazz genre to the UCL community on the Bloomsbury stage will be such a remarkable way to mark our first year post-COVID.
Being a leader of a Society is unlike any experience you will ever have; you’re balancing a degree and possibly a part-time job or voluntary commitments, your social life, and now a whole student-led organisation! It promises opportunities for you to grow as a person, learn lots of new skills and develop many new ones. You will also build so many connections from people from a variety of backgrounds across the UCL cohort, and this makes the experience so enjoyable. I have met some of my closest friends during my tenure as President, as well as when acting as Gigs Manager and Big Band Manager; this has made the position even more worth it.
Most importantly, I hope being on a committee will give you confidence, and empower you to keep challenging yourself and doing things that lie outside your comfort zone. If you told me a year ago that I could manage all the responsibilities and challenges this role has brought and led a Society with over 360 members, I do not think I would have believed you. Being President has shown me that I can do anything I put my mind to. This is a conviction you can apply to any aspect of your life, whether related to your profession, academic studies, or personal life.
Even if you have the tiniest inclining that it might be something you would like to try, you will regret not standing for the position much more than you will running for it.
Think about why you want to stand and what you want to represent within the Society as you write your manifesto; let these things guide you through your tenure, and regularly reflect on why you stood for the position during the year, especially when times feel a bit tough.
And then, just go for it. Throw yourself into the position and take advantage of every moment; it goes by very fast, and before you know it you will be organising the election for the next Committee. Above all, do not let imposter syndrome or fear of failure stop you from running; there will be many ups and many downs, but if I can do it, so can you.