Three orchestras, the San Francisco Symphony, the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, and the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, were host to the 2008 ICSOM Conference, at Hotel Kabuki, located in San Francisco’s Japantown. Held August 20–23, the Conference was jam packed with presentations, workshops, reports, and opportunities for orchestra delegates and guests to interact with their colleagues from across the U.S.
Following the practice of the last few years, there was a meeting of negotiating orchestras the night before the Conference’s opening session. The meeting was very informative and was well attended by delegates and alternates, orchestra members, local officers, Symphonic Services Division (SSD) staff, and Governing Board members.
Wednesday morning, the Governing Board met with new delegates at a breakfast meeting designed to help prepare them for their next four days. The opening session then began with the introduction of officers, guests and attendees. Chairman Bruce Ridge spoke about his travels this past season and the success of ICSOM’s two Calls to Action to support the Jacksonville and Columbus symphonies during their lockouts. He called attention to the strength and unity within ICSOM and argued for a more positive message in our industry. Chairman Ridge’s complete opening remarks can be found online at www.icsom.org.
The highlight of the Conference was keynote speaker Randy Cohen’s presentation. Mr. Cohen, the vice president of policy and research for Americans for the Arts (AFTA), presented information about arts in the schools, various publicly funded arts programs, and studies that prove participation in the arts improves performance in school and on tests. Particularly entertaining were some of the AFTA commercials promoting arts advocacy that he shared. ICSOM is looking forward to working with AFTA to increase public support for the arts.
We were pleased that AFM President Tom Lee was able to attend the Conference and that he was joined by International Executive Board (IEB) members Ray Hair (Dallas/Fort Worth Local 72-147 president), Billy Linneman (Nashville Local 257 secretary-treasurer), and Bob McGrew (Houston Local 65-699 secretary-treasurer). All addressed the delegates. Since ICSOM orchestras are represented by 44 of the largest locals in the U.S., we welcome the many local officers who attend the Conference each year, and we especially look forward to improving our communication with all the members of the IEB. We receive a number of compliments from local officers each year commending us on the important information and workshops that are part of every ICSOM Conference. We hope the entire IEB as well as additional orchestra members and local officers will consider attending an ICSOM Conference in the future.
As usual, the first day was filled with a number of reports advising delegates about the numerous services ICSOM provides. We also heard from some of our orchestra representatives who faced great difficulties this past season. On Wednesday we heard from John Wieland, who spoke about the lockout last fall in Jacksonville. Honolulu representatives Steve Flanter and Emma Philips spoke about the payroll problems they dealt with last season. On Thursday, we heard Columbus Symphony delegate Mike Buccicone with Local 103 president and orchestra member Doug Fisher discuss their orchestra’s lockout that began June 1. We were also pleased to welcome back Chicago Symphony Emeritus member Tom Hall, who spoke about his orchestra’s wonderful Alumni Association of former CSO members (and subs and extras that worked and toured with the orchestra over the years). In addition to offering activities and perks to alumni, it also encourages interaction between current and former members. Wednesday evening, attendees were treated to a tour of Davies Symphony Hall and a fabulous mixer hosted by the musicians from San Francisco’s symphony, opera, and ballet orchestras and Local 6.
Thursday morning began with Bill Foster’s report as chair of the ICSOM Electronic Media Committee. This was followed by a terrific presentation by American Federation of Musicians-Employers’ Pension Fund (AFM-EPF) Executive Director Maureen Kilkelly who shared further information regarding the pension fund after last year’s presentation by Vinni LoPresti and Will Luebking. We were also quite pleased to have AFM Pension Trustees Tom Lee (chair of the AFM trustees committee), Hal Espinosa (Los Angeles Local 47 president), Lovie Smith-Wright (Houston Local 65-699 president), Melinda Wagner (San Francisco Local 6 former president), Gary Matts (Chicago Local 10-208 president), and Bill Foster (rank-and-file trustee from the National Symphony) in attendance.
The afternoon sessions included a discussion about the pros and cons of incorporating player associations with San Francisco tax attorney Jim Wesser and observations by Len Leibowitz about the various orchestra bylaws submitted prior to the Conference. A CD of the collected bylaws was distributed to each delegate. The afternoon ended with player conference reports from ROPA President Carla Lehmeier-Tatum, OCSM President Francine Schutzman and RMA President Phil Ayling. Breakout sessions on education, electronic media, health insurance and organizing between negotiations followed in the evening.
Once again the closed town hall meeting for delegates and ICSOM officers on Friday morning was too brief to discuss all of the multiple topics of interest. There have been calls to expand this part of the agenda. In the afternoon, SSD negotiators Chris Durham and Nathan Kahn and SSD Electronic Media Director Debbie Newmark spoke about their activities this past season. San Francisco Symphony General Manger John Kieser then spoke about the orchestra’s successful education program, Keeping Score, and he included a few clips of programs that focused on Beethoven and Stravinsky. Ron Gallman of the San Francisco Symphony and Leni Boorstin of the Los Angeles Philharmonic spoke about their educational programs—San Francisco’s Adventures in Music and LA’s new Youth Orchestra LA. The rest of the afternoon was devoted to a mock-arbitration session in which six groups served as either arbitrators, union or management representatives, or witnesses, and each group held an arbitration by presenting evidence, questioning witnesses, making opening and closing arguments, and putting the decision into the hands of each set of arbitrators to make their decisions independently.
The final day of the Conference included member-at-large candidate speeches, elections, an updated AFM Diversity Committee report by Lovie Smith-Wright (interim chair of the committee), and voting on the various resolutions presented by the Governing Board and individual delegates. The Saturday member-at-large/delegate luncheon, where orchestras assigned to each member-at-large sit together and discuss issues of mutual interest, was again a Conference highlight. There is always a great deal of interaction among the delegates, and it has been a very positive addition to the Conference.
Since Chairman Bruce Ridge, Treasurer Michael Moore and Senza Sordino Editor Richard Levine ran unopposed, they were re-elected by acclamation. Meredith Snow (who was unable to attend the Conference due to a family emergency) and Paul Gunther were re-elected to two-year terms as members-at-large, and Matthew Comerford, who had been appointed to fill the member-at-large position vacated by James Nickel until the Conference, was elected to fill that one-year vacancy.
Resolutions adopted at the Conference included recognition of ICSOM Chairman Emeritus Jan Gippo’s retirement from the Saint Louis Symphony; establishment of an ICSOM education committee; acknowledgment of the passing of Local 308 President Harry Chanson, along with a contribution of $250 to the Harry Chanson Music School Fund; recognition of the service of former member-at-large James Nickel, who recently won a new position in the National Symphony; congratulations to AFM Executive Secretary Theresa Naglieri for 50 years of service and to Laura Brownell who recently stepped down as SSD Director. Other resolutions gave special recognition to the musicians of the Columbus and Shreveport symphonies, and condemned their treatment by their respective boards; denounced the Flanagan Report; called on ICSOM to work with managers to identify and improve orchestra musician hearing protection problems; requested information regarding domestic partner benefits; and recommended that a health care insurance and benefits consultant be identified and retained to assist orchestras. Once again there was a call for unity between the AFM IEB and the RMA. The text of all adopted Conference resolutions can be found starting on page 11 in this issue of Senza Sordino.
Next year’s ICSOM Conference will be hosted by the Virginia Symphony and Local 125. It is scheduled for August 19–22, 2009 in Norfolk, Virginia. The delegates also approved Houston, Texas as the location of the 2010 ICSOM Conference.