What do you get when you mix together delegates from 50 ICSOM orchestras, 9 ICSOM officers, 5 former ICSOM chairpersons, the daughter of the first ICSOM chairman, 8 founding members of ICSOM, 6 former ICSOM officers, 18 local officers, 12 AFM officers and Symphonic Services Division staff members, 17 negotiating attorneys, 12 presenters, 4 player conference presidents, a host of orchestra members and observers from across the United States and Canada, and then add in more than 75 documents spanning the years 1958 to 2012? Aside from one amazing 50th anniversary celebration, you get this year’s ICSOM Conference, held August 22–25 in Chicago—the city of ICSOM’s founding in May 1962.
The Conference hotel, the Westin Michigan Avenue Chicago, was located along the Magnificent Mile, and the weather was perfect! Over a five-day period the Conference covered ICSOM’s past, present, and future. Attendance was well above 160 participants—the largest Conference in memory. All member orchestras were in attendance except for The Cleveland Orchestra, which was on tour in Europe.
On Monday the Governing Board gathered for its annual pre-Conference dinner, and then it met all day Tuesday. On Tuesday evening, the Negotiating Orchestras Session, led by ICSOM General Counsel Susan Martin and ICSOM President Brian Rood, included orchestras currently in negotiations along with attorneys, local officers, and observing musicians. A number of orchestras sent additional negotiating committee members to attend this important discussion. There were a number of despicable and destructive management proposals discussed, some of which have now sadly come to full fruition. (“Orchestral Apocalypse ’012” was one blogger’s label for what is occurring in Minnesota; however, I think it accurately characterizes the entire situation.) Thankfully there was also some good news on the negotiating front. Much of this discussion was a prologue for the Attorney Panel on Friday morning.
Wednesday morning began with the annual new-delegate breakfast, when ICSOM’s new delegates get the chance to meet Governing Board members, ICSOM counsel, conference coordinators, and electronic media co-chairs, and also have the opportunity to learn a little more about their duties as delegates.
The lobby outside the conference room was filled with displays from the George Zazofsky ICSOM Archives. [Editor’s Note: Secretary Laura Ross did yeoman’s service in selecting and mounting all the historical documents from the archives.] There were original copies of Senza Sordino Volumes 1–5 (including Robert Coleman’s second issue mock-up), along with a letter requesting copies for the Library of Congress. There were wage charts from 1958 to the present, correspondence from Senator Hubert Humphrey (while establishing the National Endowment for the Arts), Helen M. Thompson (first paid executive of the American Symphony Orchestra League), and Professors Baumol and Bowen (as they were preparing their study of the economics of the performing arts). There were reports, bulletins and newspaper articles detailing both ICSOM’s and its member orchestras’ histories. Walfrid Kujala, retired Chicago Symphony member and first delegate at both 1962 meetings, also provided enlargements of the chart he and Wayne Barrington assembled for the May 12–13, 1962 meetings at Roosevelt University in Chicago. The welcome banner from the 2009 Conference in Norfolk, Virginia was also on display.
All attendees received a commemorative Conference program (which can be found at www.icsom.org under the Conferences tab). It included various welcome letters from Chicago and Illinois politicians, brief biographies of the 1962 delegates who attended this year’s Conference, and a list of the delegates and observers who attended meetings in Chicago and Cleveland in 1962. A number of former officers in attendance were also listed. The program contained letters about the early history of Senza Sordino by Joane Bennett (retired Chicago Symphony member who suggested the publication’s name) and Reinhardt Elster (retired Metropolitan Opera Orchestra harpist who served as Senza Sordino’s second editor). There were also two wonderful tributes—to the first elected chair and secretary of the 1962 Chicago meeting, Joe Golan (by Chicago Symphony ICSOM delegate Rachel Goldstein), and to Wayne Barrington (by former student James Baker). [Editor’s Note: Laura Ross again deserves credit for putting together the memorable Conference program.]
Once the session was called to order, Chicago Federation of Musicians Local 10-208 President Gary Matts offered Conference attendees a warm welcome that was a far cry from the attitude existing in Chicago when ICSOM was founded in 1962. He also invited ICSOM back to Chicago in 2062 to celebrate its 100th anniversary! Chairman Bruce Ridge spoke eloquently about the need for positive orchestra support on a national level and announced that ICSOM was in the process of establishing a new 501(c)(3) charitable organization, the American Symphonic Advocacy Project (ASAP). A few minutes later, Mark Lindsay, a Livingston Group consultant based in Washington, D.C., was introduced as ASAP’s first chairman. Lindsay spoke about his love of music, his background working in the Clinton White House and on President Obama’s transition team, about his work for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and about what he hoped to accomplish and the alliances he looked forward to forming with ASAP.
Wednesday afternoon’s sessions began with Minnesota Orchestra violinist Julie Ayer’s recollection that conversations with her brother-in-law, Rudy Nashan, about Chicago Symphony’s early battles with its local and orchestra board led her to write More Than Meets the Ear: How Symphony Musicians Made Labor History. Her wonderful book includes fascinating tales about the activities in a number of orchestras, including the Minnesota Orchestra, that led to the formation of ICSOM. Julie was followed by two pension presentations. The first was an update on the status of the American Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund (AFM-EPF) by Fund trustees AFM President Ray Hair, Laura Ross, Brian Rood, and Bill Moriarity, and Fund co-counsel Anne Mayerson. Ellen Schultz, award winning author of Retirement Heist, followed with a presentation that detailed the systematic dismantling of retirement pension and health plans in corporate America. In the evening guests took a double-decker-bus trip down Michigan Avenue to Symphony Center, where attendees were treated to a tour, sustenance, and entertainment by a wonderful jazz quartet from Local 10-208, which hosted the event.
Thursday morning Erika Zazofsky-Goldberg thanked ICSOM for inviting her to speak on behalf of her father, George Zazofsky, as she shared his history and his early years as ICSOM’s first chairman. Then it was time for ICSOM’s former chairs—Sam Denov (1969–1970, Chicago Symphony, retired), Melanie Burrell (1986–1988, Denver Symphony/Colorado Symphony, retired, via videotape), Bradford Buckley (1988–1996, St. Louis Symphony, retired as of September 2012), Robert Levine (1996–2002, Milwaukee Symphony), and Jan Gippo (2002–2006, St. Louis Symphony, retired)—to share their personal perspectives on ICSOM’s past and future. Following these presentations everyone assembled in another room for a photo. (Thanks to AFM Secretary-Treasurer Sam Folio, the photo was featured on the cover of October’s International Musician.)
A scheduled lunch allowed members at large to meet with their assigned delegates. The lunch was followed by addresses by President Hair and the four Player Conferences presidents. After various committee reports, Victoria Krukowski and Jon Garland gave an update on the status of the Syracuse Symphony’s successor orchestra, and Justin Bartels, Paul Naslund, and Greg Harper informed delegates about the revitalized Colorado Symphony. Breakout sessions that evening included Community Engagement by Penny Brill, Mediation with Robert Johnson, and a Pit Orchestra Caucus led by Matt Comerford.
In anticipation of a panel discussion on Friday, ICSOM hosted a dinner for the negotiating attorneys. They prepared for the Friday presentation, discussed items of mutual interest, heard brief reports about the AFM-EPF and electronic media issues, and later met with AFM and local officers and staff members.
Friday morning Gino Raffaelli (Cleveland Orchestra, retired), who served as ICSOM’s first treasurer (1963–1970), addressed the delegates. Additional reports about the AFM Diversity Committee’s activities, the AFM & SAG/AFTRA Fund regarding distribution of symphonic recording royalties, and the newly redesigned ICSOM website followed. Outside of the official Conference proceedings, in another demonstration of how much had changed in 50 years, Leonard DiCosimo, president of Local 4 in Cleveland, proudly displayed the original 1961 petitions sent to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from orchestras around the country in support of the Cleveland Orchestra musicians who had filed NLRB charges against Local 4 for failure to allow the musicians to ratify their contract.
Susan Martin moderated the highly anticipated panel of 16 attorneys: Jonathan Axelrod (Virginia), Kevin Case (Chicago Lyric), Marvin Gittler (Chicago Symphony/Local 10-208), Joe Hatch (Utah/Ballet West), Barbara Jaccoma (New Jersey/Cincinnati/Honolulu), Steve Kaplan (Los Angeles/LA Opera), Louis Kushner (Pittsburgh’s three orchestras), Harvey Mars (Local 802/ABT/American Symphony Orchestra), Anne Mayerson (National), Zak Moen (Chicago Lyric), Mike Okun (North Carolina/Charlotte), Yona Rozen (Fort Worth), Mel Schwarzwald (Boston/Indianapolis/Houston/Saint Paul/San Francisco Opera/Metropolitan Opera), Bruce Simon (NY Philharmonic/Cleveland/NYC Ballet/NYC Opera/Philadelphia bankruptcy), Rochelle Skolnick (St. Louis), and David Van Os (San Antonio). For two hours the attorneys shared information and various insights about negotiations and answered a number of questions from delegates. This historic meeting was beneficial for both the orchestra delegates and committee members in attendance and the attorneys, who were pleased to meet with their colleagues and share ideas and information. AFM Symphonic Services Division presentations by SSD Director Jay Blumenthal, Joel LeFevre, Nathan Kahn, Debbie Newmark, and Rochelle Skolnick that afternoon were followed by ICSOM’s annual town hall meeting, a closed meeting for delegates and the governing board. SSD staff met with local officers during the town hall meeting.
The final day of the Conference began with election of AFM Convention delegate Matt Comerford and alternate Paul Gunther. Chairperson Bruce Ridge, Treasurer Michael Moore, Editor Richard Levine, and Members at Large Paul Gunther and Meredith Snow, were re-elected by acclamation Friday afternoon. SSD Counsel Rochelle Skolnick discussed peer review and due process. Resolutions followed. A proposal to establish additional dues salary tiers was adopted and was ratified November 16 by 46 ICSOM orchestras. Other adopted resolutions honored ICSOM’s founders, remembered former officers Robert Coleman and Jim Clute, recognized the retirements of former officers Brad Buckley and Marsha Schweitzer, thanked conductor Joseph Mechavich for his refusal to conduct non-union replacement musicians for the Louisville Opera, acknowledged Martha Warrington for her work on the ICSOM website, and gave appreciation to the Chicago Federation of Musicians Local 10-208 for hosting the Conference. (Adopted resolutions are listed beginning on page 10.)
The ICSOM Conference will be in Kansas City in 2013 and will move to Los Angeles in 2014. Delegates offered other possible sites for future years. Following numerous thanks and recognitions during Good and Welfare, the Conference came to a close.
There are many people who had a hand in the success of this Conference and the celebration it represented: the ICSOM Governing Board, and in particular Matt Comerford and Brian Rood; Tom Hall (Chicago Symphony, retired), and Julie Ayer (Minnesota Orchestra, retired), who both assisted in planning; two wonderful conference coordinators, Bill Buchman (Chicago Symphony) and assistant Tom Reel (Virginia Symphony); videographer Tim Redman (who also took the cover shot for the October International Musician); the attorneys and locals who assisted in bringing the attorneys together for two days of face-to-face discussion and information sharing that made the panel so successful; and to Susan Martin for sharing her idea. Special thanks to President Gary Matts, Vice-President Terryl Jares, and the other officers and members of the Chicago Federation of Musicians, Local 10-208 (who were instrumental in persuading Mayor Rahm Emanuel to declare August 22, 2012, as ICSOM Day in Chicago), and to the delegates and members of the Grant Park Orchestra, the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, who hosted this Conference. I would be remiss if I did not also mention that it was the Chicago Symphony’s invitation for orchestras to come to Chicago back in May 1962 that gave us something special to celebrate at this Conference.
Photos, conference addresses, and other conference materials may be viewed at ICSOM’s newly redesigned website.