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Home » Articles » Organizing » 2014 ROPA Conference Celebrates 30 Years


2014 ROPA Conference Celebrates 30 Years

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by Karen Sandene, ROPA Secretary and Member of Locals 463 (Lincoln, NE) and 70-558 (Omaha, NE)

The 30th Anniversary Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA) Conference convened in August in Pasadena, California. This special anniversary conference, with the theme: “Creative Change Through Creative Channels,” provided opportunities to examine ROPA’s history and role in serving musicians, and how it will effectively continue.

ROPA President Carla Lehmeier-Tatum’s address to the delegates stated, “The 30 years of advocacy in ROPA was built by people like you, and we must respect what they have provided and earned for us today. We have a very special calling now, and that is to take the vision of the first 30 years and build an even stronger future, together with the musicians of ROPA, the delegates of ROPA, the players’ conferences, our locals, and the American Federation of Musicians.”

ROPA founding members Nathan Kahn, Chris Durham, and Dennis Danders were honored with plaques for their work on behalf of ROPA orchestras and their members. A film was created that features interviews with founders, past and current officers, and current ROPA delegates. In addition, California US House Representative Judy Chu presented a Certificate of Congressional Recognition (pictured right), congratulating ROPA for “extraordinary achievements and outstanding accomplishments.”

Following a year of working with a strategic plan created as a result of last year’s conference activities, two topics received special focus at this year’s conference. One topic was to examine ROPA’s place within the greater labor community. Several speakers highlighted the importance of the labor movement and collective bargaining in improving the lives of workers, including Los Angeles County Federation of Labor Executive Secretary-Treasurer Maria Elena Durazo.

The other topic of emphasis dealt with effective messaging to publicize our message to others. Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) Deputy Director James Elmendorf and Cypress Media Group President Randall Whatley presented components of comprehensive messaging for labor campaigns and public relations. Caroline O’Connor, director of communications for the Screen Actors Guild Foundation, showed how Twitter could be a useful tool for communications. Musician representatives from the San Diego Opera presented public relations strategies that were used during its recent struggle.

Another area of focus dealt with the health and wellness of orchestra members. Rochelle Skolnick, AFM Symphonic Services Division counsel (Schuchat, Cook & Werner), presented the topic “Legal Protections for Ill or Injured Musicians.” MusiCares Senior Director Harold Owens and Evan Wilson discussed services provided by MusiCares. Actors Fund Western Region Director Keith McNutt explained how services provided by the Actors Fund could also be utilized by musicians.

The Conference included addresses by AFM Vice President Bruce Fife, representatives of all of the AFM players’ conferences, and several AFM Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) officers. An important educational component for delegates were break-out sessions covering a variety of topics, including “Pit and Stage Safety”; “Can’t We All Just Get Along? Handling Harassment, Bullying, and Other Conflicts Between Musicians While Fulfilling Your Legal Duty of Fair Representation”; “Orchestra Committee/Union Steward Basics”; “Social Media”; and “Financial Planning.” Delegates also had the opportunity to work in small groups with ROPA members-at-large, to discuss their orchestras’ situations and to look for common threads and possible solutions to issues.

Throughout the conference, representatives of the Symphonic Services Division (SSD) provided a wealth of knowledge, and were available for valuable one-on-one contact with delegates. We thank SSD Director Jay Blumenthal, Negotiator Nathan Kahn, Director of Symphonic Electronic Media Debbie Newmark, Chief Field Negotiator Chris Durham, Counsel Rochelle Skolnick, and Contract Administrator/Communications & Data Coordinator Laurence Hofmann for sharing their expertise with delegates.

We offer our sincere appreciation to conference hosts, Local 47, Local 47 President Vince Trombetta, Local 47 Secretary-Treasurer and Delegate to the AFM Convention Emeritus Gary Lasley, Pasadena Symphony musicians, and numerous hard-working local volunteers. We would also like to extend special thanks to Conference Coordinator/New Mexico Philharmonic Delegate Linda Boivin of Local 618 (Albuquerque, NM), ROPA Board Member/Pasadena Symphony delegate Maurice Grants of Local 353 (Long Beach, CA), and Local 47 for their outstanding work assisting the ROPA Board in presenting a well-run conference.

We look forward to next year’s conference in Toledo, Ohio.

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