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Home » Recent News » ROPA: A Decade of Growth

ROPA: A Decade of Growth


by Carla Lehmeier-Tatum, ROPA President and President-Secretary of Local 618 (Albuquerque, NM)

Carla-LehmeierIt is hard to believe that nine years have passed since I stepped into the position of Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA) President. I have served on the ROPA Board for more than a decade. During that time, I’ve watched the organization grow from 68 member orchestras to 87.

I am delighted to announce that the Boston Ballet Orchestra has voted to join ROPA. The ROPA Board would like to thank the Boston Musicians’ Association, Local 9-535, for its continued support in recruiting new members. I also received notice that the Annapolis Symphony has voted to join ROPA as an associate member. While unions have faced membership challenges, we are proud to see a 25% increase in participants. It is clear that musicians understand the importance of an industry affiliation where they can network and have representation at the national level.

This past spring, I attended a planning meeting in London for the 4th International Orchestra Conference hosted by the International Federation of Musicians (FIM). The conference will take place for the first time in North America—May 12-14, 2017, in Montreal. I was the only US representative present. The meeting was very productive. The participants were some of the most respectful representatives that I have had the pleasure to work with. Having a voice at this international forum was a strong reminder of influence ROPA can have. This was an incredible moment for ROPA musicians, to have such input. It was a bittersweet journey home as I recognized it would be one of the last meetings of such magnitude that I will be involved in. 

It has been an honor serving as ROPA president. After transitioning to a new work focus, I have decided not to run again. As a result, this summer’s ROPA Conference will be my last. I have been fortunate to organize the conference with the ROPA Board and the host orchestras and local. This unique conference has a new twist in that it will take place at the University of Wisconsin School for Workers—the oldest university labor program in the US, celebrating 90 years. Over the years, the ROPA Board has engaged labor schools in the region to provide global perspectives on unions. Labor school faculty will cover the following topics: connecting with younger members, cutting through the fog and myths of the union, how to jump-start your union, and how unions build community support. With the expertise of the AFM Symphonic Services Division, guest presenters, and the topics offered by the labor school, the 32nd Annual ROPA Conference will prove to be an empowering and stimulating opportunity for our AFM brothers and sisters.

I am proud of the work of ROPA and will always be grateful for its founding members and former AFM SSD Director Lew Waldeck who had the vision and the foresight to create this entity of the AFM. I have made so many friends during my many adventurous assignments and will miss working with such an amazing board. For the last decade we have worked diligently to be recognized by the AFM as the largest players conference in our union, representing more than 7,000 musicians, focusing on the relevance of ROPA through an extensive long-range strategic planning process. That work can be seen firsthand at our conference where ROPA Delegates, ROPA Board, AFM staff, local officers, and national representatives have the opportunity to network, learn new perspectives, and build strong connections within our union and industry. Please consider joining us July 26-28 in Madison. Conference information is available at

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