Y’All Come to Nashville
There are a few times each year when I find myself trying to keep my head above water—obviously, the annual ICSOM conference is one of those times. Another one is during the preparation for the Conference, which began in May. The packets are prepared and mailed out. Then I wait. And wait.
While I wait, I begin updating the delegate manual (which every delegate will bring to the conference for updates and reference). I contact those who contribute reports to the manual and begin lighting fires under the ICSOM officers to submit their written reports.
On a personal note, I’d like to thank my dear friend Tom Hall, who retires from the Chicago Symphony this month, for his wonderful training. I don’t know that I’ll ever be as organized as Tom, but I will continue to give it a shot. Overseeing the delegate manual was once largely his “baby”—though with ICSOM secretary assistance—and complete responsibility for the manual was passed on to me about a year after I took office.
Regarding the officer reports, the Governing Board decided it made much more sense if we didn’t inundate the delegates with reports at the conference. Since our reports were about our activities on ICSOM’s behalf for the entire year, and because we didn’t want to have to go into mind-numbing details at the conference, we decided two years ago that we would send the officer reports to the delegates before the conference so they could be read and digested before the conference. Additional reports, if ready, are also distributed. This way, if there are any questions or comments, delegates can be prepared to discuss the various reports.
Okay, so I’m still waiting, but now I’m calling the Conference hotel pretty frequently, talking to the Conference coordinator, contacting Members At Large (MALs), and getting nervous (along with the ICSOM treasurer) because delegates haven’t sent me their registration forms or made their reservations, which could affect our quotas and cost. I am also revising agendas and attendance lists.
Plus, this year, the Conference is of special importance to me—my orchestra, the Nashville Symphony, is hosting the Conference. We are very proud that the ICSOM Conference mixer will be the first event held in our new Schermerhorn Symphony Center, which opens to the public three weeks later on September 9. The mixer will be held on stage in Laura Turner Hall. I have been visiting the hall since the site was originally a fire station and it’s everything they promised.
In addition, the Conference is filled with wonderful presentations—Trish Polach, an attorney from AFM Counsel Bredhoff & Kaiser, will give us a nuts-and-bolts explanation of bankruptcy. Trish will join Len Leibowitz to discuss musician board membership as it relates to the new federal Sarbanes-Oxley legislation. Len will join his lovely wife Peggy for an entire afternoon presentation and workshop. Public relations consultant Barbara Haig and AFM SSD negotiator Nathan Kahn are also guest speakers, along with some of our member orchestras that have faced tough times this year. Some of their issues will be directly related to resolutions under consideration on the final day of the Conference. Last year’s MAL/delegate luncheon was so successful that we will repeat it on Saturday. We continue to try to identify ways to improve the Conference, and this summer we will have breakout sessions to deal with individual topics in smaller groups. The Conference will be dedicated to Bill Roehl, the man responsible for devising the structure within the AFM that officially established the Symphonic Services Division and Electronic Media Division and their relationships with the representative Player Committees. And finally, we will say thanks to ICSOM Chair Jan Gippo as he steps down after four years of service.
But again, I’m still waiting, getting nervous, and now hearing that orchestras are thinking about not attending. So far this year I am aware of two orchestras that will be on tour and not attending the Conference—they have a legitimate excuse. Some delegates can’t attend but have alternates who will attend in their place—this is how it should be handled. However, I’m also hearing from delegates who, for whatever reason, cannot attend the Conference and no one from their orchestra seems remotely interested in attending the Conference. This saddens me greatly. I remember my very first conference (granted it was a ROPA Conference, not an ICSOM Conference) but I cannot begin to express the impact it had on me.
My orchestra was in the sixth month of a major shutdown and bankruptcy. The delegates I met and the stories I heard and shared were just the inspiration I needed to become more involved in my own orchestra’s internal workings as well as finding a calling to serve on a larger scale. We needed support and we found it. Every year I met more people, heard more stories, shared in the shenanigans of our managers, commiserated with my colleagues, and learned as much as I could about labor law, organizing, negotiating and all the other topics on the conference agenda. I’ve been attending ROPA and ICSOM Conferences for 18 years and continue to learn.
Every time I meet new delegates, I think how lucky they are to be able to attend something as important as an ICSOM Conference for the very first time. I truly hope that those orchestras who are having problems finding a delegate or an alternate delegate to attend the Conference will redouble their efforts to find someone. What a shame it would be that something this important would be missed because ICSOM has become little more to your orchestra than something that provides a roster of members, a newsletter every once in a while and requires the payment of dues. ICSOM is so much more than that and every orchestra has a responsibility to assure that this generation and the next generation of musicians, the caretakers of your orchestra when you are gone, are educated. ICSOM is not just for the delegates; it’s for all our members. This is why we now travel from city to city sharing our message with all our colleagues.
The 2007 Conference will be co-hosted by the Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. I hope there are other orchestras who will consider bidding for the 2008, 2009 and 2010 conferences this summer. And to all of you, I hope if you’re in the vicinity of Nashville from August 16–19, you’ll drop by the ICSOM Conference at the Hilton Downtown Hotel, next door to the new home of the Nashville Symphony.