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Home » Officer Columns » Player Conferences Are Essential to the Promotion of Internal Member Involvement

Player Conferences Are Essential to the Promotion of Internal Member Involvement

  -  AFM International President

Each August, I have the pleasure of attending the annual meetings of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM), the Regional Orchestra Players’ Association (ROPA), the Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM), and the Theater Musicians’ Association (TMA). ICSOM, ROPA, OCSM, TMA, together with the Recording Musicians Association (RMA), comprise five intermediate bodies within the AFM known as player conferences.

Player conferences promote internal member involvement by providing forums for musicians from similar workplaces throughout the Federation to share their experiences, to identify, articulate, and prioritize their needs and discuss and develop plans of action to address those needs. The flow of accurate information from the workplace to local and Federation officers and staff from rank-and-file committees, through their conferences, is vital to our support toward the bargaining of our members’ collective agreements, as well as efforts to organize additional meaningful employment for musicians.

I find it extremely beneficial to attend player conference meetings. It demonstrates that despite differences in instrumentation, wage scales and benefits, or the hundreds or thousands of miles separating our members by country and venue, we all share the same fundamental problems—exploitation by employers and managers who make way more from our labor than we do, but who couldn’t do what we do as musicians in a million years.

Player conferences elect their officials by a vote of delegates from constituent workplaces. A consistent goal of my administration has always been to maintain close working relationships and clear and effective lines of communication between the Federation and all conferences, including our geographical conferences.

Player conference leaders perform an important role in our union—they channel musicians’ attitudes, experiences, opinions, hopes, and desires directly to the union from the workplace, so that, as a team, we can organize to bargain and bargain to organize. After my election as your president nine years ago, I supported a policy of rotating player conference leaders as monthly columnists in the International Musician.

This month, I am reintroducing AFM’s player conference leaders in this column, each with a bit of biographical information. They are wonderful people and I enjoy working with them. I’d like to thank them for bringing their energy, dedication, and commitment to bear on behalf of their talented constituents as we continue to build real unionism and a unity of purpose for the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada.

ICSOM Chairperson Meredith Snow, a graduate of the Juilliard School, has been a member of AFM Locals 802 and 47. She began her career as a violist with the Colorado String Quartet, then San Francisco Opera Orchestra, and for the past 30 years has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. She was elected as a delegate to ICSOM in 1991 where she served as a member-at-large to the ICSOM Governing Board until her election as ICSOM chairperson in 2016.

OCSM President Robert Fraser became secretary-treasurer of AFM Local 247 Victoria, British Columbia, Canada in 1991 early in his career as a trombonist with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra. He continued to serve as an officer of Local 247 until 2002. He became a union activist as a result of his experiences as a local union officer and also, he says, because he was inspired to activism by the leadership of Canadian locals, the player conferences, the Federation leadership and Federation senior staff. Robert represented the Victoria Symphony as a delegate to OCSM from 1999-2003, then served as OSCM secretary from 2003 through 2013, when he was elected as president of OCSM.

ROPA President John Michael Smith. A bassist in the Minnesota Opera Orchestra, John Michael’s involvement in ROPA began in 2007, serving first as an alternate delegate and later as delegate to ROPA from the Minnesota Opera Orchestra. He began his performing career with the Norfolk (VA) Symphony, has been a member of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, and has performed, recorded, and toured with both the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Minnesota Orchestra. He was elected to the ROPA Executive Board in 2011 and became president in 2016. John Michael also serves as chair of the ROPA Electronic Media Committee and served on the AFM’s negotiating team for the recently concluded Integrated Media Agreement (IMA). He is an active freelancer in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and is a Life Member of Local 30-73

RMA International President Marc Sazer is an active performer both in the recording studios of Hollywood and in Southern California concert halls. Marc has performed for innumerable film, television, recording, and other media projects, from TV shows like Animaniacs and Pinky & the Brain to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Empire, films from My Big Fat Greek Wedding to the currently-scoring Star Wars Episode IX, to records for Shirley Horn, Frank Sinatra, and Randy Newman. He is a current a member of the Pasadena Symphony, and has performed with virtually every orchestra in the Los Angeles area. He currently serves as first vice president of the LA Chapter of the Recording Musicians Association, and international president of RMA. He has been at the forefront of campaigning for fair contracts, fair tax credits, and fair employment for AFM musicians.

TMA President Tony D’Amico. A freelance bassist in the New England area, Tony performs regularly with the Boston Pops, Boston Philharmonic, Rhode Island Philharmonic, and Portland (ME) Symphony Orchestra. He also performs with locally produced and touring theatrical musicals when shows are presented in Boston. He is a member of Boston Local 9-535 and Providence Local 198-457, has served on the Executive Board of Boston Local 9-535 since 2001, and has served on that local’s theatre committee for many years. He founded the Boston TMA Chapter in 2006 and was elected as TMA president in 2016.

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