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Home » Symphonic Services Division » 2023 ICSOM Conference Travels to Milwaukee

2023 ICSOM Conference Travels to Milwaukee


by Laura Ross, ICSOM Secretary, Nashville Symphony, member of Local 257 (Nashville, TN)

The musicians of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO) and the Milwaukee Musicians’ Association (AFM Local 8) hosted this year’s International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) conference at the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee, August 23-26. A volunteer event on Tuesday afternoon included a performance at the Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin. Wednesday morning’s new delegate breakfast offered an opportunity for new and alternate delegates to get an early peek into the conference schedule.

The 61st ICSOM Conference opened with a series of introductions and welcoming remarks, followed by an address by ICSOM Chair Meredith Snow (Local 47/Los Angeles Philharmonic) reviewing the current state of our industry. In her final speech, after seven years as chair, Snow recognized that there have been positive changes but added that there is still a great deal more to do.

Delegates heard from Milwaukee Area Labor Council President Pam Fendt and newly elected AFM International President Tino Gagliardi. Attendees also listened to presentations by Caen Thomason-Redus from the League of American Orchestras (LAO) and Doug Hagerman, current LAO board chair. A mixer was held at the MSO’s beautifully refurbished hall—the Bradley Symphony Center. Some attendees arrived late, having taken part in a protest rally outside the location of the first Republican debate, just blocks from the hotel.

Thursday began with an AFM Convention report by Dan Sweeley (Local 92/Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra), who served as ICSOM’s third delegate. He spoke about the successful adoption of ICSOM’s Resolution No. 1, giving AFM Strike Fund trustees the ability to consider benefit payments for furloughs, in addition to strikes and lockouts. Speeches by the leadership of the Player Conferences Council followed.

Ken Shirk, newly elected AFM international secretary-treasurer, gave an interesting presentation and Debbie Newmark, AFM director of symphonic electronic media, spoke briefly as Symphonic Services Division (SSD) Director Rochelle Skolnick’s presentation was postponed to a later date. In its stead, ICSOM Counsel Kevin Case of Local 10-208 (Chicago, IL) gave a timely presentation on fellowships and the potential impact of the recent Supreme Court decision concerning affirmative action.

Afterward, breakout groups were led by Paul Austin (Local 56/Grand Rapids Symphony) and Keith Carrick (Local 104/Utah Symphony), Jessica Schmidt (principal consultant, Orchestrate Inclusion), and Newmark. The evening was reserved for the first of two town hall meetings between delegates, alternate delegates, and the ICSOM governing board.

Friday morning began with elections: Keith Carrick was elected ICSOM chair; Peter de Boor (Local 161-710/Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra) was re-elected treasurer, and Mike Muszynski (Local 3/Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra) was re-elected Senza Sordino editor. All four member-at-large positions were open because, in addition to Carrick’s unfinished term, Sweeley, Alberto Suarez (Local 34-627/Kansas City Symphony), and Kenneth Thompkins (Local 5/Detroit Symphony Orchestra) stepped down. Nicole Jordan (Local 77/The Philadelphia Orchestra) and Kimberly Tichenor (Local 11-637/The Louisville Orchestra) were elected to two-year terms, while Jessica Phillips (Local 802/Metropolitan Opera Orchestra) and Robert Schumitzky (Local 7/Pacific Symphony) were elected to one-year terms as members-at-large.

The tenure process panel was a highlight, as Kevin Case moderated a discussion between John Lofton (Local 47/Los Angeles Philharmonic), MSO Director of Operations Terrell Pierce, Detroit Symphony Orchestra Music Director Laureate Leonard Slatkin, and Jessica Schmidt. Following a delegate luncheon of orchestras grouped by budget size, Schmidt presented important information and insights about implicit bias in the orchestral workplace. A second delegate town hall was held while SSD staff met with local officers. The evening was free, but organized activities included a cruise, a museum tour, and a baseball game.

Unfortunately, some delegates tested positive for COVID during the conference and the Saturday session was cut short. Member-at-large elections were completed, future conference sites were selected, and delegates approved three ICSOM bylaw changes (one requiring additional ratification by ICSOM membership). Delegates adopted resolutions thanking members at large Suarez, Thompkins, and Sweeley for their service to ICSOM; Martha Warrington for work as webmaster; Barbara Corbató (Local 56/Grand Rapids Symphony) for administering the ICSOM online conductor evaluation program; and AFM emeritus officers Ray Hair, Bruce Fife, and Jay Blumenthal for their service to the AFM.

Resolutions also recognized the passing of ICSOM’s first female chair, Melanie Burrell, and the passing of Charlotte Symphony ICSOM Delegate Bob Rydel. Other resolutions expressed support for the AFM’s Fair Share Campaign, passage of the American Music Fairness Act, and the Performing Artist Tax Parity Act of 2023; as well as offered unanimous support of the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA strikes. The conference’s final resolution honored Meredith Snow for her leadership over the past seven seasons as ICSOM’s chair and conferred her emeritus status.

The 62nd ICSOM Conference will be hosted by the musicians of the Oregon Symphony and AFM Local 99 (Portland, OR) in August 2024.

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