ICSOM recently launched a highly-successful Phone2Action (P2A) initiative to support the musicians of the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra (PRSO) in their “Save the Symphony” campaign.
Long before the global pandemic, the salaries and pension of the PRSO musicians, as well as the funding for their prestigious Casals Festival, were in jeopardy. With a proposed 50% cut to the orchestra’s budget by the government’s Fiscal Oversight Board (FOB), announced in early 2020, musicians and management were deeply concerned that this would destroy the musical and educational mission of the PRSO, which has been a steadfast presence in Puerto Rico for many decades (most recently in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria).
With the capable assistance of ICSOM’s Public Relations consultant Randy Whatley (President, Cypress Media Group), ICSOM worked with the PRSO Musicians and AFM Local 555 (Puerto Rico) to prepare a P2A letter in both English and Spanish. The P2A was announced and launched during the September 15th Facebook Live “Save the Symphony” event hosted by AFM Local 555 and the PRSO Musicians (recorded and available on their Facebook page, @TuSinfonicaOSPR Músicos de la Orquesta Sinfónica de Puerto Rico).
It was an honor to be a panelist for this hour-long Facebook Live event, along with ICSOM Chairperson Meredith Snow and former ICSOM Chair Bruce Ridge. We spoke of the many reasons that the PRSO should be funded and preserved. ICSOM Delegate Miguel Rivera (PRSO trombonist and President of AFM Local 555) joined our panel and provided Spanish translation of our statements as well as his personal insights.
Within 72 hours of its launch, ICSOM’s P2A campaign generated thousands of email messages from hundreds of participants to the candidates for Governor of Puerto Rico, urging them to include support of funding for the PRSO in their campaign platforms as well as arrange a meeting with PRSO musician representative Miguel Rivera to discuss the orchestra’s concerns.
As a result of these efforts, the PRSO situation was included as a main topic of a political debate of the candidates for Governor of Puerto Rico, which addressed the importance and impact of the arts and cultural institutions. In addition, the FOB agreed to consider releasing financial resources that had previously been unavailable to the PRSO.
This was a tremendous win! The requests outlined in ICSOM’s P2A letters had been honored by those in political power. While our P2A played an important role in the success of the “Save the Symphony” campaign, it is the tenacity of the PRSO Musicians and AFM Local 555 that must be recognized. Jose Manuel Villegas (Secretary-Treasurer AFM Local 555 and PRSO violist) and Felipe Rodríguez (Board Member of AFM Local 555 and Principal Trumpet of the PRSO) were a driving force in this masterful campaign, coordinating multiple social media posts each day which included many members of the PRSO. Their stories personalized the campaign, and all posts concluded with ICSOM’s P2A link. I would also like to recognize and thank José Martín, former ICSOM Delegate and PRSO Timpanist, for his contributions to “Save the Symphony” and the P2A, and for his many years of dedicated service to the orchestra.
In all, this was a very significant advocacy campaign, for which ICSOM’s P2A played a key role. In less than three weeks, over 1800 people sent more than 25,000 letters to the people who may control the future of the PRSO. The majority of the P2A responders were Puerto Rican residents, which enabled the gubernatorial candidates to hear from their constituents.
In order to have a successful campaign for the PRSO, it was vital to reach the people in power very quickly. Thanks to this P2A we did so and, in the end, our voices were heard and honored.