In 1990, I wrote the following letter to then-president of the AFM, J. Martin Emerson:
I am pleased to report that the officers of ICSOM, OCSM, ROPA, and RMA have accepted the amended version of the Roehl report as adopted by the International Executive Board on March 31, 1990. You and the IEB are to be commended for the continuation of the AFM’s policy of openness and availability to its membership.
We look forward to implementing the report as soon as reasonably possible.
Sincerely and fraternally yours,
Bradford D. Buckley, Chairman ICSOM, on behalf of the Player Conferences’ Council
The Roehl report mentioned in that letter is one of the most significant documents in the history of ICSOM, and indeed of the AFM. It called for the old AFM Symphony and Recording Departments to be replaced with much larger and better-funded entities, called the Symphonic Services Division (SSD) and the Electronic Media Services Division. Each division was to be administered by its own director, who would be an assistant to the AFM president, and advised by a steering committee consisting of rank-and-file player representatives. The first director of the SSD, appointed at the urging of the symphonic player conferences, was Lew Waldeck.
In addition, the Roehl report created the Player Conference Council (which consisted of the principal officers of ICSOM, OCSM, ROP A, and RMA), and directed the International Executive Board (IEB) to meet with the Council. This was very important since it created direct institutional access to the leadership of the AFM for rank-and-file symphonic and recording musicians
The Roehl report had two dramatic effects on how symphony musicians were represented by the AFM. It greatly increased the clout that symphonic issues had within the bureaucracy of the Federation, and most importantly it increased the ability of rank and file symphonic and recording musicians to advise and influence the leadership of our union on issues that are important to us.
The influence of this report on the AFM is still being seen today 16 years after the report was adopted by the IEB. Through their player conferences, symphonic musicians now have the ability to propose changes to AFM bylaws and to speak on the floor of the AFM Convention. The concept of the Player Conference Council worked so well that the AFM created a similar group for local union conferences as well. We now take for granted that the leadership of the AFM will seek the advice of the player conferences on all issues that affect the musicians who are members of those conferences. Before the Roehl report the union did not always work that way.
Given the importance of the Roehl report, who was Bill Roehl and how did he come to be associated with us? Carolyn Parks, a long-time ICSOM delegate for the Kennedy Center Orchestra and an ICSOM officer, found him through her AFL-CIO contacts while she was a member of the ICSOM Trade Division Committee. At the time Bill was working as a consultant to various unions. Carolyn called me and said, “You have to talk to this guy; he is terrific.” When I talked to him on the phone, I quickly understood that he had insights and experience that we needed. The results of Carolyn’s discovery speak for themselves in what was and continues to be accomplished as a result of the Roehl report.
For me and many others, Bill was both an inspiration and a mentor. He was a real union guy who never failed to stick up for working men and women and whose sense of humor never failed him no matter what the situation. I particularly remember the AFM convention when we were working to pass many of the AFM bylaws that symphonic musicians now take for granted. We were meeting stiff opposition. I and other ICSOM officers were frantically working the floor of the convention garnering votes. Bill got my attention, and when I came over to him he said, “Relax; your union delegates have the worst looking rugs of any union I’ve ever worked with.” I roared with laughter, especially since a certain union president from New Jersey (now departed), who indeed had a truly bad toupee, was speaking to the convention at the time. I relaxed, and the rest was history. Bill’s importance to ICSOM cannot be overstated. The Roehl report is arguably the single most important document in the history of ICSOM.