ICSOM has both a Chairperson and a President. Our bylaws identify the Chair as “chief executive officer” and state that “the President shall be responsible for the supervision of the operation of the organization.” Even with those distinctions, there is occasional confusion in the field over just what the titles mean. But in practice there has been no confusion at all—at least since I became Chair in 2006—that ICSOM has clearly had co-chairs.
When Brian Rood steps down from his role as ICSOM President at the conference in Philadelphia this August, he will have held the office as long as any other musician, being tied with David Angus for number of terms. But in truth he has served more years as President than anyone before him, and likely anyone that will follow.
Brian joined the Kansas City Symphony in 1995, and he has been a leader since his first day on the job. In fact I can think of no other musician who has served as many roles in service to musicians everywhere. He has chaired the players’ committee in his own orchestra, negotiated numerous contracts, and served on the Joint Retirement Committee, as well as the Symphony’s Board of Trustees and Finance Committee. Nationally, Brian is a trustee for the American Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund and also a trustee for the AFM Symphony-Opera Strike Fund. His knowledge of the many issues that affect musicians’ lives on a daily basis is extraordinary.
But it is not just the roles in which he has served, or the knowledge he has brought to so many tables, that makes Brian stand out as a singular figure in the history of ICSOM. It is rather simply the man himself: a person of such unassailable integrity and courage that I am humbled by his friendship.
It is a direct result of his courage that the Kansas City Symphony has a union contract. The recent successes for the Kansas City Symphony have not been easily achieved. Brian and the musicians faced a great deal of criticism all those years ago, when a long-term contract was agreed to in order to achieve their union recognition clause. But Brian had the vision to know that the right decision had been made, and his vision has been leading and inspiring us all for two decades.
In my opening remarks to the 2013 ICSOM Conference in Kansas City, I said “I often wonder what Kansas City would be like had Brian Rood never come here. In a George Bailey type of scenario, I imagine that the Kansas City Symphony would probably be very different, and we might not be here celebrating this success. The entire field benefits from Brian’s leadership and vision, and like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, when it comes to friends and people that he has helped, Brian Rood is the richest man I know.”
Brian approaches every situation, no matter how difficult the issue might be, with unfailing courtesy to friend and foe alike. While some can only identify the problems, Brian is unique in his ability to identify the solutions. Through everything we have experienced together in the past decade, he has never acted rashly, never shown a trace of resentment or spite toward any individual, never been dismissive of anyone’s ideas, and never been impatient with anyone who seeks his assistance no matter how inconvenient their requests might be.
And when it comes to the patience he has shown towards me, Brian deserves a Nobel Peace Prize.
In these ten years, we have spoken nearly every day. Together we have been through countless crises for our member orchestras, and personal crises as well. In late night conversations too numerous to even contemplate, he has counseled me on every decision I have made as ICSOM Chair, generously showing me the way to a solution and a strategy to succeed. He has wisely guided me toward the right decisions, and graciously led me away from my bad ones.
To see the impact that Brian has had on ICSOM, one must only revisit the 2002 Conference in Ottawa where he was elected, along with the equally indispensible Laura Ross and others. This was a difficult time for ICSOM and the organization was divided, as many questioned its relevance in the new millennium. Headlining one of the pages of the August, 2002, issue of Senza Sordino is the announcement that the ICSOM Directory was not published that year “due to a variety of problems….” But by the December issue, you can see Brian’s impact as he worked with the newly elected Chair, Jan Gippo. The organization had a new vigor that could be read on those pages, and by the February issue Brian had already assembled a President’s Council in Chicago to discuss the major issues of the day.
In reinvigorating ICSOM, Brian reached out to everyone who could offer him the benefit of their wisdom. Former chairs were engaged, conversations were held throughout the field, and ICSOM was on the right path that would serve us well for the next decade and through some of the most difficult economic times that orchestras would ever face. ICSOM, and the field, have emerged stronger and well-poised for the next generation.
Brian would want me to hasten to point out that he did not accomplish this alone of course. There were other leaders that rose up at that time as well. Jan Gippo served admirably as Chair for four years, even though he never intended to run for the office. Michael Moore became the best treasurer ICSOM could have. Tom Hall stepped in as editor of Senza, and paved the way for Richard Levine to serve in that role for so many outstanding years. Former Chair Robert Levine continued to assist the Governing Board, and helped lead ICSOM into the on-line world. And Laura Ross…well, Laura Ross has done everything!
But through it all, it has been Brian’s calm leadership and perfectly suited demeanor that have consistently led us through good times and bad times alike. I am very pleased that as Brian steps away from his position as President he has accepted the Governing Board’s appointment as the next Chair of the ICSOM Electronic Media Committee, even though he has already done more for orchestral musicians than we ever had the right to ask. It is in his nature to continue to serve others, and to build positive relationships throughout the field, and his life.
I think that Brian’s philosophy can best be stated in his own words, so with my all-too-inadequate thanks to him for everything, I’ll close with this passage that he wrote in 2003:
“The world as we know it changes more and more every day. These changes permeate every aspect of our lives—economic, political, social, and cultural. We musicians can choose to become active participants in the discussions about the future of our orchestras and to use the tool of self-determination to ensure their viability. Or we can just sit by and let the rest of their world determine the fate of our orchestras without becoming involved to the fullest extent possible. ‘What,’ you may ask, ‘is the risk of just sitting on the sidelines?’ The answer is the very future of our orchestras and, therefore, our livelihoods. I can think of no greater investment one can make than in our orchestras. Can you?”