The 57th ICSOM conference was held from August 20–24, 2019, in Park City, Utah, not far from Deer Valley, where the Utah Symphony performs during the summer months. The conference—hosted by the musicians of the Utah Symphony, Local 104, and conference coordinator Julie Edwards—provided a respite from the August heat where delegates, local officers, and guests dealt with a jam-packed three-and-a-half days of presentations, open forums, and opportunities to meet with their colleagues from around the country. As busy as the schedule was, the delegates were offered multiple opportunities during breakouts and Town Hall meetings throughout the conference to hold open dialog with other delegates and the ICSOM Governing Board.
For many years, ICSOM President and Counsel have held a negotiating orchestras workshop on Tuesday evening, but for this conference, a negotiation presentation was instead included in the regular conference schedule. Another Tuesday event—a volunteer event in the host’s community—was scrubbed since Park City is a resort area and transportation issues interfered with scheduling an event this year. We hope it will continue in future years in other host cities.
Before the conference begins, and for more than 15 years now, the Governing Board has invited new delegates to a breakfast to help prepare them for the vast amount of information they are about to absorb. Delegates are the voices of their orchestras, but the conferences are not just about meeting other orchestra members—there’s not a lot of time to rest or sightsee. ICSOM conferences offer delegates the opportunity to meet and hear from the leadership of the AFM and Symphonic Services Division, to hear status updates about the American Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund, to learn about labor law, orchestra committee responsibilities, and insights into bargaining, and to discuss important issues of concern to our members around the country.
Following brief introductions and the first roll call of orchestras, there was a moment of silence to honor our friend and colleague, former Grant Park Orchestra ICSOM Delegate Dale Newton, who died suddenly a few weeks after the 2018 Conference.
Utah Symphony ICSOM Delegate Joel Gibbs, Local 104 President Michael Palumbo, Summit County (where Park City is located) Council Chair Roger Armstrong, Utah Symphony|Utah Opera Vice President and Chief Operating Officer David Green, and Utah Symphony|Utah Opera Lifetime Board Member Patricia Richards welcomed delegates and guests to the conference.
In her address to the conference, ICSOM Chairperson Meredith Snow (Los Angeles Philharmonic) called for our boards and managers to recognize their civic duty in supporting our orchestras in their service to our communities. “If we cannot learn to work together in an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust, in a shared vision of our future, our orchestras are not going to survive.” She said that we need to work together as equal partners—a triumvirate of powerful entities existing in relation to each other, creating a single organization in common cause. ICSOM President Paul Austin (Grand Rapids Symphony) used his address to share information about numerous positive ICSOM settlements, the Chicago Lyric and Chicago Symphony strikes, the Baltimore Symphony lockout, and two successful Calls to Action, along with numerous updates to ICSOM’s website and social media.
Following officer reports and officer nominations, delegates viewed videos about the history of Local 104, the Haitian Orchestra Institute founded by Utah Symphony members Yuki MacQueen and John Eckstein, a new work Transcend that was commissioned to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad, and audience commentary following a concert for the Hispanic community in Salt Lake City and the surrounding areas. Former ICSOM President George Brown, principal timpanist of the Utah Symphony, serves on the Diversity Task Force that includes management and musician representation along with the Mexican Consulate and staff.
Wednesday afternoon included a new installment of Orchestra Projects of Note. This year, Michael Sutton spoke about the Minnesota Orchestra’s South Africa Tour where they participated in the celebration of Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday; Zach Galatis talked about the collaborative work involved between songwriters and mothers through the Oregon Symphony’s Lullaby Project; Leelanee Sterrett described the New York Philharmonic’s celebration of New York City’s roots New York Stories: Threads of our City, featuring the world premiere of Julia Wolfe’s multimedia Fire in my mouth, about the lives lost in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire; Jordan Schifino explained that the Hawaiʻi Symphony’s Symphony of Hawaiian Birds was written by six different composers to celebrate activities protecting the Hawaiian Islands’ ecosystem; Rebecca Gilmore Phillips presented the Virginia Symphony musicians’ video interviews, which were produced to introduce the musicians to the five-city region of Hampton Roads that the orchestra serves; and Micah Howard outlined the Pittsburgh Symphony musicians’ activities raising funds, performing, and loading and delivering food for 412 Food Rescue.
Dr. Heather Malyuk, an audiologist with Soundcheck, spoke briefly about 3D-ME, a new hearing protection aid that she later offered for individual demonstrations. She thanked the National Symphony for their assistance during the development and testing process. ICSOM Counsel Kevin Case closed day one with a review of the past year’s negotiations and outcomes, which included the Chicago Symphony and Lyric Opera of Chicago strikes and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra lockout. The Mixer that evening, hosted by Local 104, was held on the patio of the Sheraton Park City Hotel and featured a small jazz ensemble. Delegates and guests enjoyed the temperate mountain weather and some toasted marshmallows at the fire pit for s’mores.
Thursday morning’s reports included one by ICSOM’s third AFM delegate, Member-at-Large Dan Sweeley (Buffalo Philharmonic), on the recent AFM Convention, and an explanation of the key changes to the newly ratified Integrated Media Agreement by ICSOM Electronic Media Committee Chair Brian Rood (Kansas City Symphony) and SSD Electronic Media Director Debbie Newmark. Following the AFM Symphony-Opera Strike Fund report, Paul Austin was appointed as trustee, replacing previous trustee ICSOM President David Angus upon his retirement from the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.
Following a panel discussion by Player Conference Council representatives, AFM President Ray Hair addressed the conference. In the afternoon, Local 30-73 President Brad Eggen, the recently appointed AFM-EPF Retiree Representative, was joined by two members of his Equitable Factors Panel, ICSOM Chairman Emeritus Brad Buckley (Saint Louis Symphony, retired, and current Secretary-Treasurer of Local 444) and Mike Merritt (a member of Local 47 and former member of the onstage band for Conan O’Brien). Attorneys Pete Rosene and Pamela Nissen, who have been engaged by Eggen, also attended to assist in the presentation about Eggen’s role as Retiree Rep, and to answer questions. SSD Director Rochelle Skolnick’s presentation about orchestra committees and their duty of fair representation (DFR) obligations rounded out the afternoon. Before dispersing for dinner, President Paul Austin and Secretary Laura Ross (Nashville Symphony) were reelected by acclamation. That evening the first Town Hall meeting, which is a closed session for delegates and the ICSOM Governing Board, was held.
Following elections on Friday, in which Keith Carrick (Utah Symphony) and Micah Howard were elected to two-year terms as Members at Large, Lovie Smith-Wright gave a brief AFM Diversity Committee report, and Kevin Case discussed the structure and funds of internal orchestra players associations and answered questions. This was followed by two presentations that continued our diversity discussion of previous conferences: Dr. Karen Yair (League of American Orchestras) shared information about the League’s Catalyst Fund that is assisting applicant orchestras as they address internal diversity issues, and Alberto Suarez (Kansas City Symphony) and Caen Thomason-Redus (Detroit Symphony administration) discussed the approaches their orchestras have been taking. The second discussion entitled “Meritocracy Myth” was a lengthy discussion and Q&A led by Weston Sprott (Metropolitan Opera), Alex Laing (Phoenix Symphony), and strategic consultant Shea Scruggs, that covered auditions, tenure, the use of screens, the role of music directors, and other issues. (Note: See “Advancing Inclusion” on page 1.)
The final day of the conference began with a moderated panel discussion addressing how orchestras maintain internal unity and engagement. Greg Mulligan (Baltimore Symphony Orchestra), Kimberly Tichenor (Louisville Orchestra), Micah Howard, and ICSOM Media Consultant Randy Whatley shared various stories and observations about their efforts during and following work stoppages. Delegates chose the Pittsburgh Symphony to host the conference in 2020 [dates will be August 19–22, 2020], and the Grand Rapids Symphony will host the 2022 conference, which will be the 60th anniversary of ICSOM; the Milwaukee Symphony was previously chosen to host the conference in 2021. The final business of the conference was to discuss and adopt resolutions, which can be found on page 8.
Note: the author is ICSOM secretary.