A t the ICSOM Conference this summer, there were a number of conversations about and references to the benefits of sending orchestra members to the AFM Convention as local delegates. I have attended AFM Conventions since 1995, first as a non-voting ROPA representative, and then as a voting delegate for the Nashville Association of Musicians, Local 257. I have also attended the Southern Conference each year since I was elected as one of my local’s voting delegates.
As someone who is currently going through the process of reelection to my local’s executive board and for another three-year stint as AFM Convention delegate, I thought it would be important to share some information with you. As for what is expected of a Convention delegate, I attend the Southern Conference each year (two days, Saturday and Sunday, in June) as well as the triennial AFM Convention. (This was changed from a two-year to a three-year cycle at the last Convention. The AFM Convention and the Southern Conference are scheduled consecutively, so every three years we’re talking Saturday through Wednesday.) The next Convention will be held in Las Vegas during June or July of 2010.
ICSOM orchestras currently have a few orchestra members serving as local officers. In some locals, this is a necessity if orchestra members want to be Convention delegates because the number of local delegates is dependent upon how many members a local has, and most local bylaws dictate that officers, by virtue of their positions, are automatic Convention delegates. If a local has 200 or fewer members, then it is entitled to only one voting delegate at the Convention; between 201 and 400 members, the local gets two delegates; 401–1,500 members garners three delegates; 1,501–3,000 members permits four delegates; 3,001–5,000 gives five delegates; 5,001–8,500 earns six delegates; and more than 8,501 members allows seven delegates (which no local sent in 2007). [Editor’s Note: Article 17, Section 4(a), of the AFM bylaws omits the number of delegates allowed a local with exactly 8,501 members.]
This explains, somewhat, the inequity of the voting process when it comes to a voice vote at the Convention—there are far more small locals. At the 2007 Convention there were 197 locals represented by the 317 delegates in attendance. Sixty-four locals had more than one delegate, but not all locals who were entitled to additional delegates chose that option. (That could be due to the cost to locals of paying expenses for delegates beyond the one delegate per local for which the AFM pays per diem and hotel expenses.) You should check with your local to see how many delegates your local is allowed to send to the next AFM Convention and how many it is planning to send.
I’d like to digress for one minute to say that I believe equal importance should be placed on attending the Locals’ Conferences as well. ICSOM has made an effort in the last two years to reach out to all our AFM locals by including local officers (president and secretary-treasurer) on the Senza Sordino mailing list. While this publication can inform locals around the U.S. and Canada about those issues we hold most dear, the personal touch is always best. In my case, Nashville belongs to the Southern Conference, which is the largest of the 14 Locals’ Conferences (some locals belong to more than one), consisting of approximately 40 locals. At the AFM Convention we all sit together at two tables because it’s such a large group. The yearly Locals’ Conferences are like an abbreviated version of an ICSOM Conference, with reports from various AFM officers and staff, information from the AFM-EPF (the pension fund) and the MPF (formerly known as the Music Performance Trust Fund), and explanations and demonstrations of new services the AFM provides to its members, new and old. Some conferences have discussion groups and others have workshops, plus there is almost always a dinner or a reception. In the case of the Southern Conference, many officers sit in with the band after dinner and have a jam session. Some musicians I know (this does not apply to orchestra members alone) do not feel it’s as important to attend the Locals’ Conference as the AFM Convention. I, on the other hand, believe that the opportunity to network and to meet fellow local officers has been invaluable—particularly once you get to the Convention. Over the years I have made a number of important connections and friendships that continue to be beneficial today.
Every AFM Convention is spent dealing with recommendations and resolutions that would change the AFM bylaws; inevitably these include at least one issue of major concern to orchestra musicians. It is hard to express how effective it is when an informed orchestra musician speaks as a voting delegate on the Convention floor. Beginning in 2005, representatives from each of the Player Conferences were given the opportunity to address the delegates from the podium. At that time, I suggested to the then-current ICSOM chairperson, Jan Gippo, that he ask all the delegates who were members of ICSOM, ROPA, or OCSM/OMOSC to stand. Almost 10% of the delegates on the floor stood. That was a great beginning, but we need more voices. I mean that literally—most votes are done by voice vote, and many decisions depend upon who shouts loudest! As major funders of the AFM (through our work dues and membership fees), our members should have a significant voice.
The other day, before Nashville’s nominating meeting, one of my executive board colleagues commented that, aside from me, there wasn’t much participation by orchestra members at meetings or on the board. I was happy to be able to say that a few of my colleagues did come to some membership meetings (though no one was there that evening—even though we do try to accommodate the symphony schedule). I then explained that many of our musicians served on the orchestra committee, board committees, or other committees, sometimes meeting far more frequently than the local does. While that explanation (along with the comment that being single without a family left me a bit more free time than some others) seemed to placate my fellow board member, it did make me wonder if we all don’t become a bit too complacent when we depend upon one person to represent the significant contributions of a whole group.
One voice with authority is great; but when it’s backed up by others, it shows that this message has a great deal of support. I’ve seen this in action at the AFM Convention. Resolutions and recommendations are submitted to the AFM. Once the Convention begins, the various subcommittees (Law, Finance, Measures & Benefits, Good & Welfare, and Organization & Legislation) hear testimony in favor of or against each resolution and recommendation. When the Player Conferences have an issue, fully 10 to 15 people are there to support the representatives who testify. This support sends a very strong message. There have even been times when the Players Conference representatives outnumbered the committee!
What I have not mentioned is that being a voting delegate increases your chance of being assigned to one of these subcommittees, a place where real influence may be had. When the resolutions are reported out, it is these subcommittees that make the recommendations to the Convention delegates—either favorable or unfavorable, with or without amendments—all based upon testimony and discussion within each subcommittee. I have been a member of the Measures & Benefits committee since 2001 and hope to be again (if I’m re-elected and AFM President Tom Lee reappoints me).
I urge all of our members to consider how important participation is in assuring that our views and opinions are heard. However, I also urge participation because there is a great deal you can learn at these Conventions, including about musicians who work without the benefit of tenured positions with guaranteed salaries. Our local freelance colleagues deserve consideration because they too need protection and service from the AFM, and there is no better way to understand this than to participate in your local’s meetings, on your local’s executive board, and at the AFM Convention. Speak up! Participate!