A while back, one of my colleagues suggested that the ICSOM conference was nothing more than a big social gathering. Unfortunately, I suspect they were not the only person to have that perception. Few people know about the time and effort the Governing Board, along with the host orchestra and Local, put in to the planning of these four days to ensure that each year’s conference has the very best information about negotiations, contract administration, and other important issues of mutual interest. It makes me sad because it suggests that the information delegates learned at the conference may not have made its way back to their orchestras as intended. Or, it could be that the information was shared with the orchestra committee but did not filter down to the rest of the orchestra. It’s also possible my colleague didn’t read the conference report in Senza Sordino or take advantage of the wealth of information, including conference minutes and documents from the conference, available to ICSOM members on the ICSOM website.
When ICSOM began in 1962, the representatives from ICSOM’s first member orchestras were the leaders of their committees and their orchestras. They spoke with authority. Decades have passed since then but ICSOM remains relevant. Our orchestras continue to send their leaders to these conferences to share and receive important information. Over the years the Governing Board has had periodic conversations about the role of delegates within their orchestras and their attendance at the conference each year. With such busy lives and responsibilities it’s hard to find time to carve a week out of the summer to attend a conference, but from my own perspective I have found attendance at these meetings to be one of the most rewarding experiences ever. Even when there are subjects I may be well informed about, I can always find some new piece of information, an idea, or a new approach that hadn’t occurred to me previously.
This year I will be attending my 30th conference. The first, in 1988, was as a host orchestra for ROPA. I caught the bug and couldn’t wait to run for delegate so I could spend the time building relationships with other orchestra delegates. I knew those relationships would be vital when I had questions or needed suggestions about issues that were going on in my orchestra. It’s that opportunity to share your experiences with others who have faced the same issues in their orchestras that made conferences so special. Over the years these acquaintances, colleagues, and friends have offered advice about all sorts of matters my orchestra has dealt with, and their recommendations have been incredibly helpful in resolving many issues.
In my orchestra, as in many others, our players’ bylaws state that the ICSOM delegate serves as an ex officio member (meaning by virtue of being elected as delegate they serve as a member of the orchestra committee, the negotiating committee, or both) in recognition of all the information shared at these conferences. Let’s face it, we’re musicians first and foremost. What do we know about labor law and enforcing contracts? ICSOM was formed not only to give musicians a better forum in which to communicate with each other; it was also formed to give orchestra leadership the chance to talk and learn about labor law, to help us enforce our agreements, and talk about trending issues in the orchestral world, such as dealing with amplified concerts, diversity within our organizations, education programs, the pension fund, health care, etc. It also gives us the opportunity to meet first hand with orchestra leaders, with AFM leadership—the AFM International Executive Board and Symphonic Services Division staff attend every conference—and with many of the attorneys currently representing our orchestras at the bargaining table.
The conference this year will be no different. The Cincinnati Symphony will host this year’s conference from August 22–25—Wednesday through Saturday. There will be reports of activities over the past season, interactive presentations about issues of concern to our orchestras, and breakout sessions for smaller groups of musicians to speak about issues together. There will be the traditional mixer on Wednesday evening when all conference guests—Delegates, Governing Board, AFM and Local officers and staff, attorneys, other Player Conference representatives, and orchestra musicians—will have the opportunity to tour Cincinnati’s upgraded concert hall, taste Cinci’s famous chili (or infamous, depending on your regional preferences), and get to know others attending the conference.
We would like to extend an invitation to orchestra leaders and their membership, especially those of you who may live within a few hours of Cincinnati, to consider attending the ICSOM conference this summer, even if only for a day or two. The conference packets were mailed to delegates at the end of May; conference registration and hotel reservations at the historic Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza will be available at http://www.icsom.org/conferences/register/index.php through July 30, 2018. Please contact your delegate or email me at email@example.com if you are interested in attending the conference this summer. I hope to see you there.