Serving as ICSOM president has been one of the most meaningful and rewarding experiences of my life. I often remark that I wish every ICSOM musician could have the opportunity to be president. Over the past thirteen years, I have enjoyed meeting with delegates, committee chairs, and many musicians from every ICSOM orchestra as well as ROPA and OCSOM orchestras. I have been fortunate to work with AFM leadership and staff that support us in our never-ending quest to be treated fairly by employers and properly compensated. On a daily basis I am reminded of what it means to be a union activist whose mission is to improve the lives of ICSOM musicians everywhere.
As many of you know, I decided not to seek re-election this summer. ICSOM is in my blood, sweat, and tears and will always have a special place in my heart. I cherish the friendships formed with so many people, especially your governing board and Counsel.
My plan is to continue serving as a trustee of both the AFM Symphony-Opera Strike Fund and AFM-EPF for as long as they will have me. Recent events caused me to consider another possible role within ICSOM—albeit sooner than I had initially planned. With the departure of our friend and colleague Matthew Comerford as Chair of the ICSOM Electronic Media Committee, I carefully contemplated serving as the next chair. Jessica, my better half, chuckled a bit when I asked her about yet another position. I am pleased to report that I have accepted ICSOM Chair Bruce Ridge’s appointment and appreciate the Governing Board’s support as your next ICSOM Electronic Media Committee Chair.
Over the next few months, we will continue to discuss the electronic media needs of our orchestras in various forums, including the 2015 ICSOM Conference, future issues of Senza Sordino, the ICSOM Electronic Media Committee, and possibly another electronic media summit to be held in the future.
As Matthew Comerford reported in the March 2015 Senza Sordino ( http://www.icsom.org/senza/issues/Senza_53_1.pdf), a new Integrated Media Agreement (IMA) was recently ratified that allows for even greater flexibility with media projects that directly promote our orchestras. It is key to remember that the IMA has always been intended for use by employers and musicians to promote our orchestras in ways that directly benefit our institutions. It was never intended to include commercial ventures, since these would undercut existing AFM agreements and our colleagues who depend on this work for their livelihoods.
Developing consensus on electronic media agreements and whether they work or not for ICSOM orchestras has often been contentious. Shortly before I joined the governing board in 2002, an issue of Senza Sordino was devoted entirely to this subject. The issue is titled “The Great Electronic Media Debate” and may be found here: www.icsom.org/senza/issues/senza402.pdf.
The current ICSOM Electronic Media Committee (ICSOM EMC) structure was established in early 2003 following an ICSOM/AFM electronic media summit held in Chicago. One of my first duties as the new ICSOM President in 2002 was to organize this summit to include delegates, committee chairs, local officers, and AFM leaders. We held three meetings over two days: an ICSOM meeting of several founding orchestras and governing board members in an ICSOM President’s Council, an ICSOM-wide meeting the next morning, and then an open forum/meeting with AFM officers and staff participating.
Through the work of the governing board, the AFM, and the ICSOM EMC, led then by William Foster of the National Symphony, progress was made in creating agreements such as the IMA that maintain national standards while allowing greater local autonomy and flexibility, particularly for promotion.
We may well be at another watershed moment when—because of the extreme financial pressures facing their orchestras—musicians feel they must give away electronic media product at bargain-basement rates and outside of appropriate AFM agreements. We must rally around those colleagues to help them understand that giving away our media services for token amounts devalues the product we have worked all our lives to create. Mission statements and collective bargaining agreements of ICSOM orchestras are designed for live performances that reach our audiences and enrich the quality of life within our communities. Electronic media will be an increasingly important enhancement of those missions going forward. Even thinking about changing that paradigm deserves a thorough examination, with a discussion of the ramifications not only locally but also across the country.
Perhaps above all things ICSOM is a resilient organization whose orchestras “weather the storm” to often bounce back stronger than ever. We are hard pressed to find a better example than that of the amazing comeback the Minnesota Orchestra has achieved since the long, dark days of their sixteen-month lockout. Recently, they announced a new CBA extension to 2020 settled two years before the expiration (see page 11), a contract extension for Music Director Osmo Vänksä to 2019, and two large gifts totaling $6.5 million designated for general operations and not the endowment. These remarkable and enlightened gifts will help fund the two extensions. Congratulations to the musicians, board, community, and management alike!
In Denver, however, a great deal of uncertainty exists for our Colorado Symphony Orchestra (CSO) colleagues. Recently, musicians signed cards seeking new union certification to replace the AFM and Local 20-623. Chair Bruce Ridge and I traveled there on Mother’s Day to visit with members of the orchestra, to learn of their concerns, and to offer our support and assistance. We are working together with AFM leadership to explore every avenue to help keep the CSO as an AFM and ICSOM orchestra. We are scheduled to travel again to Denver in mid-June to meet with our colleagues.
It is heartbreaking to lose even one ICSOM orchestra through bankruptcy or other form of shutdown. We recognize that what happens to one orchestra affects us all. The ability to draw upon the strength and resources from one another is a hallmark of ICSOM and our role within the orchestra industry. But to lose an orchestra from the AFM and ICSOM because it feels under-served or under-represented would truly be a tragedy. We will discuss more about the CSO situation in the near future. Rather than jump to conclusions about this evolving chain of events, let us now come together to be as supportive and understanding of our CSO colleagues as possible.
As I leave the governing board, I find myself reflective of my tenure and of those with whom I served. Governing boards are a lot like families. They have their ups and downs but in the end love and respect each other. I would like to take a few moments to recognize a few of the governing board members I have been fortunate to work with these past many years.
Current SSD Director Jay Blumenthal was a Member-at-Large (MAL) in 2002 along with former Baltimore Symphony Orchestra librarian and current Local 40-543 officer Mary Plaine. Mary and Jay provided me with valuable insight and direction then as they both do today. Former MAL Michael Moore was tapped just after the 2002 Conference to become ICSOM treasurer, a position ideally suited to his personality and work ethic. Soon afterwards Michael earned the moniker “IHAT”, ICSOM Hard-Assed Treasurer, as he is still affectionately called from time to time.
Richard Levine, who just last summer stepped down after ten years as Senza Sordino Editor, was appointed first to be a MAL in late 2002. Richard may be the most brilliant man I know, yet his real strength lies in an incredible work ethic coupled with union activism at its highest level. The Directory continues to be one of ICSOM’s most useful resources, due in no small measure to Richard’s continued hard work, expertise, and ingenuity.
My long-time friend and fellow AFM-EPF trustee Laura Ross began her tenure as ICSOM secretary in Ottawa. Laura is the “rock” that holds each ICSOM Conference together logistically. We might well be lost each summer and throughout the year without her.
MAL Paul Gunther has contributed greatly these past few years and I will miss the many phone calls and conversations we held regarding ICSOM. MAL Meredith Snow is the “heart and soul” of the governing board. Her continued devotion to ICSOM is rivaled only by her uncanny ability to lighten any serious moment and to remind us when we are due for a cocktail. MAL Matthew Comerford’s contributions have been many, with his role as ICSOM EMC Chair just his most visible. I want to also recognize our newest governing board members, Editor Peter de Boor and MAL Jennifer Mondie. They are leaders of our future—and the future is in very good hands.
It has been a distinct privilege to work with three unique and talented individuals who served as ICSOM Counsel. Lenny Leibowitz remains a legend, a bigger than life figure, who served during much of ICSOM’s history. I learned immensely from him and continue to use his advice on a daily basis. Special Counsel Mike Okun gave carefully considered and wise advice to us during a critical time for ICSOM as the governing board transitioned to the current organization found today. The truth is that I might never have become ICSOM president or even a delegate had I not met and worked with current ICSOM Counsel Susan Martin. Without Susan there would have been no AFM union certification cards signed in Kansas City in 1997, no ICSOM membership for the KCS in 1998, and no ambitious and progressive collective bargaining agreements that have proven crucial to the success of the Kansas City Symphony. I will forever be in Susan’s debt and am proud to call her my friend.
Every musician in ICSOM and across the AFM owes Chairperson Bruce Ridge an incredible amount of gratitude for the work he continues to do on our behalf. ICSOM has never had a better advocate or friend. Nor have I encountered anyone that approaches the most difficult of situations with as much thoughtfulness and integrity as Bruce. Over the past ten years we developed a close partnership and friendship that I will always treasure. Bruce and I have spent countless hours, sometime late at night, working through challenges and developing strategies to help solve issues on every conceivable level. One wonders how he finds time for his “day job”, as Bruce, from personal observation, works 24/7 for ICSOM.
In closing, I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve as your president. I would like to think of this as a transition for me, one that opens a door for a future ICSOM leader. In my new role as ICSOM EMC Chair, I will endeavor to work with you and the other committee members to uphold what is important to us while exploring new ways to promote our orchestras. I am never more than a phone call or email away, and I look forward to continuing my service to ICSOM.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize and thank my family (Jessica, Grace, and Robert) for all they have sacrificed in order to allow me to pursue this great passion and love of mine: ICSOM.