Two years ago, Detroit Symphony delegate Dave Everson, on behalf of DSO musicians and Local 5, proposed Detroit as the location for the 2011 ICSOM Conference. The proposal was met with great enthusiasm by the 2009 ICSOM Conference delegates. As happy as they were to travel to the home of one of our esteemed orchestras, they were also glad that Dave’s invitation gave credibility to the recent practice of scheduling the location of ICSOM Conferences farther in advance than had sometimes occurred.
On Labor Day in 2010, prior to the recent strike in Detroit, Chairman Bruce Ridge, President Brian and Secretary Laura Ross marched in solidarity with Detroit Symphony and Local 5 musicians. Not wanting to waste an opportunity, they also used the trip to begin looking for the conference hotel. The Hyatt Regency Dearborn was selected. It turned out to be an ideal location for the 2011 ICSOM Conference, which ran from August 17 through August 20.
The gallant musicians of the Detroit Symphony had recently come through a six-month strike that, although ending with a settlement that did not include many of the most punitive proposals originally put forward by Detroit’s board and management, was responsible for the loss of a number of their members. But none of that deterred them in the least from hosting an incredible conference. Many DSO musicians participated in and attended the conference, including Cathy Compton, the force behind the current ICSOM conductor evaluation program, who helped coordinate a tour and brief concert by DSO musicians on stage at Orchestra Hall. Hearing the Bach Orchestral Suite No. 3 was a real treat for delegates and guests. Following the concert, dinner was provided in the Musicbox at the MAX.
Each year the ICSOM governing board meets for a full day prior to the conference to discuss issues, review the conference agenda, and meet with various guests and presenters. The board met with University of Michigan musicology professor Mark Clague to discuss a second orchestra summit in Ann Arbor, Michigan planned for next winter during a residency by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. The board also met with George Cohen, the current Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) director and former AFM general counsel, as well as the newly appointed AFM Symphonic Services director, Jay Blumenthal. Tuesday evening, ICSOM’s general counsel, Susan Martin, led the negotiating orchestra session. As always, this session proved to be an important and informative discussion. Wednesday morning, prior to the official start of the conference, the ICSOM governing board hosted a new-delegate breakfast that gave attendees a brief introduction to ICSOM and the conference agenda.
Following the roll call and introduction of guests, the delegates adopted a resolution dedicating the conference to the memory of former ICSOM chairman Fred Zenone. Zenone’s National Symphony colleague, Bill Foster, gave a moving tribute that was followed by some brief words of thanks from Patricia Zenone, who attended as ICSOM’s honored guest.
Chairman Bruce Ridge and President Brian Rood shared their views on the state of the orchestra industry. (Their remarks, along with Bill Foster’s Zenone tribute, adopted ICSOM resolutions, Sphinx information, and other conference materials may be found at www.icsom.org/conferences/2011.) Following lunch, delegates returned to hear the entertaining yet important message from George Cohen. In his role as FMCS director, Cohen urged delegates and local officers to consider collaborative discussions with management about subjects of mutual importance, citing some of the health insurance discussions he has overseen in the automobile industry, as well as others. A panel presentation about Detroit’s six-month strike included Detroit Symphony musicians Joe Goldman, Haden McKay, and Dave Everson, who were joined by Local 5’s president, Gordon Stump, Secretary-Treasurer Susan Barna Ayoub, Joel LeFevre of SSD, and Judy Doyle from Save Our Symphony. A panel of ICSOM orchestras in various stages of bankruptcy closed the first day of the conference. Speakers included Steve Flanter (Honolulu), Trevor Johnson (Louisville), Eric Carlson (Philadelphia), and Patricia Sharpe, Victoria Krukowski, and Jon Garland (all from Syracuse). The mixer at Orchestra Hall was a welcome treat after a taxing day.
AFM President Ray Hair addressed the delegates on Thursday morning and introduced the new AFM Symphonic Services Division director, Jay Blumenthal. Blumenthal, a former New York City Ballet delegate and ICSOM member-at-large, was warmly welcomed. Symphonic Services Division staff members and SSD labor counsel Rochelle Skolnick gave presentations on a variety of subjects. Following a member-at-large luncheon with their assigned orchestra delegates, Shari Hoffman spoke about the successful collection of symphonic royalties through the AFM & AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund. Afterward, the presidents of each of the player conferences—TMA (Tom Mendel), RMA (Marc Sazer), OCSM (Matthew Heller) and ROPA (Carla Lehmeier-Tatum)—addressed the delegates. American Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund (AFM-EPF) union trustees Laura Ross, Brian Rood, and Bill Moriarity gave a comprehensive presentation about the state of the pension fund, including a demonstration of the new AFM-EPF Pension Estimator.
After a much needed break (Thursday is traditionally the busiest day of the conference), Susan Martin entertained and educated delegates and guests with a “Delegate Duel” that challenged individuals and teams to test their knowledge of recent labor law decisions that affect our workplace. That evening, breakout groups covered the Integrated Media Agreement, internal organizing and governance, and branding orchestras in the community and building relationships with boards.
Friday morning began with a brief presentation from Labor Notes staff writer Jane Slaughter that was followed by a report from Gail Kruvand about the status of the New York City Opera. Afterward, Bruce Simon, who currently represents Local 77 and the musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra as their bankruptcy attorney, gave an informative, timely, and sobering presentation to the delegates about the bankruptcy process.
Sphinx Organization founder Aaron Dworkin and its artistic director, Afa Sadykhly Dworkin, were a highlight of the conference when they spoke about the successful projects they are working on to assist and promote minority musicians in the orchestra industry. One dollar of the dues for each ICSOM musician helps to underwrite the Sphinx Organization’s senior-level award winners each year, so we can say with pride that many ICSOM orchestras have featured those winners in concert.
As delegates and ICSOM officers prepared to begin the annual town meeting, elections were completed as Brian Rood, Laura Ross, Matthew Comerford, and Cathy Payne, who all ran unopposed, were re-elected as, respectively, president, secretary, and members-at-large.
Saturday morning, following a report by Lovie Smith-Wright about the activities of the AFM Diversity Committee, delegates adopted 23 additional resolutions (the conference dedication on day one being the first), which can be found starting on page 3. Kansas City was selected as the site of the 2013 conference, and Los Angeles was chosen for the 2014 conference. (Chicago was named the site of the 2012 ICSOM Conference at an earlier conference.) As the conference ended, gratitude was expressed to the musicians of the Detroit Symphony, Local 5, and to President Gordon Stump and Secretary-Treasurer Susan Barna Ayoub for their hospitality, their friendship, and their remarkable solidarity.
The planning has already begun for the grand celebration of ICSOM’s 50th anniversary, to be held August 22–25, 2012 at the Westin Michigan Avenue Chicago hotel, in the same city where ICSOM’s formative meetings were held in May 1962. ICSOM’s founders were, to paraphrase ICSOM’s bylaws, dedicated to supporting the promotion of the welfare of, and the betterment of the livelihood of, the orchestral performer; to representing, promoting, protecting, and advocating the interests of orchestras and of their future, current, and retired musicians; to assist and support orchestras and organizations in their efforts to better the lives of professional musicians and serve the art of music; and to collaborating with other organizations to further the interests of the corporation and its members.
ICSOM is as important and as necessary today as it was 50 years ago. ICSOM is about communication, support, and advocacy. The 2011 ICSOM Conference in Detroit exemplified all of that and more.