After ten years of dedicated service to ICSOM, Bruce Ridge has stepped down from the position of Chair. His visionary leadership has raised the profile of ICSOM and changed the public dialogue around classical music and the health of our orchestras. Bruce has touched the lives of countless musicians through our Call To Action advocacy and the utilization of social media. I am honored to have been elected to take his place. It is with tremendous gratitude to Bruce and our Delegates, and no small amount of trepidation, that I take up where he has left off.
In 2001, I was every inch the “What does ICSOM do for me besides the Directory?” orchestral musician. When our then Delegate, Lyndon Taylor, stepped down, I drew the short straw on our Orchestra Committee and by default became the new ICSOM Delegate.
“Damn, well at least it’s in San Diego. I can just drive down there…”
What I found when I arrived changed my mind forever. At the time, the controversy over the negotiation of our national media agreements was just beginning to brew. In an effort to make recording more accessible for all our orchestras, the contracts were being re-negotiated using the infamous “IBB” (interest based bargaining) method and undergoing wholesale revision. The proposed changes would completely transform the pay scale and working conditions of the then-current agreements. Lines that had already been drawn in the sand were just becoming apparent at the conference. This was grassroots democracy in action—people who cared passionately about their orchestras, their colleagues and the future of our business, making a stand for what they believed to be right and fair. The ensuing melee nearly tore ICSOM apart. But over the next few years, dialogue, at times frenzied, ensued and compromise was made. We found common ground. What began as divorce proceedings ultimately became the Integrated Media Agreement.
It is this passion and caring that is the strength of ICSOM and the hope for the future of our orchestras—and by extension, our society. The seeds you water, grow. We, the musicians of ICSOM, have a singularly intimate, hands-on understanding of the power of music to connect, to create commonality, and to build something greater and more beautiful than we could hope to achieve alone. Which is not to say we realize that ideal every day, being as subject to human fallibility as the next. But we unerringly know music to be a mainline to the human soul. We know its power to unite the hearts and minds of all who play and all who listen. It is that to which we have dedicated our lives and our livelihoods. To quote Bruce in his final address to ICSOM, “This we do with our lives for a reason. This is who we are. We are musicians, and we stand for beauty, peace, understanding, and compassion at a time when the world has never needed us more.”
My experience at that first conference in 2001 opened my eyes to the power and vitality of ICSOM, and the possibilities for change that we can facilitate. Our storehouse of knowledge and experience, both historic and present day, provides a unique perspective on the business of orchestras. We have the potential to revolutionize the landscape in which we work. Bruce has laid the groundwork by calling out the purveyors of negative messaging and beginning a dialogue through social media. Next, we should begin to identify areas of mutual agreement with our boards and managers and work together to create stronger institutions. While some conflict is inevitable, it is important to explore avenues to limit collateral damage.
To me, that has always been the nature of ICSOM: to find common ground and help our industry thrive, to understand the needs of our communities, in-house and out, to lend assistance where needed, and—dare I say it?—to help our managers manage better. We hold in our hands the power to cultivate unity and understanding, to nurture compassion and community. We strive to empower our orchestras because they inspire the best of what the human spirit has to offer.
So we stand with our brothers and sisters in Fort Worth because they are fighting for so much more than a paycheck. They are fighting to preserve a cultural institution that elevates the human spirit and finds unity in a world of discord. By joining together through ICSOM, we can ensure the survival of our art, enrich the lives of our audiences, and help inspire the next generation of musicians.