The 56th annual ICSOM conference was held August 22–25 and hosted by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Local 1. The conference was held this year at the Cincinnati Hilton Netherland Plaza, a magnificent historic hotel in the heart of downtown Cincinnati. The conference included the usual variety of reports, presentations and discussions. The schedule also included more opportunities for smaller break-out groups and closed sessions, which allowed the delegates to choose the topics and issues being discussed.
One of our pre-conference events is becoming an ICSOM tradition: delegates and guests arrive early enough on Tuesday to perform (and sometimes serve dinner) at homeless shelters and food pantries in the host city. This year was no exception; the volunteer event was held at the David and Rebecca Barron Center for Men. Musicians from the Alabama Symphony (Kevin Kozak), Atlanta Symphony (Michael Moore), Buffalo Philharmonic (Dan Sweeley), Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra (Matt Comerford), Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (Paul Frankenfeld), Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra (Debbie Brooks), Grand Rapids Symphony (Barbara Corbató),
Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra (Joseph Grimmer), Louisville Orchestra (Kimberly Tichenor, Bert Witzel, Dan Kasteen) and Nashville Symphony (Brad Mansell, Laura Ross), along with two attorneys (ICSOM counsel Kevin Case and Local 802 attorney Harvey Mars), entertained an appreciative audience on Tuesday afternoon.
Tuesday evening a number of delegates, local officers, AFM staff, and observing orchestra members attended the evening negotiating orchestras workshop, followed by a visit to the hospitality suite for some social time. Wednesday morning began with the customary new delegate breakfast, where new delegates hear about what to expect during the conference, meet ICSOM governing board members, and learn a little bit more about their duties and responsibilities as their orchestra’s delegate.
The conference convened midmorning on Wednesday with welcoming remarks from our hosts. This year, representatives from the four groups of stakeholders in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra—board chair Francie Hiltz, President and CEO Jonathan Martin, orchestra committee chair and ICSOM delegate Ted Nelson, and Local 1 President and Conference Coordinator Paul Frankenfeld—stood together to demonstrate their strong working relationship and to welcome the conference to Cincinnati. Peter McLinden, Secretary & Executive Officer of the Cincinnati AFM-CIO Labor Council, added his greetings as well.
ICSOM Chairperson Meredith Snow’s powerful address did not shy away from uncomfortable topics. She discussed the multi-employer pension crisis and specific issues regarding the AFM-EPF. She spoke about the League of American Orchestras and ICSOM’s ability to work with the League on issues of mutual concern and interest. She also addressed the non-union recordings in which ICSOM members are participating. Snow reminded attendees that “[w]e are living in a dangerous time for our democracy and there is no room for complacency or ignorance. We must reach out, educate and support our brothers and sisters, of all political persuasions, race and economic standing—not just in Union solidarity, but that’s a good place to start.”
ICSOM President Paul Austin spoke about the numerous successful and progressive ICSOM settlements during the past season. Wednesday afternoon, Austin moderated presentations from six ICSOM orchestras—Grand Rapids Symphony, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Utah Symphony, Louisville Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and Nashville Symphony—about special projects they had created within their own communities or abroad. Barbara Corbató and Paul Austin spoke about the Grand Rapids Symphony’s Music for Health initiative with Spectrum Health; Monica Fosnaugh explained the partnership between the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Detroit Pistons, Music Education and Diversity; Keith Carrick and Julie Edwards talked about the Utah Symphony’s Haiti Residency; Bert Witzel and Kimberly Tichenor spoke about the Louisville Orchestra’s salute to their hometown hero, the Mohammad Ali Project; Ted Nelson and Paul Frankenfeld discussed the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s multi-year project Lumenocity; and Bradley Mansell and Laura Ross spoke about the Nashville Symphony’s experience bringing the Violins of Hope to Nashville for two-and-a-half months.
Later that afternoon, AFM President Ray Hair addressed the conference, and in part discussed the proposed Butch Lewis act that would help certain multiemployer pension funds in difficulty; he also invited Local 257 Nashville TN President and IEB member Dave Pomeroy to perform a song Pomeroy wrote and sang at a rally in support of the Butch Lewis proposal, in Columbus OH. (Note: A recent report promoted changes to the Butch Lewis proposal that would exclude the AFM-EPF and other funds not yet in critical and declining status.) Following Hair’s address, conference attendees heard an updated AFM-EPF presentation from Trustees and Fund advisors, staff, and counsel. Presenters included AFM Trustees Ray Hair, Tino Gagliardi (Local 802 President), Brian Rood, and Laura Ross; Employer Trustee Bill Thomas (New York Philharmonic Executive Director); AFM-EPF Finance Director Will Luebking; actuary Bob Behar (Milliman); financial advisor David Druley (Cambridge, the AFM-EPF OCIO); and Fund attorneys Robert Projansky (Proskauer) and Zachary Leeds (Cohen Weiss & Simon). The presentation included Q&A from pre-submitted and written questions, followed by an opportunity for the delegates to ask questions from the floor.
That evening, conference attendees were treated to a wonderful reception at the newly refurbished Cincinnati Music Hall. Tours included a visit to the massive library that houses 125 years of music and scores for the CSO, Cincinnati Pops, Cincinnati Opera, and May Festival. Sadly, tours of the redesigned auditorium were not available because the floors were being treated. Guests were also able to try Cincinnati specialties—goetta sliders, Skyline chili (on spaghetti is the preferred method), and Graeter’s ice cream.
Thursday morning began with a number of reports covering ICSOM’s Directory and online presence, the AFM Strike Fund, and activities of the ICSOM Electronic Media Committee, which continues to negotiate the successor Integrated Media Agreement. Tony D’Amico, President of the Theater Musicians Association (TMA) was unavailable to participate in the panel discussion by the Players Conferences Council, so he spoke briefly about TMA’s activities. ICSOM welcomed back former ICSOM Chairman Bruce Ridge, who attended in order to announce the publication of his new book Last Year’s Words, and Next Year’s Voices, and distribute copies of it to delegates. Delegates also heard from the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund, which continues to add more ICSOM orchestras as they distribute royalties for digital broadcast payments.
ICSOM Counsel Kevin Case’s Thursday and Saturday presentations on Bookends of Bargaining covered how to prepare for negotiations, and what to do if your contract expires without an agreement. In the Saturday session, Randy Whatley of Cypress Media also participated and discussed examples from previous ICSOM work stoppages.
On Thursday afternoon, delegates heard from the Symphonic Services Division. SSD Director Rochelle Skolnick provided helpful information about dealing with sexual harassment in the symphonic workplace, and Symphonic Electronic Media Director Debbie Newmark discussed the role that orchestra committees play in decision-making and approval when working with the Integrated Media Agreement (IMA). SSD Negotiator Todd Jelen’s presentation addressed building solidarity through orientation.
Portions of Thursday and Friday were also devoted to small group breakouts. Trying out for the first time a type of breakout session that had been requested by delegates in the past, groups of delegates from symphonic orchestras of similar budget size met to compare notes on a variety of subjects, as did a group of delegates from pit orchestras. On Friday, Members-at-Large and their constituent orchestras met in small discussion groups during lunch provided by ICSOM. Two Town-Hall Meetings were convened for delegates and governing board members, which covered numerous issues raised by the delegates in a closed session.
Friday morning’s session began with a heartfelt message of gratitude from ICSOM Delegate Enid Collado, on behalf of her colleagues in the Orquesta Sinfónica de Puerto Rico, for the contributions sent by ICSOM orchestras following the island’s decimation by Hurricane Maria last summer. Players Conferences Council leadership—Meredith Snow (ICSOM Chair), Marc Sazer (Recording Musicians Association President), Bob Fraser (Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians President) and Mike Smith (Regional Orchestra Players’ Association President)—spoke about organizing efforts within their conferences.
Friday also included two presentations. The first, moderated by ICSOM Counsel Kevin Case, advised orchestra musicians how to best utilize their orchestra’s broker when dealing with their 401(k)/403(b) accounts. Brian Rood spoke about how the Kansas City Symphony musicians and other stakeholders oversee their 403(b) fund, much of it with the assistance of Jeffrey Gratton from SageView Advisory. The second presentation—a panel discussion moderated by Meredith Snow that included Los Angeles Philharmonic ICSOM Delegate John Lofton, Cincinnati Symphony Director of Community Engagement & Learning Ahmad Mayes, and Orchestrate Inclusion’s Jessica Schmidt—offered further data, exploration, and discussion of diversity within our orchestras. Lovie Smith-Wright, President of Houston Local 65-699 and chair of the AFM Diversity Committee, spoke briefly about AFM initiatives, and Rochelle Skolnick spoke about her participation with the League’s new program that will assist underrepresented musicians with mentorship and financial support to take the next step and audition for our orchestras.
Saturday morning, August 25, was Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday. To celebrate, attendees were treated to coffee and cupcakes before tackling the final important business of the conference—the resolutions. Delegates adopted five resolutions, which can be found on page 8.
Incumbents Meredith Snow, Michael Moore (Atlanta Symphony Orchestra), Peter de Boor (Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra), Dan Sweeley (Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra) and Greg Mulligan (Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, which was on tour during the conference) were reelected to their current positions. Dan Sweeley was elected AFM Convention Delegate to attend the AFM Convention next summer; Martin Andersen (New Jersey Symphony Orchestra) was elected as Alternate Delegate.
Next year’s conference, hosted by the Utah Symphony and Local 104, will be held August 21–24, 2019. We hope to see many of you there, as the ICSOM Conferences are open to any member of an ICSOM orchestra.