By Paul Austin
What’s in a number? This column addresses the sixties in three different ways: the 60th anniversary of ICSOM, the decade of our founding, and ICSOM’s dedicated musicians who both were born in the sixties and have reached that age (or will do so soon).
2022 marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of ICSOM. It is a pleasure and an honor to host our significant celebration in Grand Rapids, Michigan on August 24-27, 2022 (watch for further details at www.icsom.org). While the event will again be hybrid—held both live and via Zoom—we hope to have as many as possible attend in person should the pandemic be at a point where everyone feels safe in doing so once again.
As our organization enters its sixties, ICSOM continues to hold importance and relevance for the livelihood and careers of orchestral musicians. Formed with twenty charter member orchestras in those turbulent sixties, ICSOM began as a means for its musicians to have an active and respected voice in the industry. ICSOM membership has grown to include over fifty orchestras today. Looking back at the conference minutes from the 1960s, ICSOM immediately addressed important concerns, including the following:
AFM relations, which led to the founding of the Symphonic Services Division and musician representation on national media negotiations;
Internal communication, resulting in ICSOM’s newsletter Senza Sordino, which remains our official publication today;
Contractual issues, such as hiring and tenure procedures, which then became bargained and are included in current Collective Bargaining Agreements;
National matters, supporting non-discrimination and equal rights, endorsing the 1963 Fine Arts Bill, and communicating to US President Lyndon Johnson in 1964 about having an ICSOM representative on the newly-formed National Council for the Arts.
ICSOM’s website includes the official minutes from all past conferences, and I would encourage our membership to browse these archives (https://www.icsom.org/conferences/conf-minutes.php) in order to become knowledgeable of the work that has occurred.
A sizable number of ICSOM musicians who were born in the sixties will reach that age and perhaps may retire during the current decade. Many of those players have been active leaders and should be recognized for their service on elected committees.
In any group, its strength lies in being able to carry forth and prosper once a change in leadership occurs. No chairperson would want to see their dedicated efforts fall to the wayside once they are out of office. Before they retire, I strongly encourage ICSOM’s veteran musicians to identify potential leaders among their ranks and begin mentoring them for the next wave of committee members.
It has been encouraging to see a new generation of delegates in recent years who do an excellent job of representing their orchestras to ICSOM. In fact, we have welcomed over thirty new delegates during the past four years, which reflects a change of well over half of this group. Just one example of ICSOM’s younger delegates is Brad Whitfield of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. Brad and the OC have led the charge for the ASO Musicians who now have an incredibly active voice both in their community and on social media. ICSOM’s legacy will continue as long as we continue to have new delegates like Brad who step forth with fresh ideas to energize their colleagues for participating in musician-sponsored activities (https://alsymphonymusicians.org). Brad told me recently that he was encouraged for several years by the ASO’s longtime ICSOM Delegate Kevin Kozak to become involved in leadership roles. I thank Kevin for passing along the torch!
For membership on negotiation and orchestra committees, it is up to the next generation of ICSOM members to move up and take the reins in order to uphold and continue the work and achievements that have been established and reached. AFM’s Symphonic Services Division provides online training for orchestra committees (https://members.afm.org/ssd/ssd-skills), but ICSOM and our locals are always available to support new committee members.
Whether it be our upcoming conference, our founding decade, or our seasoned players, let’s celebrate the sixties.