The 2010 ICSOM Conference, held August 18-21 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Houston, was a resounding success due in no small part to the musicians of the Houston Symphony Orchestra and the Houston Professional Musicians, Local 65-699, who pulled out all the stops as conference hosts. The delegates to what turned out to be one of the best attended ICSOM Conferences in years were greeted at the hotel with a series of projections of the ICSOM logo on an atrium wall, one of which appeared on the side of the space shuttle. The ICSOM logo also appeared on a welcome banner outside the meeting room, and delegates received a bag with the ICSOM logo containing various goodies from the local.
The Wednesday evening mixer at the Inn at the Ballpark included music provided by Houston Symphony musicians. Courtesy of Local 65-699, more than 65 delegates and guests attended the New York Mets–Houston Astros baseball game across the street at Minute Maid Park, complete with sodas, popcorn, and all-you-can-eat hot dogs. (The Mets won 3-2 in the 14th inning.) Special thanks to Local 65-699 President Lovie Smith-Wright, Secretary-Treasurer Bob McGrew, ICSOM delegate Eric Arbiter, conference coordinator Burke Shaw, and the entire Houston Symphony for an incredible conference.
The Conference theme, “It’s Time to Embrace the Future,” was a play on the recent League of American Orchestras conference theme, “It’s Time to Take on the Future.” The Conference occurred while the ICSOM governing board was in the process of identifying new ICSOM counsel who, it is hoped, will mentor the next generation and help guide ICSOM into the future. Additionally, in June there was a monumental change in the leadership of the American Federation of Musicians, with the election of President Ray Hair, Vice President Bruce Fife and a number of new International Executive Board (IEB) members. There were presentations by three distinguished attorneys from the orchestral field—Susan Martin, Liza Hirsch Medina, and Barbara Jaccoma—as well as newly elected AFM President Ray Hair and the entire International Executive Board.
The IEB has already taken a number of positive steps in an effort to work with the player conferences to improve communication. Beginning a dialog directly with the delegates is a good beginning. To that end, the keynote speaker was AFM President Ray Hair, and his message to the delegates, local officers, the IEB, AFM staff, and players conference representatives was one of unity, cooperation, and friendship. Wednesday afternoon, President Hair returned to present a slide show he called “The Life and Times of the American Federation of Musicians.” This exploration of the more than 100-year history of the AFM demonstrated that the divisiveness of the past caused a great deal of damage, while the strongest periods in the AFM’s history were due to a unified membership.
Chairperson Bruce Ridge and President Brian Rood highlighted similar points in their reports. They expressed their pride in the delegates for their follow-up on the Call to Action for the recent AFM Convention, when more than 85 percent of ICSOM’s orchestras responded by delivering signed petitions from their orchestras to their local officers. Many local officers brought those petitions to the AFM Convention, and petitions were presented as officers visited with ICSOM’s representatives.
Houston’s mayor, Annise Parker, delivered words of welcome on Wednesday afternoon. She thanked the delegates for coming to the fourth largest city in the U.S. and commented humorously that most people usually leave Houston in August. She spoke of Houston’s diversity and stated with pride that Houston is an arts city that supports the visual and the musical arts.
The three presentations by the attorney negotiators were distributed one a day, on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. They were greatly appreciated and provoked many questions and comments. Susan Martin’s presentation on the new healthcare legislation and related considerations for bargaining was informative and timely. Liza Hirsch Medina’s presentation delved into her experiences working with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers and challenged ICSOM musicians to ponder what they want the AFM to be. Barbara Jaccoma’s presentation on negotiating during the worst recession since the great depression prompted numerous interactions with the delegates.
ICSOM was honored to welcome the entire International Executive Board (IEB) to the Conference for a panel discussion. Their presence was facilitated by their decision to hold their first quarterly meeting since their election to coincide with our Conference. (The entire IEB is invited to the ICSOM Conference each year, and some IEB members do attend. However, the last time the entire IEB joined us was seven years ago.) Ten ICSOM orchestras are represented by members of the IEB: Dallas and Fort Worth (Ray Hair, Local 72-147 president); Oregon (Bruce Fife, Local 99 president); Philadelphia (Joe Parente, Local 77 president); Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet, New York City Opera, and New York Philharmonic (Tino Gagliardi, Local 802 president); Los Angeles (Vince Trombetta (Local 47 president); and Nashville (Dave Pomeroy, Local 257 president). The delegates were thrilled to have their local officers, along with AFM Secretary-Treasurer Sam Folio, AFM Vice President of Canada Bill Skolnik, and IEB member Tina Morrison at the Conference to introduce themselves and answer questions as they began a direct dialogue between the AFM and ICSOM.
There were expanded presentations by AFM Symphonic Services Division (SSD). SSD staffer Joel LeFevre introduced the new ICSOM wage charts that were developed by consultant and Minnesota Orchestra trombonist David Herring (who joined the presentation by phone). Detroit Symphony violinist/SSD staffer Joe Goldman and attorney Mel Schwarzwald discussed various orchestra benefit comparison charts they had compiled for use in negotiations. In addition to the SSD presentations, Maureen Kilkelly, executive director of the American Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund (AFM-EPF), was joined by the AFM-EPF director of finance, Will Luebking, and AFM-EPF attorney Anne Mayerson. They spoke about the AFM-EPF, in which more than 80 percent of ICSOM orchestras participate.
This year’s Conference included two town meetings that offered a more private setting for ICSOM delegates and officers to discuss topics of mutual interest. The annual member-at-large–delegate luncheon also allowed for smaller group dialog.
Incumbent officers Chairperson Bruce Ridge, Treasurer Michael Moore, Editor Richard Levine, and Members at Large Meredith Snow and Paul Gunther, were re-elected to two-year terms. Delegates approved extensive revisions to the ICSOM bylaws, including a portion that requires ratification by member orchestras before it is adopted. For that bylaw revision, at least 26 member orchestras must register their votes within 90 days, and a two-thirds majority of those voting is required. A number of resolutions honoring and thanking various people for their contributions to ICSOM or to individual ICSOM orchestras, supporting orchestras facing difficulties, and condemning the use of students to replace professional musicians were adopted by unanimous consent of the delegates. [Editor’s Note: Because of the length of the bylaw revisions, they are not printed herein but are instead available online at www.icsom.org. All other adopted resolutions can be found starting on p. 5.]
A negotiating orchestra workshop was held the evening prior to the opening of the Conference. This meeting was nearly as well attended as any normal Conference session and covered important issues our orchestras face at the bargaining table as well as within the community. A few of our member orchestras’ managers and board negotiators have taken some very nasty bargaining positions recently, particularly in Detroit. The landscape does not merit the hardball tactics our orchestras are facing, and these sessions always offer a wonderful opportunity to discuss various approaches with our colleagues.
A new-delegate breakfast held in the morning before the Conference started allowed newly elected delegates to gain some insight into the Conference itself before the general meetings began. Each member of the Governing Board welcomed the new delegates as they gave short explanations of how ICSOM functions. Delegates are conduits that allow information sharing between their individual orchestra and ICSOM’s member orchestras. The new delegates were encouraged not only to attend annual Conferences, but, among other duties, to communicate with their Members at Large and other delegates throughout the year and to submit information published in ICSOM settlement bulletins, Senza Sordino, and the ICSOM wage chart published by the AFM.
The 2011 ICSOM Conference will be held August 17–20, 2011, in Detroit. The hotel for the upcoming Conference has not yet been determined but should be announced soon.