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Home » Orchestra News » International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians Turns 60!

International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians Turns 60!


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

This year, ICSOM celebrated its 60th anniversary hosted by musicians of the Grand Rapids Symphony and Local 56 (Grand Rapids, MI), August 24-27 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton/Downtown Grand Rapids. Most delegates attended in person. Local 56 members ICSOM President Paul Austin, Delegate Barb Corbató, Conference Coordinator Jack Latta, and their Grand Rapids Symphony colleagues, along with Local 56 President Bennie Keys, pulled out all the stops to help ICSOM hold a very successful conference.

Delegates celebrated the 60th anniversary of ICSOM at the Embassy Suites by Hilton/Downtown Grand Rapids, August 24-27. Photo: Martin Hogan

Following the New Delegate Breakfast (held annually since 2004), the conference began with an introduction of the Governing Board, the roll call of orchestras, and welcoming remarks from our local hosts and dignitaries, including Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalyn Bliss and Grand Rapids Symphony President/CEO Mary Tuuk Kuras.

In ICSOM Chair Meredith Snow’s address, she spoke about ICSOM’s work to increase diversity, and the move by the Symphony Society of San Antonio to file for Chapter 7 (liquidation) bankruptcy. She reminded delegates that we are members of a labor union who can speak out. ICSOM President Austin spoke about his visit with the Puerto Rico Symphony, ICSOM’s Call to Action for the San Antonio Symphony, negotiations that have led to many progressive settlements in ICSOM orchestras, and the ICSOM DEI Committee project to launch a series of videos highlighting diverse musicians in ICSOM orchestras.
Highlights from the opening day of ICSOM’s 60th annual conference, August 24, 2022, Grand Rapids MI.

Wednesday afternoon included two panels. “Orchestra Projects of Note” included presentations by Dan Sweeley (Local 92/Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra), Karl Fenner (Local 148-462/Atlanta Symphony Orchestra), Warren Powell (Local 427-721/The Florida Orchestra), Greg Mulligan (Local 40-542/Baltimore Symphony Orchestra), and Helen Reich (Local 8/Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra), and a panel assembled by Cypress Media Group President Randy Whatley that included Brad Whitfield (Local 256-733/Alabama Symphony Orchestra), Amy Hess (Local 10-208/Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra), Mike Muszynski (Local 3/Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra), Doug Rosenthal (Local 161-710/Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra), and Ruth Lane (Local 6/San Francisco Opera Orchestra).

The final presentation of the day was by yelley taylor, a violinist and violist from the Bay Area, who shared their story and challenged the delegates, posing a series of observations based on interviews with approximately 20 to 30 Black and Latinx musicians and composers to provoke conversation and questions. The mixer, hosted by musicians of the Grand Rapids Symphony and Local 56, was held at the Downtown Market and was partially underwritten by Experience GR.

Thursday morning began with reports and presentations from player conference leaders, including newly elected Regional Orchestra Players’ Association (ROPA) President Stephen Wade (Local 400/Hartford Symphony). AFM President Ray Hair spoke about the history of wages for electronic media and why it’s critical we continue fighting for a fair share of streaming residuals.

After lunch, Symphonic Services Division (SSD) Director Rochelle Skolnick spoke about how the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision may affect bargaining for health care. Symphonic Electronic Media Director Debbie Newmark presented the new Local Players Association Promo Agreement. The day ended in breakout sessions and the first of two town hall meetings.

On Friday, San Antonio Symphony (SAS) Delegate Riely Francis of Local 23 spoke about the ordeal SAS musicians had suffered at the hands of the Symphony Society of San Antonio. He thanked ICSOM for its support and help throughout the past year. He then revealed the new name and logo for the San Antonio Philharmonic, the successor organization started by SAS musicians, following the bankruptcy filing.

ICSOM Counsel Kevin Case (Local 10-208, Chicago, IL) presented “‘Shut Up and Fiddle’: Political Expression in a Polarized America,” which explored various ways social media postings may or may not raise concerns by an individual’s employer and what, if any, legal issues could arise from those postings.

After lunch, Case posed questions to Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services (FMCS) Deputy Director of Field Operations Javier Ramirez. This was followed by a second town hall meeting for delegates, with a concurrent session for local officers and SSD staff together. That evening, optional activities were arranged for delegates and guests to enjoy a few of Grand Rapids’ many offerings.

This year’s volunteer event was a performance at St. Mark’s Breakfast Café for homeless individuals, and included a variety of ensemble performances by: Albert Suarez (Local 34-627/Kansas City Symphony), Paul Austin and Barb Corbató (Grand Rapids Symphony), Doug Rosenthal and Peter de Boor (Local 161-710/Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra), Jonathan Mueller (Local 11-637/Louisville Orchestra), Greg Mulligan, Laura Ross and Mindy Whitley (Local 257/Nashville Symphony), Ted Nelson (Local 1/Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra), Mike Muszynski, Brian Magnus (Local 444/Jacksonville Symphony), Debbie Brooks (Local 72-147/Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra), P.J. Cinque (Local 325/San Diego Symphony), Riely Francis, and Local 7 (Orange County, CA) President Edmund Velasco.

An American Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund presentation by Union Trustees Brian Rood (Local 34-627, Kansas City, KS) and Laura Ross was followed by an hour of Q&A with ICSOM Counsel Kevin Case. Ten resolutions were adopted at this year’s conference: remembering AFM EMSD Director Patrick Varriale and former ICSOM Secretary Nancy Page Griffin who died this past year, condemning the actions of the Symphony Society of San Antonio, offering support for the new San Antonio Philharmonic, honoring ROPA President Mike Smith as he stepped down, dealing with ticket sales issues, offering support for Ukraine, encouraging establishment of a single-payer health care system, further supporting the efforts of the Black Orchestral Network, and condemning the Supreme Court decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

ICSOM President Paul Austin was elected to a third term, Laura Ross was re-elected to begin her 21st season as secretary, and Keith Carrick (Local 104/Utah Symphony) and Ken Thompkins (Local 5/Detroit Symphony Orchestra) were both elected to two-year terms as members at large.

Next year’s conference will be hosted by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra musicians and Local 8 in August 2023.

­—ICSOM chair and president addresses and adopted conference resolutions are available at

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