A question occurred to me as soon as I arrived at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. It was reinforced at the Riviera Hotel (not Las Vegas’s finest, by a long shot). “Why Las Vegas?”
Surely one could offer fifty other cities that would better dispose delegates and attendees to the business at hand. But as the days sped by, I understood that the city’s overall tackiness, its heightened sleaze factor, and its pervasive lie, “Everyone’s a Winner,” were all appropriate metaphors for the tone of the Convention.
Having served over the years on various orchestra committees, having been involved with multiple contract negotiations, and having observed the politics of orchestra life from within and without, I assumed I knew how these things would array themselves at the Convention. Boy, was I ever wrong!
My overall impression is astonishment that anything gets done, that people come back for more, and that the Federation continues. I saw sincere folks treated badly just because someone could sway a crowd with emotions and loaded words. I watched well-meaning people serving on various standing committees sweat for hours to get through some obtuse documents, only to figure out later that they weren’t worth working on in the first place. I observed earnest, wise representatives of a threatened way of life working round the clock in order to present what seemed to be obvious benefits for everyone, only to have their ideas battered about for hours before some portions were grudgingly passed. And I witnessed a large group of allegedly creative, intelligent progressives oblivious to the potential problems of two serious measures they seemed pleased to push through.
I guess that’s politics for you. And in a strange sort of way, I loved every minute of it.
In truth, I was exceptionally proud to be part of the ICSOM team. Although present only in the capacity of observer, I was pleased I could assist in minor ways, by verifying what was going on and alerting others while they were occupied elsewhere. ICSOM officers Laura Ross and Michael Moore both attended as local delegates, and they also served as Federation committee representatives. Laura spoke from the floor, most courageously (and correctly in my opinion) from the unpopular viewpoint against seating the Montreal delegation. President Brian Rood’s nuanced calmness and Counsel Len Leibowitz’s vast knowledge were invaluable for backing up Chairperson Bruce Ridge as he formulated his excellent talks, and as he worked with the other Player Conference representatives. After Bruce, Len, and Brian had strategized over Bruce’s talking points, Bruce gave valuable testimony three times to committees, and later spoke movingly both from the floor and from the Convention dais.
Our ICSOM representatives, frustrated though they may have felt at times, worked tirelessly and consistently to represent their constituents. The other symphonic players consistently looked to them for leadership, and that leadership proved highly effective in several crucial areas. It seemed to me that the strength and clarity of ICSOM’s messages, while they may have seemed to some to pose a threat, actually offer great hope for the Federation.