Below are excerpts from two recent addresses delivered by the ICSOM Chairperson. His address at the ASOL convention on June 16, 2005 is followed by his address to the 2005 AFM Convention.
In the last six years, symphony orchestras have taken a tremendous hit. The American society has not yet truly embraced the idea of the arts as a necessary part of life. We in this room, all of us, have work to do to change the minds of our society and help to continue to develop a long-standing culture of arts in this country.
ICSOM and the League are making a positive move to create advertising to get our message out. Henry Fogel and I, as well as our respective boards, are in complete agreement that, by working together for the common good of symphony arts in America, we can achieve a major difference. Separately, we might not even be heard.
ICSOM, the League, and the AFM have had our first meeting to look at ways to make the Orchestra Statistical Reports more relevant to all symphony orchestras and understandable to all that need the data. With the wide variety of ensembles in the League, this will be a complicated task.
In the good old days, if the budget was out of balance, a generous donor gave money, and we were good to go for the next year. Then the market had a huge hiccup and 9 11 exploded before our eyes in real-time broadcast, giving many institutions practically no time to ease into a plan of fiscal restraint. Many of us hit a brick wall.
In the last two years, managements and musicians have had to come to grips with this reality, and they did it through negotiations. Each side said the reality was there, but the reality turned out not to be perceived in the same way. And herein lies the next great debate. It is a philosophical debate and cannot be solved across the table.
I have tried to explain to my colleagues across the country what these realities are and how a financial manager looks at these realities. The closest I can come is an analogy to a textbook that might have been used in a business college to help analyze financial problems. The book has five chapters: “The Assumptions,” “The Business Plan,” “The Database,” “The Spreadsheet,” and “The Bottom Line.”
Each of these chapters explains how to set in motion a process to try to bring structure to an overwhelming set of figures. After the business plan is formulated with a corresponding database and spreadsheet, we, the musicians, are asked to come to the table in a collaborative state of mind and decipher the material.
The first thing that we musicians notice is that, during the process of developing the business plan, we were never consulted or asked to be involved in the very first chapter the assumptions. And as we continue to read and try to comprehend the data, we see that what we believe to be artistic considerations were never addressed. Of course, you all can imagine what the rhetoric will be from both sides. Put simply, each side says, as loud as possible, “You don’t understand.”
We can’t expect a financial officer, not trained in music, to be able to read Stravinsky’s score to the Rite of Spring. We can, however, hope that he or she feels the power of the music through our performance.
Financial officers can’t really expect musicians, not trained in finance, to be able to read databases and spreadsheets. You can, however, hope that during a presentation of the data that the musician can see the logic.
It is at the start of deliberations that the musician can help in the creative and artistic process. With this kind of input, the musicians will feel that they have been a participant in the process of institutional solidarity, both in financial stability as well as artistic growth.
I realize that it isn’t easy. Each side must learn the language and culture of the other, without value judgment, but through respect of each other’s education, outlook, and thought processes. That we are all in the same room means we all understand, at some level, the importance of our respective work. It seems such a small step to combine the efforts, at all levels, right from the start.
Musicians hear that managements have the highest respect for us. That statement, however, falls on deaf ears when we feel as though we aren’t heard. We seem to be separated by a common language. The confusion comes not in the actual words, but the assumptions of what actions those words create in the mind of the listener from the other side. So here is where the orchestra forum of Mellon, the Knight Foundation, the Symphony Orchestra Institute, and the new Eastman Experiment should put their efforts: finding a common language, with shared assumptions and agreed-upon strategies. And we should all listen and participate.
We must find new strategies, new attitudes in raising money, new attitudes in spending money and investing for the future. We must revisit performance structure and find new venues and ways of presentation that are more relevant with the society as it is now being structured. We can also help that restructuring. Art has always led the way for societies to grow, mature and flourish.
But for the love of art and symphonic music, we must do it together. To paraphrase, we must pound our swords into plowshares, and plant grand shade trees so our generations that follow can look to us and praise our legacy.
AFM Convention Address
There has been quite a bit of gossip about what the player conferences want and what ICSOM in particular is trying to do. Letters have been circulated accusing the Player Conferences Council (PCC), ICSOM, and piccolo players of wanting to dominate the union.
This nonsense started during discussions at the Futures Committee meetings. A member of the Futures Committee proposed that the PCC have seats on the IEB. It was the PCC that asked that that the original proposal for seats on the IEB be withdrawn.
Although we felt the sentiment was right, we believed that the solution presented was not necessary. Our proposal stated that if any topic was being discussed at the IEB that affected any of the player conferences, that we be asked to participate in the discussions and have some say in the outcome. Notice we didn’t even ask for a vote, just an opportunity to speak and be heard.
Ladies and Gentlemen: We have enemies! But they are not the player conferences. They are the virtual orchestra machines and the people that want to use them. Local 802 won their battle. And how did they do it? Through collegiality, fraternity, and solidarity. How can we fight it? Each local must use all its influence to created an atmosphere where musicians feel as though they are colleagues, and that the fraternity of the union will be there for them and that through solidarity we will get the result we need.
But probably the biggest enemy to live music is ignorance. Ignorance of the public to understand that we, the musicians of the AFM, are preserving our musical culture and providing live performance, not just recordings or CDs, and that these live performances are the backbone of our musical heritage. There are young people that believe that live music is a disc jockey playing CDs at a party or club. Ignorance is our greatest enemy
How can we combat this trend? My answer is collegiality. Support each and every one of our colleagues in all their endeavors to perform and make a living as a musician. My answer is to support the fraternity of the AFM in its efforts to promote music, preserve live venues, and negotiate contracts that better the working conditions and wages of every musician. And finally my answer is solidarity. We must stand together in commitment of purpose. We must show potential members that we serve them in their best interest, and that we will stand behind them whenever they need our support. The entire union will stand up and fight the battle.
When any orchestra loses a contract guarantee, when any club date is cancelled, or when any theater uses fewer musicians than the composer intended, the entire union is hurt. A sword thrust in Omaha or New York or Saint Louis should be felt throughout the United States by every member of the AFM, and we should all be willing to respond as needed to stop the injustice.
How can we do this? Through collegiality, fraternity, and solidarity. Let this Convention, the 95th that this great union has had, and let this day be the first where we pledge that we will work together, not attack each other, and that we will present ourselves to the public as the standard bearer of our musical heritage.