It has been said that one acting alone could get the job done quickly, but that they may go farther and have a greater impact by including others in the process. With that ensemble spirit in mind, here are a few examples of how ICSOM and the AFM have been working together recently for the furtherment of our membership.
As an example, the delegates of our orchestras have repeatedly requested a mechanism that lets them create and share media projects to help promote themselves to their communities. ICSOM and the AFM have engaged in conversation about how to craft an agreement that allows such activity for several years, and I am pleased to say that those talks have led to the creation of the AFM Local Player Association Promo Agreement. Approved by the AFM’s International Executive Board last summer, this new agreement allows media products that would highlight the musicians while empowering the Union to protect the rights of those musicians. We encourage all musicians’ associations to review the attached document and to keep it in mind for upcoming opportunities.
For many years, the AFM, ICSOM, and ROPA have made annual visits to the New World Symphony (NWS) in Miami to give a panel presentation to the Fellows there about AFM membership. Coordinated by the NWS, this visit provides a chance for us to speak to the next generation of symphony musicians about the importance of being good orchestral citizens. This was my second year attending this event as the ICSOM representative, this time with Debbie Newmark and Rochelle Skolnick of the AFM, ROPA President Steve Wade, as well as Chas Reskin (President) and Jeff Apana (Secretary/Treasurer) from the South Florida Musicians Association (AFM Local 655).
After we introduced ourselves, we asked each Fellow to introduce themselves to us and describe their past experiences with the AFM. Quite a few Fellows had joined a Local while playing as a substitute member of an ICSOM orchestra, and the majority held a positive image of the AFM. However, the chief concern that Fellows expressed to our panel involved recent audition procedures. While some examples that the Fellows gave to us actually were allowable, as the language in that orchestra’s CBA had been followed, our panel recognized their level of frustration and definitely heard their voices. We also took the opportunity to make the Fellows aware of the AFM Audition Hotline (330-322-2265) where they can anonymously report future instances that seemed unfair to them.
This year the NWS event included a tour of their facility, a demonstration of their state-of-the-art media control room, and tickets to attend a concert. It was very meaningful for me to see and hear the Fellows, whom I had met just that afternoon, in a performance that evening (which ended with music by Michael Tilson Thomas, who was in attendance and spoke to the audience afterward). Our NWS hosts were very gracious with their time, and ICSOM looks forward to future opportunities to join the AFM and ROPA in speaking with NWS Fellows to assist in training the next wave of our membership.
Since the trip to NWS took me to the area, I tagged on visits to ICSOM’s two orchestras in Florida so that I could meet with musician committees and their Local officers. For both the Jacksonville Symphony and The Florida Orchestra (TFO), I attended their concerts, met with musicians and committee members, and spent time with their Local officials.
Prior to the NWS event, my time in Jacksonville included a visit to Local 444 Union offices in the building that the Local has owned since the 1960s. With a residential construction project happening across the street, no doubt that their property value will be increasing. Nearly all of their Local’s Executive Board members are Jacksonville Symphony musicians.
After my time in Miami, I flew to Tampa and traveled to St Petersburg to meet with the Orchestra Committee of TFO and their AFM Local Secretary/Treasurer Richard Sparrow (AFM, Florida Gulf Coast, Local 427-721). TFO musicians have always had the unique situation of performing in different venues equally for their orchestral season, which presents challenges that other ICSOM orchestras do not face.
My time in the Florida gulf coast included finally meeting TFO violinist Mary Corbett, who graced the cover of the AFM’s International Musician in December 2022. Having interviewed her for ICSOM’s DEI monthly video series Musician Profiles: Celebrating Racial Diversity, it was wonderful to speak with Mary in person so that we could discuss pertinent topics of the day. In addition, I also had the opportunity to speak with other TFO musicians, especially Warren Powell (who led the charge for TFO musicians to join ICSOM in 1987 and has been their first and only ICSOM delegate, serving now for 36 years!).
Upon hearing a pops concert by the Jacksonville Symphony in Jacoby Symphony Hall—an amazing acoustical space with an impressive pipe organ—and a performance on the chamber music series by The Florida Orchestra in Clearwater—in a beautiful Gothic-revival church built in 1925—it became very apparent that these ICSOM musicians are dedicated to performing live symphonic music to Florida audiences and will go to great lengths to do so. Both concerts were nearly sold out, with just a few open seats in the house. After the concert in Jacksonville, an usher politely asked when I would be returning for another concert. And the next day I received a thank-you email that went to all new ticket buyers and included a video message from Jacksonville Symphony’s Music Director Courtney Lewis, which was a very nice touch.
In creating a new media agreement for our musicians’ associations, speaking with the next generation of orchestral players, and observing the support of AFM Locals in our two ICSOM orchestras in Florida, it is clear that we continue to strengthen connections between ICSOM and the AFM. We look forward to attending the national AFM Convention in Las Vegas in June 2023.