The Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, CA was the location for the 2014 ICSOM Conference, hosted by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Local 47 from August 25 to 28. The emphasis of the conference was on the Art of Advocacy and a number of presenters focused on this subject, including Americans for the Arts (AFTA) Vice President of Research and Policy Randy Cohen, and Randy Whatley, President of Cypress Media.
Americans for the Arts (AFTA) has been a wonderful resource for data about how the arts contribute to the economy and enhance education. Randy Cohen, who first presented in 2008 at the San Francisco ICSOM conference, returned with a wealth of accessible information to help our orchestras craft their message about the importance of the arts to our communities. ICSOM has also renewed its partnership with AFTA to allow our members to become free members of their Action Fund, which helps direct information and letters to Congress when certain legislation and funding issues arise. ICSOM members are encouraged to sign up for the Action Fund to receive legislative progress notices and easily contact their congressional representatives when necessary.
Randy Whatley, one of the 2013 ICSOM conference presenters, has become a great friend to ICSOM, especially through his willingness to provide something ICSOM and its members have been clamoring for—public relations training and assistance. Whatley discussed the logistics of advocacy while continuing to build upon last year’s presentation in Kansas City. Over the past season, he has helped numerous orchestras focus their attention on becoming their own best advocates by using both traditional and social media to reach the widest audiences. Newsletters in particular are a wonderful way to deliver an orchestra’s message to the public. Whatley worked closely with the Utah Symphony and with their Alternate Delegate George Brown, who spoke about organizing his orchestra to bring Whatley’s recommendations to completion. Brown discussed how he was able to identify and recruit musicians to build a website and produce a newsletter. In addition, Brown and his colleagues produced a video history of Local 104 that was exhibited during the session.
In a brief address, Mark Lindsay, board chairman of the American Symphonic Advocacy Project (ASAP), announced his intent, again this season, to donate his services and those of his staff. He also reported that one of the most effective programs produced thus far has been a series of advocacy training conference calls throughout the season with various orchestra members.
The Chairman’s address sets the tone at the beginning of the conference, and ICSOM Chairman Bruce Ridge spoke to the unity and advocacy that are at the heart of ICSOM’s activities through its Calls to Action, the use of social media, and spreading a positive message about the importance of our orchestras, music and culture within our communities.
Every conference begins with a bit of excitement as delegates and guests are busy getting reacquainted or meeting for the first time, the Governing Board has just had breakfast with first time delegates to give them a peek into what to expect at the conference, and then suddenly a year of planning comes to fruition as the Chairperson calls the conference to order, the Secretary (that would be me) reads the first roll call, and introductions are made. In Los Angeles, even before the conference began, delegates were participating in a negotiating workshop moderated by ICSOM Counsel Susan Martin and former executive director of the San Francisco and St. Louis Symphonies, Peter Pastreich, who has also served as consultant for a number of orchestras.
Then our hosts – the Local and orchestra(s) – greet delegates and offer their best wishes for a successful conference. This year, Local 47 President and IEB member Vince Trombetta welcomed delegates and guests to Los Angeles. He shared his own ICSOM connection, his friendship with fellow Philadelphian and principal tuba with the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1949 to 1972, Abe Torchinsky, who established ICSOM’s emeritus program that bears his name. Trombetta was joined at the conference by Local 47 Vice President John Acosta and Secretary-Treasurer Gary Lasley. Los Angeles Philharmonic ICSOM delegate John Lofton, also a member of Local 47’s executive board, was instrumental in obtaining a Proclamation by the Board of Supervisors of the County of Los Angeles naming August 25, 2014 as ICSOM Day.
A Local’s chief responsibility during a conference is to provide funding for the mixer that normally occurs after the first day of meetings. The Bonaventure pool deck was a beautiful outdoor setting for the evening’s mixer, complete with cool temperatures and excellent food. We extend our thanks to Local 47 for hosting this wonderful event, and for generously providing a bus to transport guests to the concert later in the week.
The conference coordinator is someone from the host orchestra who works with Tom Reel, the assistant conference coordinator from the Virginia Symphony, to deal with the logistics to assure everything runs smoothly during the week. This year’s extremely impressive conference coordinator was Los Angeles Philharmonic librarian Nancy Neville.
Delegates and guests heard a follow up report from Norbert Nielubowski, chair of Minnesota’s orchestra committee, and ICSOM Delegate Greg Milliren on the aftermath of their sixteen-month lockout, Michael Moore reported that after accepting major cuts two years ago the Atlanta Symphony will very likely be locked out again or forced to strike [Note: see Orchestra Newslets], and the San Francisco Opera Orchestra sent four of its five musician negotiators – negotiating committee chair Kevin Rivard, ICSOM Delegate Mark Drury, Thalia Moore and Carla Maria Rodrigues – to report on the precarious state of their negotiations. SFOO’s concessions have been equal to three years of salary and their cumulative increase has been 0.45%. Yet they faced demands for further concessions while the company’s upper management has received salary increases of nearly 67% during the same period. Since negotiations were at a critical point, the entire delegation returned to San Francisco the next day. [Note: Following the conference a tentative agreement was reached, which was ratified by the orchestra on September 2. See Orchestra Newslets]
Bruce Ridge met Andreas Winkler, a member of the Orchester Vereinigte Bühnen Wien, at the FIM conference in Oslo, Norway in February. Winkler later expressed interest in attending the ICSOM conference and was invited to speak. He talked briefly about orchestra life in Vienna, how European orchestras are funded, and how their unions and guilds function. Many delegates appreciated hearing about orchestras in another part of the world and hearing about the similarities and differences between our orchestras. For example, they face the same problems with competition from eastern European orchestras. [Note: addresses by Chairman Bruce Ridge, President Brian Rood, and Andreas Winkler may be found on the ICSOM website]
On Tuesday, AFM trustees Brian Rood, Bill Moriarity, Phil Yao, and I updated delegates about the American Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund (AFM-EPF). All eight AFM trustees were in attendance. ICSOM electronic media chair Matthew Comerford asked members involved in negotiating the Integrated Media Agreement (IMA) to join him and speak about the bargaining process and current status of negotiations, and AFM President Ray Hair addressed the conference after the IMA presentation.
We also try to schedule a period for members-at-large to meet with their assigned orchestras, although it never seems to be enough time! This year it was traffic concerns that cut the sessions short, to be sure the buses left in time to take us to the Hollywood Bowl to hear the LA Phil perform a program of familiar, but not too familiar, works under the baton of Stéphane Denève. The Bach Toccata and Fugue, Pictures at an Exhibition and Night on Bald Mountain were all Stokowski arrangements, with the Beethoven Emperor Piano Concerto performed by pianist Marc-André Hamelin. ICSOM extends its thanks to the Los Angeles Philharmonic administration and Gail Samuels for generously donating nearly one hundred tickets to the concert – it was a wonderful evening in an incredible venue – and having the ability to attend a concert during the conference was a welcome opportunity.
One of the most important opportunities available to ICSOM conference attendees is the ability to meet with colleagues from across the country. Member-at-large Meredith Snow escorted a number of ICSOM attendees backstage during intermission to greet their counterparts and friends from college and music festivals, and to meet new friends. How amazing it was to see so many musicians in animated conversations with old and new acquaintances.
On Wednesday morning the presidents of ROPA, OCSM, TMA and RMA addressed attendees, followed by a presentation by AFM Symphonic Services Division (SSD) staff about electronic media guarantees, and wage chart and internal organizing issues. Delegates were interested to hear a special report from Metropolitan Opera Orchestra negotiating committee chair Jessica Phillips Rieske, who interrupted her vacation schedule to attend the conference and share information about their very recent settlement, along with Local 802 president and IEB member Tino Gagliardi. [Note: see The Met Orchestra Averts a Lockout] ICSOM Counsel Susan Martin’s discussion about the Affordable Care Act and how it applies to bargaining health benefits followed.
There were breakout groups by SSD Counsel Rochelle Skolnick, who discussed issues regarding disabilities and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), by Pittsburgh Symphony delegate Penny Brill, who shared her education and music initiative’s programming ideas, and by Randy Whatley and Bruce Ridge, who teamed up to discuss refining the orchestra’s message to the public. A jam-packed Town Hall Meeting that evening between ICSOM delegates and officers ended just in time to take advantage of the special hospitality provided by the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund and hosted by its executive director Dennis Dreith and director Shari Hoffman, who spoke the next day about the recent distribution to 13 orchestras, with more anticipated in the future.
Susan Martin moderated a panel discussion about alternative defined contribution and defined benefit pension plans with panelists Brian Rood, Bill Moriarity and Gene Kalwarski, the founder and CEO of the actuarial firm Cheiron.
There were some historic results during this year’s election. When Bruce Ridge was re-elected he became the longest serving Chair of ICSOM. Peter de Boor from the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra was elected Editor of Senza Sordino, replacing Richard Levine, who matched Henry Shaw’s 10-year tenure as longest serving Editor. Michael Moore was re-elected and continued to extend his length of service as ICSOM’s longest serving Treasurer. Members-at-Large Paul Gunther and Meredith Snow were re-elected to two-year terms, and Jenny Mondie from the National Symphony was elected to replace Gail Kruvand, who resigned just prior to the conference after serving one year as Member-at-Large.
Resolutions adopted at the conference can be found in their entirety here.
The 2015 ICSOM Conference will be hosted by the Philadelphia Orchestra and Local 66, and there are multiple offers for future conference sites.
We express gratitude to our colleagues in the Los Angeles Philharmonic; for the hard work by Meredith Snow, Nancy Neville, and John Lofton; for the generosity of the LA Philharmonic administration; and to Vince Trombetta, John Acosta, Gary Lasley and Local 47 for one of the best run ICSOM conferences yet. After 52 years we may finally be getting the hang of this!