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Home » Officer Columns » Executive Board Members » ROPA: Maintaining Our Relevance

ROPA: Maintaining Our Relevance


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

Performing in an orchestra can be extremely rewarding, especially if you find yourself participating in an innovative performance that breaks down boundaries and makes an impact, not only with the audience, but the musicians as well. This past month, several regional orchestras, including the El Paso Symphony Orchestra and the Richmond Symphony Orchestra, produced Holocaust anniversary concerts that were highly valued by their communities.

In El Paso, the concert was a re-enactment of the propaganda-fueled performance of Verdi’s Requiem at the camp at Terezin for a visiting commission of the Red Cross. The hope of the Nazi’s SS, at the time, was to paint a picture of a wonderful camp as a diversionary tactic. The orchestra in El Paso recreated every aspect of the performance, down to the yellow stars, worn by the musicians. The reports from the participating musicians were that, involving members of the community and working under the vision of the Holocaust Museum, created a palpable and unforgettable emotional experience for all involved.

Another unforgettable experience was a regional orchestra’s concert with Nuevo Flamenco five-time Grammy-nominated German guitarist Ottmar Liebert. The outdoor performance was developed specifically for the orchestra and drew a record number of audience members. The ethnic diversity of the audience was striking. It also comprised many families of multiple generations, from teens to seniors.


ROPA at the 25th Anniversary in 2009.

Keeping an organization fresh and relevant is key to maintaining support from your membership. It is very easy to fall into a formula niche. Discovering new opportunities often takes willingness to risk the implementation of a new and meaningful concept. With that in mind, the Regional Orchestra Players  Association (ROPA) Executive Board works diligently to provide a unique conference experience at each annual meeting. Over the past several conferences, we have given presentations on staying healthy while performing and on preventing union member apathy. Finding topics that relate, not only to the ROPA Delegates, but also to the orchestras they represent, is a constant challenge. Continually developing and updating ROPA’s strategic plan gives the executive board direction. We are excited about finding the next “hot topics” to present to our delegates in Toledo this summer.

Taking time to understand and connect to the people you represent is part of creating success for an institution. ROPA is proud of its exponential growth since 2004. In the past 11 years we have added 25 orchestras. This increase in membership equates to more than 1,500 symphonic musicians with a total of more than 5,000 member musicians in ROPA. The significance that we are the largest players’ conference in the AFM is an honor to its founders. It is truly a credit to our membership that we are able to reach thousands of musicians throughout the country and give them access to information that makes their professional lives better.

Many of the new member orchestras have recently negotiated collective bargaining agreements for the first time and have discovered ROPA as a place to network. ROPA has always been an industry learning center for regional orchestras. We now have a large number of delegates who serve as officers and board members in their locals. We have seen increased participation from local officers at our annual conference. ROPA is pleased with the positive participation of our members in the orchestral industry in the US, as well as in their locals.

Our next step as an organization is to focus on our website and our social media presence. We are looking forward to the next edition of our newsletter, The Leading Tone. Our new editor, Lisa Bressler, is a member of three ROPA orchestras, and Locals 554-635 (Lexington, KY), 10-208 (Chicago, IL), 228 (Kalamazoo, MI), and 166 (Madison, WI). Her goal is to create a newsletter that will be innovative and increase interest and exposure. ROPA is excited about the role it will play in inspiring professional musicians for another 30 years.

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