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33rd Annual Conference of the Regional Orchestra Players’ Association

ROPA’s 33rd Annual Conference and Guiding Principles

by John Michael Smith, Regional Orchestra Players Association President, and Member of Local 30-73 (St. Paul-Minneapolis, MN)

As I am in the final days of planning the 33rd Annual Conference of the Regional Orchestra Players’ Association (ROPA), my first as president, I find myself looking back on earlier conferences that I attended. I think of the wonderful and informative presentations I have witnessed, the people I have met, the discussions, situations, and issues, which  came up that educated and empowered me, my colleagues, and others who have attended our conferences.

In 2011, at the ROPA Executive Board’s mid-year meeting in Phoenix (the location of this year’s annual conference), the board participated in a strategic planning session. The goal was to create a guiding document that would assist the board in defining ROPA and its role in the leadership of the organization.

What is ROPA? We are professional musicians of medium and small budget symphonic, chamber, ballet, and opera orchestras with AFM collective bargaining agreements. We are a service organization with more than 5,000 musicians and 86 orchestras represented in our membership. We represent these regional orchestra musicians as members of the AFM at national and international forums.

Who does ROPA serve? ROPA serves the musicians of our orchestras. We serve future musicians by protecting today’s jobs for tomorrow. We serve all orchestras—what affects one affects all. We serve the AFM. We serve the communities our orchestras play in. And we serve the elected representatives of those orchestras, the ROPA delegates, and orchestra committees of our orchestras.

Why does ROPA exist? ROPA exists to provide knowledge and tools to our musicians to assist them in establishing fair working conditions and to educate them about industry standards, labor law, procedures, and practices. ROPA also empowers and enables our colleagues to better their lives in their workplace and to organize and communicate with colleagues and their community when there are those intent on dismantling organized labor nationwide.

ROPA is a place for our member orchestras to turn to for support. We have established a forum for discussion of concerns, current trends, and solutions. ROPA provides assistance for orchestras in crisis with advice and information, and works to create fair collective bargaining agreements, working conditions, and compensation.

In what ways do we seek to accomplish our goals? Information sharing is key—orchestra to orchestra, musician to musician, players’ conference to players’ conference, and with the AFM; this is vital to our mission. Information is shared through email lists, our website, Facebook, telephone calls, our quarterly newsletter The Leading Tone, and of course, our annual conference. Within ROPA orchestras, we work to create an atmosphere of concern and commitment for our common cause. This is primarily done through our network of ROPA delegates selected by each orchestra and AFM local.

I encourage all AFM members who have an interest in orchestras, especially regional orchestras, to attend our annual conference August 1-3 in Phoenix, Arizona, at the Westin Phoenix Downtown Hotel. You can get more information and register for the conference and hotel on the ROPA website: ropaweb.org/support/2017-annual-
conference/. Members of ROPA orchestras and other interested AFM members may join our moderated email discussion list:

We are stronger together!

Finally, I wanted to give a huge shout-out and thanks on behalf of ROPA to the musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, members of ICSOM, for the generous contribution of $10,000 to the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s endowment campaign. This campaign included a provision where funds could be specifically designated for productions with live orchestral music. In 2005, the 49-member Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Orchestra was nearly eliminated in a cost-cutting move with the announcement of the use of recordings for the entire season. While the orchestra was able to return the following season, it was cut from five to two productions a season, where it has remained ever since. This is a huge show of support for their local ROPA colleagues!