We are living in a time of great change for our profession. We have fought hard throughout the years to be heard and respected as true stakeholders in the institutions we are affiliated with. My hope is that the initiatives listed below are substantive steps toward a shared vision of all the parties, based on mutual respect of all the constituencies—and that the entire process will see those constituencies speak with equal voices that are truly given equal input.
In February, AFM President Tom Lee hosted a meeting in Chicago to discuss the future of media for AFM orchestras. It was a very productive and successful meeting. It led to the immediate request by the Federation to the Major Managers Media Committee for discussions and negotiations for a new “agreement of some sort” that will help promote both symphony musicians and their institutions for that shared benefit we are all seeking. The discussions that followed were exceptionally cordial and good-humored. They were also quite productive in stating the positions of both parties and looking for common ground of agreement. These discussions will continue in June, and we hope they will lead to a tentative agreement for your consideration.
Four years ago, the ICSOM Conference passed a resolution directing the ICSOM chairperson to work toward having AFM and player conference representation included in the Mellon Orchestra Forum. Recently, invitations from the Forum were presented to the AFM, the American Symphony Orchestra League (ASOL), and ICSOM for the meeting held in Minneapolis May 1–3. We were all there, and it was a major success. The inclusion of the union was a stunning eye-opener for most of the participants. SSD Director Laura Brownell was the union representative. She gave a positive face to the Federation with great insight into the problems and roadblocks that are still so prevalent in our industry. We have been asked to be a permanent part of the ongoing Forum, and we can now report on the process firsthand. Laura will speak to the Conference in August, and we will keep you updated on all the projects we are working on.
During the evening breakout session, Gloria de Pasquale of the Philadelphia Orchestra posed the question of the evening: What are the obstacles between the AFM, ICSOM, and the League; and how can we overcome them and work together to promote the betterment of orchestras? A spirited three-hour interchange was capped with the agreement that we all share the same destiny and must find ways of cooperation. This topic will be central to us as we continue to participate in the Mellon process.
The latest initiative comes from the president of ASOL, Henry Fogel. Henry has always been concerned that the League’s Orchestra Statistical Reports (OSRs) have been incomplete and have suffered from inconsistencies in the way the data was gathered and reported. He has convened a task force to establish unified categories and unified methods of data reporting for the OSRs. He has asked ICSOM to be a part of this process from the ground up. We will participate in every aspect of this work, and soon we will have an industry-wide look at financial and audience reports that we can compare with all other reports, comparing apples to apples, so to speak. This initiative is a breakthrough at all levels. Everyone will have had input, everyone will report, and all information will be available to everyone. It is the first in what I hope will become a common occurrence of shared trust that can spill into other more complicated and highly charged situations.
Stay tuned. Things are changing, and I am hopeful they are changing for the good of music and the arts. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, some day, all we had to do was practice, perform, and teach? And if all the other necessary details were handled properly, and we were secure in the knowledge that we were in good hands? Yes, it is a dream right now; but without hopes and dreams, we would be fools to continue. Therefore, I hope all day long and dream at night. Performing keeps both very fresh.