More than 100 people met in Kansas City, Missouri from August 21 to 24 for the 51st ICSOM Conference. Participants included ICSOM delegates and officers, AFM and local union officers, SSD staff, player conference representatives, presenters, and other guests. The location, the Conference hotel (the Westin Kansas City at Crown Center), the weather, and the fabulous hospitality of the conference hosts (Local 34-627 and the musicians of the Kansas City Symphony) all combined to assure the success of the Conference. Special thanks are due to Kansas City Symphony members Brian Rood (ICSOM president) and Steve Multer (conference coordinator) for their advance planning and eager assistance at the Conference.
On the Tuesday before the Conference began, the ICSOM Governing Board worked tirelessly throughout the day, discussing various topics, putting the final touches on the Conference, and meeting with conference presenters. As usual, the negotiating orchestra session was held that night, before the official start of the Conference. Musicians spoke about recent settlements and trends that have occurred during the past season of negotiations. The next morning the Governing Board welcomed new delegates during breakfast, preparing them for what they should expect during the Conference.
After the new delegate breakfast, the Conference was called to order and opened with a roll call of orchestras. The mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, Sylvester “Sly” James, welcomed participants to the city. He shared his vision of how the arts should be a cornerstone of the city and said that, while the new Kaufmann Center for the Performing Arts is an architectural icon, it is the artists and what they do inside the building that makes the city vibrant and the arts flourish. Interspersed with many interesting facts about the city, we even learned that the mayor was in a band that once opened for Jefferson Airplane and that, in his own words, he now serves as the “chief drum major and cheerleader for the city of Kansas City.” After concluding his remarks he read a proclamation declaring August 20, 2014 to be ICSOM Day in Kansas City.
ICSOM Chairperson Bruce Ridge’s opening address lamented that a House committee had proposed to cut funding to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) by 49 percent. He noted that the NEA has been without its chairperson since January, depriving us of an effective leader who could fight to retain funding during this crucial period. In ICSOM’s first few years, its leaders and members actively worked to see the NEA established. Ridge stated that ICSOM should not be silent now and called on President Obama to appoint a new NEA chairperson immediately. ICSOM delegates adopted a resolution encouraging the same, and, following the Conference, delegates were asked to encourage their colleagues to contact President Obama to urge the immediate appointment of a new NEA chairperson.
Following opening addresses, the ICSOM membership committee recommended and the delegates voted to welcome a new voice to their ranks, as the Grand Rapids Symphony became the 52nd member orchestra of ICSOM. It has been 10 years since the last orchestra, Orquesta Sinfónica de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra), joined ICSOM.
This year’s Conference theme, “ICSOM: Music Cannot Be Silenced,” reverberated during our four days of meetings. Chairperson Ridge suggested the theme, which was taken from a quote by Victor Hugo: “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot be silenced.” It was chosen because a number of ICSOM orchestras dealt with significant lockouts this past season. Indianapolis Symphony committee chair Richard Graef, Atlanta Symphony committee member and delegate Michael Moore, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra committee member and delegate Leslie Shank, and Minnesota Orchestra negotiating committee chair Tim Zavadil and Minnesota musicians Kevin Watkins and Marcia Peck all spoke about their orchestra’s experience. President Brad Eggen of Twin Cities Local 30-73 and Minnesota public relations consultant Blois Olson also spoke.
Indianapolis Symphony musicians were locked out for five weeks, settling upon an agreement that includes substantial cuts to wages, season length and orchestra size (for the term of this agreement only), although wages regain ground during the five-year term. Atlanta Symphony musicians were locked out for four weeks, ratifying a two-year agreement that cut $5.2 million through conversion of nine to ten work and vacation weeks to non-working summer weeks at reduced wages and a reduced number of orchestra members. Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra musicians were negotiating for 17 months, which included a 191-day lockout that ended with a three-year agreement that reduced the size of the orchestra from 34 to 28 through early retirement packages and took away all off-season wages previously paid in lieu of unemployment. October marks the one-year anniversary of the lockout of Minnesota Orchestra musicians. (The lockout was in its tenth month at the time of the Conference.) During the Minnesota presentation, Watkins, who had recently joined the negotiating team, spoke about his work when he had served on the logistics committee. He said that finding ways to assist musicians during the lockout had shown him that “we can do management’s job, but they can’t do ours.” It reinforced for him that we are highly skilled and trained musicians who can do something only a tiny portion of the country can do, similar to highly compensated professional football and baseball players, doctors, attorneys, and others.
That afternoon Randy Whatley, president of Cypress Media Group, spoke about utilizing new and old forms of media to communicate a message to our communities. Whatley assisted the Atlanta Symphony during their lockout last season. His presentation was very well received as was his break-out session Thursday evening.
Wednesday evening began with a wonderful concert in the Kansas City Symphony’s (KCS) new concert hall—Helzberg Hall in the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. KCS rented the hall and orchestra members performed Mozart Symphony No. 31. Delegates and guests were also treated to a tour of the hall. Trolleys carried guests from the hotel to the Kauffman Center and back, where people enjoyed a mixer held on the top floor of the hotel. Many KCS musicians joined delegates and guests as a perfect sunset and the lights of the city added to our celebration of the Kansas City Symphony’s recent successes. It was only 15 years ago that KCS musicians were able to negotiate an AFM contract. This summer they announced a new, progressive settlement one year early.
On Thursday we heard a number of reports, including an AFM Convention report from Member at Large Matt Comerford. Mark Lindsay, chairman of the American Symphonic Advocacy Project (ASAP), shared tips to lobby legislators, officials, and other influential community leaders to support orchestras locally and nationally. He also took questions during a private Town Hall meeting with delegates. That afternoon AFM President Ray Hair addressed the delegates, followed by presentations by representatives of each of the Player Conferences. General session wrapped for the day while delegates joined their assigned Members at Large in smaller groups to talk about their orchestras and compare notes.
The Governing Board shared a productive dinner with President Hair, which was followed by evening breakout sessions covering healthcare reform and the Affordable Care Act, musician-board participation, overscale issues, public relations, and a comprehensive pension discussion. Sessions were led by SSD counsel Rochelle Skolnick, SSD negotiator Nathan Kahn, attorney Kevin Case, Randy Whatley, and AFM-EPF trustee Bill Moriarity. Members of the ICSOM Electronic Media Committee who were attending the Conference also found time to meet with President Hair, AFM Symphonic Services Director Jay Blumenthal, and AFM Symphonic Electronic Media Director Debbie Newmark in anticipation of the upcoming negotiations for a successor agreement to the Integrated Media Agreement.
Friday’s session began with a video trailer of the ICSOM documentary filmed at the 50th anniversary conference in 2012. ICSOM committee reports and a panel discussion with the entire Symphonic Services Division staff followed. After lunch, we took time to thank Member at Large Cathy Payne, who was stepping down from her Governing Board position after six years. ICSOM adopted a resolution of thanks and presented her with a plaque and framed cover page of the 2006 International Musician issue that featured her. Then it was time for ICSOM General Counsel Susan Martin’s follow-up presentation based on her very successful 2011 Delegate Duel. We discovered we still have much to learn! A second town hall meeting was equally productive and offered ICSOM delegates and officers the opportunity to share ideas in a more private setting. That evening was a free night that saw a number of delegates and guests attend a matchup between the Kansas City Royals and the Washington Nationals while others went in search of barbeque.
Saturday morning began with speeches from candidates for the two open Member at Large positions on the Governing Board. Incumbent Matt Comerford was reelected on the first ballot, and Gail Kruvand from the New York City Opera Orchestra was elected on the fourth ballot. President Brian Rood and Secretary Laura Ross ran unopposed and were reelected by acclamation. Following brief addresses by ICSOM Chairman Emeritus Jan Gippo and former Senza Sordino editor Tom Hall, delegates discussed motions on a wide variety of topics. The adopted resolutions can be found starting on page 8. Discussion then moved on to site selection for future Conferences.
Ten years ago, as a delegate, Bruce Ridge challenged ICSOM to hold Conferences in different host cities. Since that time we have traveled to Salt Lake City, San Diego, Nashville, Minneapolis, Norfolk, San Francisco, Houston, Detroit, Chicago, and Kansas City. In 2014, the ICSOM Conference will be held August 25–28 in Los Angeles and will be hosted by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Local 47. Delegates accepted the invitation from the Philadelphia Orchestra and Local 66 to host the 2015 Conference. Washington, D.C., Buffalo, and Puerto Rico have been offered as future Conference sites. Neither ICSOM nor our music will be silenced, and we will continue to spread that message across the country.
Opening addresses by Chairperson Ridge and President Rood, along with various Conference presentations and materials, have been placed in the 2013 Conference area of the ICSOM website (www.icsom.org). While some of these materials are available to the general public, others are restricted to delegates or to registered members of ICSOM orchestras.