Tag Archives: arts

New Silkroad Leadership Announced

Twenty years after founding the arts orPganization Silkroad, Yo-Yo Ma of Local 802 (New York City) is passing the baton to three of his collaborators. “I am thrilled to hand over artistic direction of Silkroad to Jeffrey Beecher [of Local 149 (Toronto, ON)], Nicholas Cords [of Local 802], and Shane Shanahan [of Local 802], three extraordinary colleagues who have taught me so much about collaboration, music, and friendship,” Ma says in a written statement.

“Together with Executive Director Eduardo A. Braniff, these inaugural co-artistic directors will shape the next chapter of Silkroad, bringing the passion and curiosity that we have developed to new communities and inspiring radical cultural collaboration that is essential to creating a better world.”

The new directors have pledged a commitment to diversity and inclusion across their board, staff, and ensemble, as well as among collaborators and in its audiences. “It is a commitment rooted in the belief that to ensure Silkroad’s continued impact on the world’s stages, in classrooms, and in our communities, we must engage an ever-broader coalition of voices, one that represents the many perspectives that shape our world,” the directors said in a statement.

They announced a series of US-based residencies for the next year and promised to unveil an “ambitious array” of new commissions “that frame a wide range of traditions, human experiences, and social issues.”

Make the Arts a Focal Point in Communities

by Robert Fraser, OCSM President and Member of Local 247 (Victoria, BC)

The International Federation of Musicians (FIM), of which the AFM is a member union, held its fourth triennial International Orchestra Conference (IOC) in Montreal, May 11-14. It was the first time this event was held in North America. I would like to thank all the organizers at FIM headquarters in Paris and the officers and staff of Local 406 (Montreal, PQ) for organizing a wonderful conference. You can find summaries of conference discussions on the FIM IOC website (ioc.fim-musicians.org).

If I had to summarize the conference in a “tweet” it would be: “Orchestras all over the world face the same challenges—some more than others.” Thirty nations were represented. I fully expected the room to be divided into “haves” and “have-nots”—nations that have traditionally shown support for artistic institutions, contrasted with those where symphonic music is seen as a frill, a symbol of a foreign (and not necessarily friendly) culture, or even a threat. Instead, what I observed were remarkable similarities.

Every orchestra struggles with its own mission, defining its place in society. Every orchestra faces the same funding challenges—even those with strong government support. And every orchestra faces the challenges of the new reality in media. In every country, the burden of creating an orchestra’s recorded legacy and media presence is falling away from broadcasters and record companies, and onto the orchestra managements.

The organizers of FIM IOC are to be commended for reaching out to orchestra managements to participate in their conferences. Orchestras Canada held its annual conference during the same week as the Montreal conference and shared a common day with the FIM IOC. I have always believed that management/musician cooperation and collaboration, where appropriate, can only make our organizations stronger.

At the FIM IOC it was a thrill to hear both of OCSM’s Montreal-based orchestras perform in the same week: the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal and the Orchestre Métropolitain. Both performed in the beautiful Maison Symphonique. Sitting in this hall built in 2011, made me think about Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations this year.

Arts Infrastructure in Canada

When Canada turned 100 in 1967 (and a number of provinces celebrated centennials shortly after), there was a lot of investment in performing arts infrastructure in Canada. Do an Internet search for “centennial concert hall” and you’ll see what I mean. Since then, however, not much has changed. Performing arts infrastructure hasn’t always kept up with the growth of our artistic institutions, the ever-increasing demands of population, and ever-changing community policies. Canadian cities that have been fortunate enough to build contemporary concert halls have done so through private-public partnerships, which aren’t always possible in mid and small population centres like Halifax, Nova Scotia; Victoria, British Columbia; or London, Ontario.

Canadian orchestras and our partner organizations in the ballet and opera world have grown immeasurably since 1967, yet many of our organizations are “homeless.” They rent facilities to perform in that, in some cases, were not designed to accommodate a symphony orchestra. They have nowhere to store a library or equipment, and they have no base of operations to engage in the ever-increasing activities that are expected of modern orchestras (supporting artists in nonsymphonic genres of music, making use of multimedia enhancements, or recording).

Aside from a much-needed new home for the Stratford Festival in Ontario, and a renovation at Southam Hall at the National Arts Centre, there is nothing on the radar in this sesquicentennial year—but it’s not too late. Let’s see what we can do to make the arts a focal point of our communities.

As always, I look forward to the round of player conferences this summer—ROPA, TMA, OCSM, and ICSOM. I hope to see many of you there. Have a great summer.

Washington, DC, Arts Advocacy Season

Late winter and early spring is the time for organized arts advocacy in Washington, DC. AFM President Ray Hair makes an annual trip to Washington, DC, to lend his leadership to our legislative-political mission. The results are always highly successful, not just for AFM musicians, but for musicians across the country. Hair’s presence raises the status of all artists, as well as all other workers in arts and entertainment disciplines, who are affected in some way by the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of government.

In February and March, our advocacy work extended across a range of government platforms. This is a brief round-up of our activities.

AFM President Hair’s
Policy Visit to Washington, DC

OC Alfonso Pollard pic 1 State Department Meeting Principles2

(L to R) National Symphony Orchestra Violist and International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) Governing Board Member Jennifer Mondie; State Department Program Officer Julia Gomez-Nelson; Chief Cultural Programs Division for the State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Amy Bliss-Iacoella; AFM President Ray Hair; and AFM Legislative-Political and Diversity Director Alfonso Pollard.

On March 14 and 15, Hair, National Symphony Orchestra Violist Jennifer Mondie, who is also on the governing board of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM); AFM Director of Touring, Theatre, and Immigration Michael Manley; and AFM Canada Executive Director Liana White joined me in Washington, DC, to lobby on a broad range of issues.

Hair’s first stop was at the US Department of State where he was hosted by the Cultural Diplomacy Division, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Chief Amy Bliss-Iacoella. The purpose of the meeting was to open doors with the State Department relating to cultural exchange for professional musicians interested in travel abroad as representatives of the US Government. A more in-depth report will follow in the May 2016 International Musician.

The day concluded with a reception for Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY 10) to discuss HR 1733, the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, as well as the progress of his congressional race. Nadler is the original sponsor of the Fair Play Fair Pay bill along with Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN 7).

On March 15, Hair and his staff participated in an hour-long visit with Representative Bennie Thompson (D-MS 2) who serves as the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss possible solutions to delays in P-2 and O-1 visa processing by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) service centers in Vermont and California.

During the meeting, we also raised our objections about visa approvals by USCIS that were counter to the AFM negative opinion letters for groups with flawed applications that the AFM does not believe meet federal immigration guidelines. Work on resolutions to these issues is moving forward; we are confident that solutions will be forthcoming.

That afternoon, Hair and I attended a meeting of the US Trade Representative Labor Advisory Council (LAC) at the office of the US Trade Representative. The LAC is responsible for providing reports on trade agreements to the President, Congress, and the Office of the US Trade Representative at the conclusion of trade agreement negotiations. The meeting agenda and council deliberations are confidential. During the meeting, Hair brought up important issues related to trade.

At the end of the day, we joined labor affiliates at a reception for Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-LA 2) at the United Union’s building. Richmond graciously gave Hair and me a 15-minute audience to discuss the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, as well as immigration. He is a member of both the House Homeland Security and Judiciary committees.

On March 16, I attended a reception for
a great friend of the AFM, Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY 25). In addition  to being the ranking member of the powerful House Rules Committee, Slaughter is a founding member and co-chair of the House Arts Caucus that helps deliver member support for federal arts programs, in particular the National Endowment for the Arts. Her decades-long support for the arts in America, as well as her ability to organize members of Congress around our issues, is priceless. The AFM is committed to helping her remain in the US Congress.

Arts Advocacy Day

(L to R) AFM Director of Touring, Theater, and Immigration Michael Manley, AFM Canada Executive Director Liana White, AFM President Ray Hair; and AFM Legislative-Political and Diversity Director Alfonso Pollard.

(L to R) AFM Director of Touring, Theater, and Immigration Michael Manley, AFM Canada Executive Director Liana White, AFM President Ray Hair; and AFM Legislative-Political and Diversity Director Alfonso Pollard.

Each year, the AFM serves as a national cosponsor for Arts Advocacy Day. This event brings more than 500 arts advocates to Washington, DC, to make the case about the economic and cultural value that the arts bring to communities across the country. In addition to the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy at the Kennedy Center and a White House briefing on administration-supported federal arts programs and policy, a broad range of arts-related issues are lobbied with House and Senate members, and their staff. These meetings leave an indelible impression about the power of the arts to make positive change in our communities.

Arts Advocacy Day, hosted by Americans for the Arts, is recognized on the Hill as one of a few important Washington, DC, arts-related conferences trusted by federal leaders. A few of this year’s issues were: arts education funding and policy, support for the National Endowment for the Arts and other federal arts agencies, charitable giving and tax policy, visa processing and cultural exchange, and support for public broadcasting.

Recently Introduced
Arts Legislation

On February 8, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), along with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), introduced S 2510, the Arts Require Timely Service Act of 2016 (ARTS Act), which codifies O and P visa processing times. The bill, as outlined on the Library of Congress website: “… amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to adjudicate O and P visa petitions (nonimmigrant visas for aliens with extraordinary ability or achievement, and athletes, artists, and entertainers) within 14 days after receiving such petitions and related documents. The bill grants premium visa processing without charge to a petitioner that is a nonprofit arts organization, if DHS does not meet the deadline for adjudicating a visa petition.”

The ARTS Act was introduced in the 113th Congress and passed out of the Senate. However, it failed for the lack of House action on immigration reform.

On March 8 (Arts Advocacy Day), Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) Introduced S 2648, the Comprehensive Resources for Entrepreneurs in the Arts to Transform the Economy Act of 2016 (the CREATE Act). It provides for a host of new arts-related tax proposals in addition to arts-related proposal expansions into such federal programs as the Small Business Administration; Departments of Commerce, Agriculture, and Homeland Security; the Internal Revenue Service; and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to name a few. The objective is to create arts-specific programs that help entrepreneurs in the arts to take advantage of federal program business guidance and funding.

Tell Your Arts Story

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1965 signing of the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act, on September 29, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has launched a special site where the public can share their story of the arts via a simple form.

Anyone and everyone is invited to visit arts.gov/tell-us-your-story and share how the arts are part of your day, how the arts have inspired you to do something unique, how they have made a difference among you and your family, as well as in the communities and neighborhoods in which you live. Also, if there is a specific NEA grant that has had an impact on you and your community, let us know.

Starting September 29, the NEA will begin posting stories on its website and promoting them across our social media. Depending on the volume, the NEA may not be able to include all stories and material it receives.

The NEA Needs Your Support Now

The House is currently considering legislation that funds the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and other cultural agencies. Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY), who is the Congressional Arts Caucus co-chair, is urging musicians to remind their members of Congress about the importance of arts and arts funding. Efforts to increase NEA funding from $146 million to $2 million, as requested by President Obama, have so far failed. We are currently hoping to maintain level funding for the NEA, and to reject any attempt to reduce it. Share this Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts and to get your message of support across visit: https://www.votervoice.net/ARTSUSA/Campaigns/41478/Respond.