The Millennium Hotel Minneapolis was the site of the recent ICSOM Conference. No one lacked for hospitality, with Twin Cities Local 30-73, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Minnesota Orchestra all serving as hosts.
Activities before the opening session of the Conference included a successful negotiating orchestras session on Tuesday evening. Though mainly for orchestras in or preparing for negotiations, it was open to all delegates. The decision to hold this session prior to the Conference appears to have been a good one, as there was a very good turnout by negotiating orchestras, and more time was available than when these sessions had been held during the Conference proper. The Governing Board also hosted a new-delegate breakfast before the first session. The new-delegate breakfast has now been in place for about four years and seems to be viewed as an important initiation for our first-time delegates that gives them insights and information about what they will be confronted with during the next four days.
The Conference officially started Wednesday morning, August 15. Chair Bruce Ridge began by introducing ICSOM’s officers. Due to a recent resignation by Member at Large Steve Lester (Chicago Symphony) and the imminent birth of the second child of Member at Large James Nickel (Dallas), the Governing board was without two members. After the roll call and introductions of guests and local officers, Conference Coordinator Lynn Erickson (Saint Paul) gave welcoming remarks and then introduced Twin Cities Musicians Union President Brad Eggen, who, after his own welcoming remarks, handed out gifts of T-shirts and Ping-Pong balls.
Sadly, the Conference began with a vote by the delegates to remove the Florida Philharmonic from active status. Although the Florida Philharmonic filed for bankruptcy in May 2003, the Florida Philharmonic musicians had retained active membership in ICSOM since then. Conference delegates agreed to the Membership Committee’s recommendation that should some future incarnation of the Florida Philharmonic ever re-apply for ICSOM membership, it should be granted regardless of whether at that time they would fully qualify for membership according to ICSOM bylaws.
Chair Ridge’s annual address to the delegates began with a reference to the success of our recent Call to Action campaign. He also spoke about countering negative rhetoric with positive messages about our industry and reminisced about his first year as ICSOM chairperson, his visits to member orchestras, and his admiration and pleasure working with the Governing Board.
Both Bruce Ridge and President Brian Rood acknowledged the contributions of the numerous former ICSOM officers who serve as delegates of their orchestras and/or local officers and who continue to be great advisors to the current Governing Board. Following additional officer reports, nominations, and a brief AFM Convention report by Paul Gunther, lunch came an unprecedented half-hour early!
AFM President Tom Lee was unable to attend the Conference for the first time since before his presidency started, so Bruce Ridge read a letter from President Lee to the delegates. The afternoon session then began with a panel of marketing and public relations representatives consisting of Julia Kirchausen from the League of American Orchestras (formerly known as ASOL), Gwen Pappas, Cindy Grzanowski, and David B. Sailer from the Minnesota Orchestra, and Jon Limbacher and Jessica Etten from the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Bruce Ridge moderated the discussion that covered various aspects of message development and how to influence target audiences effectively. The discussion also included changes from the employment of permanent music critics to a series of less consistent “stringers,” as well as a perceived move away from arts coverage in general. The panelists addressed negative national publicity but believed what most influences audiences is the local message, which can be quite different. Topics from questions included music critic influence on readers when they like or dislike a particular conductor, marketing costs, public relations during negotiations, and the focus of season brochures. Delegates had been requested to bring examples of their season brochures to the Conference, so attendees saw first-hand the different marketing approaches taken by our orchestras.
The afternoon ended with reports from three orchestras facing particularly difficult negotiations: the Detroit Symphony, the Florida Orchestra, and the San Antonio Symphony. (San Antonio has since reached a four-year contract, and Detroit has concluded a three-year agreement.) There was also a presentation by members of the Phoenix Symphony and Phoenix local who have been working with Drew McManus this past season on internal organizing.
Delegates were pleased to welcome retired Minnesota Orchestra member and former member at large Jim Clute, who also attended the mixer that evening in the lobby of Minnesota Orchestra’s Symphony Hall. Another former delegate from the Houston Symphony, Bernice Beckerman, also dropped by. The mixer received glowing reviews and was sponsored by the Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, with Twin Cities Local 30-73 providing the band.
Thursday began with welcoming remarks from Bob McGrew, newly elected member of the AFM International Executive Board and current Secretary-Treasurer of Local 65-699 (Houston). Later in the week, Bob assisted Nancy Stutsman (Kennedy Center) in raising more than $1,800 for TEMPO when he auctioned off a pound of coffee and a box of chocolate covered macadamia nuts.
Symphonic Services Division (SSD) staff joined Director Laura Brownell for a presentation followed by a question and answer session. Laura spoke about a local’s duty to represent all local members during negotiations and of her work with Bruce Ridge and ROPA President Tom Fetherston this past season. Negotiator Chris Durham emphasized negotiation tactics, while Negotiator Nathan Kahn discussed internal organizing. Director of Electronic Media Debbie Newmark spoke about current electronic media issues.
Leonard Leibowitz, Distinguished ICSOM Legal Counsel as well as counsel to SSD, gave a brief history of labor in the United States and then answered delegate questions. An outline of that history can be found on the ICSOM website with other Conference materials.
Bruce Ridge publicly thanked Minnesota Orchestra violinist Julie Ayers for her generous donation of a copy of her book, More Than Meets the Ear: How Symphony Musicians Made Labor History, to each member orchestra of ICSOM. Unfortunately, Julie was unable to attend the Conference.
Thursday afternoon’s session was dominated by a presentation on the American Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund (AFM-EPF). Pension Benefits Director Vinni LoPresti and Director of Finance Will Luebking discussed the health and oversight of the AFM-EPF, how pension benefits work, office accessibility after 9/11, a requirement that participant-information requests be in given in writing, reasons behind the reduction in the multiplier used to calculate benefits, and plans to make the new AFM-EPF website transactional within two years. Numerous delegates and local officers asked questions. Following a short break, attending AFM-EPF union trustees Bill Foster (rank-and-file trustee from National Symphony), Hal Espinosa (Local 47, Los Angeles), Gary Matts (Local 10-208, Chicago), and Lovie Smith-Schenk (Local 65-699, Houston) joined Vinni, Will, and moderator and former union trustee Bill Moriarity to address questions. Bill Foster answered the questions that were directed to the trustees. Topics addressed by the panel included statement problems, incorrectly reported information, fund manager evaluation, staff salaries, why investment policy statements have not been provided, whether to encourage employer trustees to appoint a symphony manager as an employer trustee, whether pension contributions can be part of severance settlements, the sale of the AFM-EPF building, and education of trustees. Bill Foster and other union trustees encouraged musicians to call them with any questions or concerns, stressing that they are there to serve the participants.
Following the pension discussion, ROPA Treasurer Dennis Danders, OCSM Vice President Dan Blackman, and RMA Vice President Bruce Bouton addressed the delegates. The afternoon session ended with various reports. That evening, breakout sessions included discussions about education, the role of the orchestra committee, the role of the ICSOM delegate, and internal organizing, all of which were moderated by ICSOM officers and members of SSD staff.
Friday morning was the annual town meeting, which is closed to everyone except ICSOM delegates and the Governing Board. The town meeting has been an important outlet for delegates and Governing Board members to speak about issues of mutual concern. A motion to continue Town Meetings in the future was adopted on Saturday. Laura Brownell and her staff met with local officers in attendance at the Conference during the town meeting.
Friday afternoon’s session began with Electronic Media Chair Bill Foster’s committee report. He thanked Steve Lester for his wisdom and service as both a committee member and member of the National Oversight Committee (NOC) and announced that Cathy Payne (San Francisco Symphony) was named as his replacement on the NOC. Bill then explained the status of the various Federation agreements and encouraged orchestras negotiating or discussing possible media activities to contact him and Debbie Newmark.
Mark Schubin gave an informative presentation about electronic media technology, focusing on hall access, recommendations about whether to install or rent equipment, use of cameras, and his experiences with the new Metropolitan Opera broadcasts in movie theaters. He answered a few questions about copy protection and archiving.
A panel discussion followed addressing negotiating media language and how it applied to two orchestras within the same local but with very different needs. Participants included Norbert Nielubowski from the Minnesota Orchestra, Leslie Shank from the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Debbie Newmark, Bill Foster and Local 30-73 Secretary-Treasurer Tom Baskerville. Saint Paul musicians and the local worked closely with the AFM to assure that their new media activity worked within existing Federation agreements, though some of their upcoming activity will chart new territory. The Minnesota Orchestra, on the other hand, has had a long history of free local broadcasts on Minnesota Public Radio (MPR), with payment coming from the syndication of those concerts. This arrangement has just come to an end. There was brief discussion regarding MPR’s attitudes about paying for product and considering themselves as employers. There has been some concern over these issues since MPR recently acquired Performance Today and SymphonyCast from National Public Radio. Tom Baskerville reinforced that orchestras and locals should be in contact with each other and with the AFM regarding media work.
Bill Foster noted a growing trend among managers who desire the ability to pay a single fee for unlimited use of recorded product. While the AFM and ICSOM are willing to look at new innovative ideas that are not covered by current agreements, some existing agreements have provisions, such as oversight committees, that could already accommodate some projects.
Friday ended with two presentations on insurance topics. Minnesota Orchestra committee chair Wendy Williams and attorney (and former violinist with the Minnesota Orchestra) Sally Mermelstein gave an informative presentation about the features and pitfalls of long-term-disability plans, including problems musicians can face when they file for permanent disability. (A handout is available on the ICSOM website.) Florence Nelson, who has been engaged by ICSOM to assist in assembling an ICSOM healthcare database, presented some of her initial observations from the data collected so far.
Saturday included brief reports on Polyphonic.org, by Robert Levine (Milwaukee), and on the activities of the AFM Diversity Committee, by Lovie Schenk-Smith. When it came time for elections, Brian Rood and Laura Ross, running unopposed, were re-elected to their respective positions of president and secretary. There were brief campaign speeches for the two open member at large positions by candidates Paul Frankenfeld (Cincinnati) and Cathy Payne, as well as a statement from James Nickel that was read to the delegates. Cathy Payne and James Nickel were elected to the member at large posts.
Honolulu Symphony musicians Steve Dinion and Emma Philips, and Local 677 President Michael Largarticha presented a signed picture of the Honolulu Symphony to ICSOM Counsel Len Leibowitz, thanking him on behalf of their colleagues for all his assistance and friendship over the years. Later in the day, delegate Rachel Goldstein (Chicago), who is married to Steve Lester, accepted a plaque from ICSOM thanking Steve for his years of service to the field.
Delegates met for lunch with members at large who were there, with President Rood standing in for James Nickel. This was an opportunity for delegates not only to meet with their members at large, but also to discuss issues of concern and to get to know their fellow delegates a little better.
Delegates adopted twelve resolutions, which can be found starting on page 4 of this issue. One of these will require ratification by member orchestras by November 16. Next year, San Francisco | Local 6, the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, the San Francisco Opera Orchestra the San Francisco Symphony will host the ICSOM Conference in San Francisco, August 20–23. The 2008 Conference will be held at the Hotel Kabuki.
The Minnesota Orchestra, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Local 30-73, Lynn Erickson, and all who attended this Conference deserve credit for a job well done. Thanks also go to Chair Bruce Ridge for his leadership this past season and for a successful Conference.