By Laura Ross
At the 54th ICSOM Conference in Washington D.C. this August, Bruce Ridge will step down from his 10-year tenure as ICSOM’s longest-serving chairman. As I reflect upon our relationship and our work together, he has been a treasured friend whose accomplishments have been remarkable; I am the better for this wonderful collaboration.
I was elected ICSOM Secretary in 2002, two years after the Nashville Symphony joined ICSOM. Within four months after that election, the governing board had radically changed—the governing board’s top five officers and two Members-at-Large were new to the board or to their positions. A key issue we were focused on the first few years was to address concerns that many felt ICSOM had lost its way and questioned its relevance.
In 2004 I was grateful to have the opportunity to get to know Bruce as more than just an eloquent advocate of orchestra-hosted conferences when he agreed to serve as Member-at-Large when Jay Blumenthal was elected as Financial Vice President of Local 802 (NYC). Bruce joined a board that was assisting in the search for a new AFM-Symphonic Services Division director, considering whether to accept an invitation to join the American Symphony Orchestra League (ASOL) board, and discussing reports issued by a task force sponsored by the Mellon Foundation. In fact, it was following a meeting in Pittsburgh with members of this task force that Bruce experienced what he and others dubbed “Bruce’s fateful cab ride”, when ICSOM President Brian Rood and Member-at-Large Richard Levine (later Senza Sordino Editor), convinced Bruce to run for Member-at-Large during the upcoming conference. Thank goodness Bruce did run because we have been the beneficiaries of his leadership ever since!
The following season the governing board dealt with numerous issues, but key amongst them were electronic media issues and negative press articles predicting doom and gloom for the orchestra industry.
To address the direction of ICSOM, a Vision Committee consisting of Bruce, Steve Lester from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Henry Peyrebrune from The Cleveland Orchestra (all three Members-at-Large at the time), presented ideas at the 2005 conference that were meant to counter the negativity orchestras encountered at home, and encouraged orchestra musicians to be proactive by reinforcing the importance and contributions of orchestras to communities. Bruce delivered “A Message of Hope” speech that became his mantra in the years that followed. The message was simple: in order to counter the pessimism and negativity within our industry, we must elevate the tone of the debate with a positive message. He also encouraged musicians to work with their boards and communities to build relationships that foster understanding, and demonstrate that orchestras have relevance.
At that conference, Brian Rood stepped down as ICSOM President and Bruce was elected to replace him. During this next season, Bruce’s leadership skills were demonstrated over and over again as he offered to mediate difficult situations, be the bearer of bad news, meet with ICSOM’s newest member orchestra in Puerto Rico, and to participate in the joint ASOL/ICSOM Collaborative Data Project (CDP)—intended to evaluate data from ASOL Orchestra Statistical Reports (OSR) and AFM Wage Charts in order to design a more accurate financial reporting model.
Bruce was elected Chairman at the 2006 conference hosted by the Nashville Symphony and Local 257, as we were preparing to open the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Building collaborative working partnerships, along with a strong belief that orchestras offer a positive message about its industry, became constant guiding principles during Bruce’s tenure. These past ten years had high and low periods in which creativity, imagination, heartbreak, amazing demonstrations of solidarity, and unimaginable generosity have been exhibited.
Bruce’s accomplishments have been impressive, and I will undoubtedly leave something out, but what is most important to remember is that he, like every other serving ICSOM chairperson, governing board member or delegate, is a full-time member of his orchestra (the North Carolina Symphony). Like many Governing Board members, he has also served on orchestra and negotiating committees. But perhaps uniquely in Bruce’s case, he has traveled almost weekly with his orchestra. I honestly don’t know where he has found the time to do everything!
He was a speaker and panelist at International Federation of Musicians (FIM) conferences, at League conventions and meetings, at the University of Michigan’s Second Orchestra Summit, and he testified before Congress. He has spoken and taught for a number of years at Roosevelt University in Chicago, and met with New World Symphony associates during annual visits with the AFM Symphonic Services Division in Miami. He represented ICSOM at OCSM, ROPA, RMA and TMA conferences, speaking and participating in panel discussions and workshops. He attended rallies and marches to support orchestras in crisis, such as the Labor Day March for the Detroit Symphony in 2010 and the Hartford Symphony Rally in September 2015. Since 2007, and again this summer, he has addressed the convention delegates at the triennial—and previously biennial—AFM conventions. During non-convention years he has earned the respect of, and built working relationships with, Local Conferences Council (LCC) officers and the Players Conferences Council, so that each group now attends the other group’s meeting with the IEB.
Attending meetings has been another of Bruce’s responsibilities. CDP meetings, which continued into the 2007-08 season, were originally intended to test whether ICSOM could work with the League before agreeing to join its board. (We later declined the League’s invitation.) Bruce, Brian Rood, and I attended Mellon Foundation meetings to review the Flanagan Report—input that was mostly disregarded—and led to our condemning the report as misleading when it was published.
Bruce has been a prolific writer during his term. He has written a column for every issue of Senza Sordino since taking office, articles for the International Musician two to three times each year, and numerous editorials and letters to editors, managers, and board members whenever an orchestra requested his support. And to lend credence to his concerns about transparency, Bruce first sent nearly every article, letter, and speech to the governing board for comment to ensure we were all onboard with his message. He has made himself available for television and radio interviews to speak positively about orchestra successes and the documented recovery of arts contributions and attendance. He also initiated much of ICSOM’s increased digital footprint: soliciting designs that produced the ICSOM logo and 50th anniversary logo; updating and upgrading the ICSOM website to provide information and archival materials to ICSOM members, delegates, emeritus members and the public; established ICSOM’s Facebook page, and the Twitter account that has more than 8,000 followers; and he recently worked with ICSOM Editor Peter de Boor to bring Senza Sordino online in a form where individual articles can be shared on social media. And in 2012, to celebrate ICSOM’s 50th anniversary, Bruce and the governing board engaged a videographer to assemble a history of ICSOM’s formation that included interviews with many of ICSOM’s early founders and officers. (The video and Tom Hall’s “ICSOM: The First Fifty Years” can be found on the ICSOM website.)
Over the past 10 years, Bruce has visited more than three-quarters of ICSOM’s membership, some multiple times. As one of the ICSOM chair’s most important activities, during every visit he met with the orchestra, its orchestra and/or negotiating committees, the local officers and even—if they’re willing and the orchestra agrees—management and board representatives. If the schedule permitted he listened to the orchestra perform or rehearse. During those visits he speaks about the many successful orchestras around the country and offers ideas on orchestra advocacy within that orchestra’s community. And then there has been the success of ICSOM Calls to Action that have helped so many orchestras during lockouts and strikes as orchestras stepped up to support one another. Since the very first Call to Action, more than $1.5 million in contributions have been received from ICSOM, OCSM and ROPA orchestras, individual musicians, RMA and TMA members and Locals.
Bruce Ridge is respected worldwide by orchestra musicians and leadership, union officers, rank-and-file musicians, and more than a handful of managers. Please join me in offering thanks and best wishes in whatever future endeavors he might choose. But first, I think he deserves a long vacation with lots of time to sleep and a nice stack of books to read.
By Brian Rood
From 2006-2015 it was my pleasure to serve alongside Bruce Ridge in what was a remarkable partnership, one that I will always treasure. Our friendship began in 1999 when we met at an ICSOM Conference in Vail, CO. I was somewhat intimidated and intrigued by the imposing yet soft-spoken delegate from North Carolina. During one session Bruce rose to ask if we might consider moving conferences around the country to cities where our orchestras may benefit more from ICSOM’s presence. Like others I was impressed with how convincing he was. Equally intriguing was how he made everyone feel at ease by weaving in stories and humor as he tackled what proved to be a fairly controversial topic. Soon afterwards ICSOM began its now long-standing practice of holding conferences in ICSOM orchestra cities around the country. Bruce set those wheels into motion by doing something better than anyone else I know. He builds consensus by inviting differing viewpoints rather than imposing his will on others. During our service together I cannot recall a single time when he chose his way over the rest of the governing board. Due to Bruce’s inclusive and collaborative approach governing board members quickly developed friendships that made our work together more productive and rewarding.
The ability to bring people together comes naturally to Bruce because of who he is as a person. We know that he is a charismatic speaker and skilled strategist. It is his unlimited compassion towards others that is unique. Time after time I watched Bruce treat people he knew and those he first encountered in exactly the same way, with genuine interest, kindness and empathy. But it is Bruce’s uncompromising integrity under the most difficult circumstances that truly defines him.
Those of us fortunate enough to work with him on the governing board and at annual conferences know that Bruce devoted all of his waking hours to us these past ten years. It is a wonder how he ever found time for his “day job”.
ICSOM and the orchestral field will continue to benefit from Bruce’s vision and innovations long after he leaves office in August.
ICSOM site visits are just one example. Bruce has visited about three-fourths of our orchestras, many more than once. Naturally, site visits include meetings with the musicians and committees. Early in his tenure Bruce began to meet with orchestra board chairs, executive directors, community leaders, AFM local officers and the media, too. In meeting with as many constituencies as possible Bruce set into motion what has proven crucial to an orchestra’s ability to turn the proverbial corner: rebuilding relationships that allow stakeholders to realize their orchestra’s potential and not to succumb to those who insist that orchestras are becoming extinct.
Two of the many important partnerships Bruce initiated include Randy Whatley, who continues to guide orchestras towards successful public relations strategies and Randy Cohen of Americans for the Arts.
Calls to Action became increasingly important under Bruce’s leadership due to the unprecedented attacks on our orchestras. Through grass roots efforts over $1.5 million have been donated from musicians within ICSOM and the AFM to assist orchestras in crisis. Calls to Action also raised awareness of issues before AFM Conventions that directly impacted ICSOM musicians. Musicians responded en masse by meeting with their local officers to ensure that AFM Convention committees heard their collective voices.
Bruce recently visited San Antonio during a critical time for the musicians. A few weeks later major funding support was announced that should erase this year’s deficit. The accompanying news article included several quotes from Bruce. They offer excellent examples of his inspired vision and message of hope that resonate as clearly now as when he took office in 2006.
“What’s needed now is investment, this moment should be used as an opportunity by the community and its leadership to recommit and to invest. The H-E-B Performance Hall is beautiful, but it is only a building without a living orchestra filling it with music.”
“Every note a musician plays is a message for peace, it’s a statement of anti-violence. Music brings us together in society and in the world, which we need now more than ever. The musicians in your orchestra are as remarkable off-stage as they are on-stage because of their commitment and their love of the city.”
Bruce, thank you for your extraordinary friendship to musicians everywhere. ICSOM truly is a “united network of friends” due to your leadership and vision.
Note: the Author is ICSOM President Emeritus
By Robert Fraser, OCSM/OMOSC President
The Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM) first met Bruce in 2006, at our Conference in Winnipeg. I was Secretary of OCSM at the time, and I remember taking notes during his address to us. Part way into his speech, I stopped typing and just listened. I knew that, by the end of his address, I would ask him for a transcript of it for our newsletter. And by the end of that day, several OCSM Delegates approached me and asked: “Do you think we could get a transcript of Bruce’s speech?” Since then, Bruce has attended all our Conferences save one, and by the time he steps down as Chair of ICSOM, he will have been to every Canadian province with an OCSM orchestra. And each time he has addressed us, he has done so with great clarity of vision and passion for the art of music.
OCSM is a small gathering; we are usually fewer than 30 people around one big table, so everyone takes part in our Conference in a significant way. Bruce has been a valuable part of that discussion around the table at OCSM for the past ten years. His passion as an arts advocate will surely be a big part of his legacy on both sides of the Canada/US border, and the “Calls to Action” to assist orchestras in trouble have also become an example of international co-operation. But we will also remember the incredible camaraderie he has with all of us, which certainly will continue.
On a personal note, as OCSM President I often find myself travelling to artificially-lit meeting rooms in not-so-glamourous locations, with the mandate to “fix all the things”. Whenever I feel the dread of such duties upon me, I will often cheer myself up by reminding myself: “At least I get to hang with Bruce.”
Bruce has said several times—and I believe I have an actual sound recording of it somewhere—that OCSM is his favourite Conference (sorry, ICSOM and ROPA!). On behalf of OCSM I would like to return that compliment, and say that Bruce Ridge is one of our favourite (with a “u”) people.
By Carla Lehmeier-Tatum, ROPA President
Bruce Ridge has been a true advocate for symphonic musicians and for the art form. We are ever indebted for his selfless work to provide resources to union symphonic musicians. Bruce has reached out to assist thousands of musicians each year, providing hope and sound solutions to issues at hand. He has been the most accepting and gracious ICSOM leader that ROPA has had the privilege to work with. I am honored to call Bruce Ridge a friend and will truly miss working with an individual of such high integrity and esteem.
By Michael Moore, ICSOM Treasurer
I’ve known Bruce since he was a delegate from his orchestra in 1993. He was a leading proponent of moving the annual conference from Vail to various cities where its presence could hopefully have the most impact on the local orchestra. He was always extremely thoughtful and articulate, even as a first-year delegate. I’m sure it never occurred to either of us at the time that he would become the longest-serving Chair of ICSOM, through some of its most turbulent recession-driven times. He never shied away from hard work or the potential for conflict when he believed he was in the right. He was a master at walking the line between strong leadership and consensus building. For every important action he took while on the Governing Board, he always sought the approval of the remaining Board members first. We were constantly in the loop. Every trip he took was pre-approved, his expenses were as low as possible, and sometimes he refused reimbursement for legitimate ICSOM expenses. He established the concept of the Call to Action, a device whereby millions of dollars poured into orchestras experiencing work stoppages, including my own. He was very Social Media savvy, and was very open to working with Randy Whatley, a watershed moment that changed the symphonic landscape. Bruce made sure that our Governing Board conference calls and meetings were always highly organized and productive. He was an ICSOM Treasurer’s dream Chairman, and a great friend both to the field and to me personally. I’m hoping he will accept the invitation to remain involved with ICSOM on some level for many years.
By Matt Comerford
Sending my heartfelt thanks and best wishes to Bruce Ridge, the longest serving chair of ICSOM. It’s been an honor and privilege to know and work with Bruce as a leader, a colleague and most importantly a dear friend. Bruce set the gold standard for ICSOM Chair through his selfless dedication and service to orchestra musicians everywhere. His has been the strongest voice extolling the positive message of the benefits the arts and arts organizations bring to their communities.
Note: the Author is a former Member-at-Large
By Beth Lunsford
It’s said that human beings can’t multi-task. But Bruce is the exception to the rule. This past decade, as he led ICSOM to a new level of cohesion and effectiveness, he also served as the North Carolina Symphony’s Orchestra Committee Chair countless times. We are a traveling band, so the middle seats of the second bus served as his second office. Balancing iPad and cell phone, he worked through our local orchestra issues and CBA negotiations, all while writing articles, crafting speeches, planning orchestra site visits, and updating ICSOM’s social media posts. Despite his many duties, he always found time for the personal issues of our musicians. Requests for help were never turned away. Bruce’s dedication to orchestral music and the people who perform it has been unwavering, and for that we will always be grateful.
Note: The Author is the former ICSOM Delegate and current Alternate Delegate from the North Carolina Symphony
By Member-at-Large Paul Austin
During my time on the ROPA Executive Board, I had many opportunities to work directly with Bruce Ridge, ranging from serving on committees to sharing the lectern. The first thing that I learned was to always deliver my speech before his. Bruce has a true gift for public speaking, and anyone following him would pale in comparison.
Last summer, after the GRS joined ICSOM, Bruce visited Grand Rapids. His schedule was packed with many meetings, but I managed to reserve time to drive him to a state park for a hike that ended at the sand dunes of Lake Michigan. The hike took longer because I followed “blue” signs (which I thought indicated the water) instead of the “yellow” signs (which indicated sand dunes). Eventually our path opened to an incredible view, spanning a rare, private area of Lake Michigan. My missteps on our journey were forgotten by both of us, as this moment of calmness and serenity became imprinted in our memories.
Bruce, you are and will always be one tough act to follow. Thanks for showing us a different path, one that can take longer in many ways but, in the end, be even more worthwhile and meaningful.
By Francine Schutzman
Bruce Ridge is my hero. Every time I read something that he has written, or hear him speak, I am struck with the utter rightness of his words. He has been the most effective spokesperson for orchestra musicians throughout North America that one could imagine. We are all lucky to have benefitted from his leadership during his term as Chair of ICSOM. On a personal level, Bruce has taught me, impressed me, inspired me, made me think, amused me, told me some fantastic stories, provided a sympathetic ear when I most needed it, and made me laugh when I needed that even more. I hope that he remains a large part of all of our lives.
Note: the Author is the former President of OCSM/OMOSC
By JoAnn Falletta
I first met Bruce Ridge in Norfolk, when he had come down to offer his assistance during a particularly challenging time for the Virginia Symphony. I asked Bruce if he could speak to us during a rehearsal, and I will never forget listening to his words of compassion, support, encouragement, vision, and love for his colleagues. From that evening, Bruce has been a hero to me. In a profession that is often fraught with conflict, he is the vibrant example of finding the best in every aspect of our world. He remains a dreamer and an idealist, determined to bring people together rather than driving them apart. His ten years have been an example of courageous leadership and personal integrity on the highest level. He is an inspiration to all of us, and I am proud to be able to call him my friend.
Note: The Author is the Music Director of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
By Cathy Payne
I first met Bruce when we were students at the New England Conservatory, but we barely knew each other in school. After all those years of passing him in the hallway, it was an incredible experience to finally get to know him and to work closely with him on the Governing Board as we both entered the middle phase of our orchestral careers and dealt with epic lockouts and strikes in several ICSOM orchestras. Bruce was somehow able to inspire more people with each crisis, and to work harder and be even more effective as the bad news mounted. I learned so much from Bruce; I try to carry his passion for our art form and his dedication to musicians with me every day.
Note: the Author is a former Member-at-Large
By Mike Okun
A Haiku for my friend Bruce
Courageous, Smart, Kind,
Committed, Honest. In all:
Rare and Wonderful.
Note: The Author is former Interim ICSOM Counsel