This year’s ICSOM Conference was held at the Downtown Nashville Hilton in Music City USA (Nashville, Tennessee) from August 16 through 19, just one block away from both the Schermerhorn Symphony Center and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The Conference was dedicated to Bill Roehl, the visionary trade unionist who formulated the current structure of the AFM, including the Player Conferences and the establishment of the Symphonic Services Division and the Electronic Media Division.
Numerous Nashville Symphony musicians assisted during the Conference and attended many of the sessions. ICSOM delegates and officers joined twenty NSO musicians, officers and staff of the AFM and its locals, Nashville Symphony staff, and guests at the Wednesday evening mixer held at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. The Nashville Association of Musicians, Local 257 and the Nashville Symphony hosted a sit-down dinner for 120, while the Nashville Symphony Players’ Assembly provided the jazz trio that performed during the dinner, which was the first one served in the new facility. The evening began with guided tours of the facility and the auditorium, Laura Turner Hall. Particularly impressive was the demonstration of the floor conversion from raked seating to a flat floor suitable for cabaret seating. [The floor conversion mechanism also worked well during Nashville Symphony’s opening weekend. See the report of the opening on page 5. —Ed.]
Conference presentations included a primer on bankruptcy law by Patricia Polach of Bredhoff and Kaiser (AFM General Counsel). AFM SSD negotiator Nathan Kahn spoke about assessing and applying power during negotiations. Ms. Polach and ICSOM Counsel Len Leibowitz discussed the potential application of the Sarbanes-Oxley federal legislation on orchestra boards. Barbara Haig, who was recently retained by the AFM to assist locals and orchestras, gave an informative talk about public relations. ICSOM Electronic Media Committee Chair Bill Foster spoke about the recently ratified Symphony, Opera, and Ballet Live Recording Agreement. There were addresses by AFM and Player Conference officers and staff. Brad
Buckley, Saint Louis Symphony contrabassoonist and ICSOM chairperson emeritus, joined AFM Symphonic Representative Bill Moriarity to discuss the Saint Louis Symphony musicians’ relationship with their Local 2-197. Daryl Johnson spoke about the Louisville Symphony’s bankruptcy threats and their recent settlement, and Steve Flanter and Ken Hafner spoke about the Honolulu Symphony’s most recent problems.
This year’s Conference attempted to facilitate more dialogue among delegates. Delegates participated in breakout sessions on negotiations and talked more informally during what is becoming a traditional luncheon with their assigned Governing Board members at large. Len and Peggy Leibowitz’s workshop on arbitrator’s rules of contract interpretation also allowed for additional discussion in smaller groups, as delegates, guests, and local officers played the roles of musician and manager groups for closing arguments in a mock arbitration.
A resolution honoring recently departed labor activist Richard Totusek was presented to his wife, Joan, who was in attendance. Additional resolutions offered support to the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra musicians and the Orquesta Filarmonica and Teatro Municipal employees in Santiago, Chile, and for the battle Local 802 and its president David Lennon are waging to ban the use of the Virtual Orchestra Machine to replace live music. There was also a resolution recommending AFM bylaw changes. Commendations were presented to outgoing ICSOM Chairman Jan Gippo and Member at Large Nancy Stutsman for their service on the ICSOM Governing Board. ICSOM delegates Michael Moore (Atlanta Symphony) and David Angus (Rochester Philharmonic) were also recognized for their long years of ICSOM service.
There was a changing of the guard as Jan Gippo stepped down as ICSOM chairperson after four years in that post. ICSOM president and North Carolina Symphony bassist Bruce Ridge was elected by acclamation as ICSOM’s tenth chairperson. After a year-long absence from the Governing Board, Brian Rood, trumpeter with the Kansas City Symphony, was elected president, the same post he previously held. Re-elected to their current positions were Treasurer Michael Moore (Atlanta Symphony), Senza Sordino Editor Richard Levine (San Diego Symphony), and Member at Large Meredith Snow (Los Angeles Philharmonic), who was also elected to the position of AFM convention delegate. Minnesota Orchestra librarian Paul Gunther was elected as a new member at large, replacing Nancy Stutsman of the Kennedy Center Orchestra.
In his speech to the delegates, Ridge called on orchestra institutions to change their negative rhetoric and to “mold it into a positive message that we can spread to our constituencies and their communities.” He called upon the American Symphony Orchestra League to be a “true advocate for our orchestras.” In the opinion of many, there are ample examples of orchestras that are thriving, and Nashville’s Conference highlighted and reinforced that sentiment.
Next summer’s Conference will be co-hosted by the Minnesota Orchestra and The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and will be held at the Millennium Hotel in Minneapolis, Minnesota.