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Canadian Orchestras Reach Out

Canadian Orchestras Reach Out to Broaden Their Audiences

by Bernard LeBlanc, Director AFM Symphonic Services Division Canada and Christine Little Ardagh and Steve Mosher, Associate Directors AFM Symphonic Services Division Canada

Steve-Mosher Christine-Little-Ardagh Bernard-LeBlancGlobally, symphony orchestras have had to creatively engage with their communities and audiences in the past several years to increase their health and sustainability, and Canadian orchestras are no exception. These four orchestras from different regions of the country are trying new ways to communicate with and educate the younger generation, while they develop broader audiences across all age groups. These are examples of the kind of innovation being developed by many of today’s music organizations.

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) in British Columbia has been extending its profile within the community and building new audiences with a busy and far-reaching summer season. Their yearly concert at Deer Lake Park in Burnaby is free to the public and attracts as many as 10,000 people each year. They also regularly perform at Bard on the Beach, an outdoor theatre festival.

Their most exciting new initiative is in Whistler, British Columbia. In summer 2013, they began performing free outdoor concerts at the Whistler Olympic Plaza. In 2014, they created the Vancouver Symphony Orchestral Institute. Run in conjunction with the concert series, it offers students aged 15 to 25 a once-in-a-lifetime comprehensive orchestral training program. The young musicians, who audition to take part, play in the Whistler Institute Orchestra, rehearse and perform chamber music, attend master and repertoire classes, and receive instrument-specific instruction from faculty. Student and faculty recitals, as well as a concert featuring the Whistler Institute Orchestra, are added to VSO concerts to create an exciting and diverse audience experience. This year students will perform Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Don Juan, by Strauss, directed by VSO’s Maestro Bramwell Tovey.

Orchestre Symphonique
de Montréal

Across the country, in Québec, the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal (OSM) is planning the fifth season of its very popular La Virée Classique. The orchestra generally kicks off the event on a Wednesday night with a free concert that draws tens of thousands of people to the esplanade of the iconic Olympic Stadium. This year’s opening performance will feature excerpts from Gustav Holst’s The Planets, conducted by OSM Music Director Kent Nagano. In celebration of athletes from Canada and around the world who inspire us, 100 young Québec athletes will participate. In the four-day program renowned guest soloists will perform with the orchestra, as well as with OSM musicians in chamber music concerts.

The 2016 lineup comprises chamber music concerts, orchestra concerts, and many activities to interest and entice a wide range of audience members, including children. Last year children were treated to face painting and a make-your-own-instrument atelier. There are informal talks such as a Q&A corner with OSM musicians, conducting 101, and workshops featuring musicians and their instruments. This enormously popular festival takes over the whole of Place des Arts, with all five halls hosting concerts and special stages set up for various activities. Incredible momentum and excitement builds during the program. By the time the last note of the last concert is played, everyone is on a high! The concerts are priced accessibly at $10 to $40. This year’s 30 concerts, scheduled to run August 10-13, include 19 that are free.

National Arts Centre Orchestra

The National Arts Centre Orchestra’s Alexander Shelley has been music director of this Ottawa orchestra since September 2015. One of his first initiatives was the commissioning and creation of Life Reflected, a multi-disciplinary piece blending music, literature, dance, photography, and film. Shelley, in researching the culture and history of our country, was inspired by the stories of four remarkable Canadian women, each determined to find her own voice despite extremely difficult circumstances. Creative Producer Donna Feore, who collaborated with Shelley for two years in the creation of this new work, was key to its successful production. The four women featured in the work are author Alice Munro, astronaut Roberta Bondar, poet Rita Joe, and the late Amanda Todd, a teen victim of cyberbullying.

All of the music was commissioned and written specifically for this project by four talented Canadian composers. All of the audiences’ senses are engaged with the inclusion of a live singer, several actors, dance on film, and graphic design elements, with the orchestra as a “character” in the piece. Included in the May premiere of the piece were apprentices of the Institute for Orchestra Studies, a program established by former NACO Music Director Pinchas Zukerman nine years ago to help prepare talented young musicians for successful careers.

Orchestra London

Musicians of Orchestra London, in London, Ontario, have had a challenging two years. In December 2014, operations of the ensemble were shut down due to massive budget shortfalls, and in May 2015, the organization formally filed for bankruptcy. In spite of these setbacks, the musicians were able to self-organize and have continued to be creative in their ongoing efforts to promote their orchestra and classical music within their community, through collaboration with other local arts organizations, and performances in new and sometimes unusual places. They tweet and have a constant, and sometimes humorous, presence on Facebook, in addition to their website and blog.

In October 2015, the musicians invited Londoners to take part in an online survey as a way to engage the community in future planning and strategizing. In 2015,
#WePlayOn (former musicians of Orchestra London) performed more than 15 concerts to keep up their visibility and profile. These were planned entirely by the musicians and put on using private donations and ticket revenue, as well as donated services. They have honoured Orchestra London subscriber concert tickets for their performances in restaurants, churches, and high school auditoriums. As the musicians say on their website, they have “boldly and ambitiously played on” because they believe their community deserves a professional orchestra, performing live music, right there in London!

Two of London’s popular summer music festivals, Sunfest and Home County Folk, both held in London’s Victoria Park, included
#WePlayOn performances. (These are new opportunities for the musicians who, as Orchestra London, never had a summer season). The Sunfest website highlighted the commitment of the #WePlayOn musicians to “providing the people of London, Ontario, with music for all tastes, performed at the highest artistic level.” Their first concert of the 2015-2016 season was Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, with well-known conductor Bramwell Tovey, followed by a Messiah performance in December, and a collaborative Christmas concert with local Amabile boys’ and mens’ choirs. With the help of a grant from the City of London, the musicians were able to continue playing into the spring with five more concerts. These concerts featured eclectic programs with music ranging from the classic (Handel, and Haydn) to the popular (Music for Heart and Breath by Arcade Fire composer Richard Reed Parry).

#WePlayOn musicians have applied for a number of grants to allow them to begin planning their 2016-2017 season and to hire staff to take care of basic administration tasks. They have received charitable status as an organization, which will help with soliciting donations, and they are continuing to recruit new board members. The remarkable enthusiasm, energy, and creativity of the musicians have made it possible for them to continue to have a profile within their community and work towards re-establishing a permanent presence. The next crucial undertaking will be rebranding the orchestra; they hope to move on from the WePlayOn name in fall 2016. They can still be found on Twitter with #WePlayOn, or on Facebook and the web by searching “Musicians of Orchestra London.”

These four orchestras, like others across Canada, are exploring the impact of many kinds of performances and activities—presenting free concerts for thousands of people at a time, including children’s activities to introduce the “little ones” to the magic of sound, collaborating with local choirs and with young aspiring musicians, presenting workshops on specific instruments and conducting, and having active and engaging profiles on social media sites. These innovations will develop wider and more appreciative audiences and help to ensure continued viability within their communities.

juno awards

AFM Canada Musicians Take Home JUNO Awards

by Canadian Electronic Media Contract Administrator Daniel Calabrese and International Representative for Canada Allistair Elliot

juno awards

AFM Electronic Media Contract Administrator Daniel Calabrese (left) with Local 247 (Victoria, BC) member Alex Cuba.

The 2016 JUNO Awards were held in Calgary, Alberta, Sunday, April 3. Leading up to the televised event, the city hosted JUNOfest, which included more than 150 performances in 15 different venues. In true Canadian fashion, there was a hockey game, appropriately named: JUNO Cup, featuring ex-NHLers against musicians. Canadian Office International Representative Allistair Elliott and Contract Administrator Daniel Calabrese represented the AFM/CFM at JUNO Week.

One thing that struck a chord was the diversity that defines Canada’s culture. The JUNO Awards were created to honour and promote Canadian Artists.

We attended a broad range of performances, from Local 180 (Ottawa, ON) members the Cancer Bats, to Local 247 (Victoria, BC) member Alex Cuba. The majority of the venues reached capacity, as they packed with fans in love with Canadian music of all genres. From performances of emerging artists to inducting legends like Local 190 (Winnipeg, MB) member Burton Cummings into Canada’s Music Hall of Fame, it was refreshing to see a vast number of AFM/CFM members taking part in JUNO Week. We were proud to celebrate the many members who took home a JUNO this year (a list of AFM/CFM JUNO Award winners with signatory recordings follows).

The live, televised award show, from Calgary’s Saddledome, was co-hosted by Local 547 (Calgary, AB) member, Jann Arden, and included performances by Local 149 (Toronto, ON) members Robi Botos and Allison Au, together with 80-year-old, first-time nominee Al Muirhead (of Local 547). He was supported by Tommy Banks of Local 390 (Edmonton, AB), Kodi Hutchinson (Local 547), and Mark Kelso (Local 149). They performed a memorable all-star jam at the awards gala the previous evening.

Muirhead passionately felt the support of the whole community, performing alongside his friend and musical partner Tommy Banks (Local 390) from the nominated album It’s About Time. Between these two gentlemen, there is more than 120 years of musical history, plus 60 years of friendship. After being a sideman for countless projects, Muirhead’s nomination for [Solo] Jazz Album of the Year, was very well deserved. His supporting cast is pictured above.

Calgary set the bar high during this year’s JUNOFest. Next year the nation’s capital, Ottawa, will be the host city. JUNO Week 2017 will be one of the major events in the city as it celebrates Canada’s 150th anniversary with a yearlong series of special events, exhibits, and immersive experiences.

juno awards

Photo: (L to R): Chris Andrew of Local 390 (Edmonton, AB); Kodi Hutchinson of Local 547 (Calgary, AB); Jens Lindemann and PJ Perry of Local 390; Al Muirhead of Local 547; Tommy Banks of Local 390; Tyler Hornby of Local 547; and AFM Canadian International Representative Allistair Elliott.

AFM Member JUNO Award Winners whose albums were signatory to AFM Contracts include:

Classical Album of the Year Large Ensemble or Soloist with Large Ensemble Accompaniment: Symphony and New Works for Organ and Orchestra, Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, members of Local 406 (Montreal, PQ)
Breakthrough Group of the Year: Dear Rouge, members of Local 145
Producer of the Year: Bob Ezrin of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA)

local 406

Local 406 Is Back!

After what seems like years, I am pleased to report that a service agreement has been reached between La Guilde des musiciens et musiciennes du Quebec and the AFM, allowing them to continue as an important, vibrant part of the Federation. Difficulties had progressively mounted, as our third largest local, Local 406, was straddled with the overwhelming obligations of representing all musicians in the province under Status of the Artist.

In addition, Local 406 could not just compel producers to sign onto existing AFM agreements, as other laws require a “made in Quebec” solution, which was made even more complex with language laws. These unique circumstances were ultimately addressed by the International Executive Board, resulting in an arrangement that allows more flexibility for the local, while maintaining their charter in the AFM.

Special thanks go out to both AFM International President Ray Hair and the Local 406 team, led by President Luc Fortin. To their credit, they showed tremendous patience and understanding, which allowed for the necessary dialogue and the resulting solution.

Music Supervisors Summit

local 406Several weeks ago, an incident occurred involving our New Use Department that led to a decision, which has echoed through most of the production houses in Toronto. At the core, was a request for paper backup to substantiate new use fees on a popular tune from the 1960s.

As always, the client was in a hurry for a final quote, and our office knew that it would take many days, perhaps weeks, to track down a contract from 50 years ago. Knowing the band was AFM, and knowing the label was signatory (Warner), our team went online to determine how many musicians were on the track. We quickly responded to the production company with the answer—four musicians (five units), and gave them the fee.

That should have been the end. However, the company refused to acknowledge that the track was AFM unless we produced the B4 report form. Knowing that would take time, we instead obtained the “label copy” from Warner and were, of course, able to identify each musician on the album. Still, that was not satisfactory.

I started to become fearful that there was a game at play. Did the producers realize that on a track that old, we could very likely be chasing paper for some time? By stating that without the B4 there was no proof it was an AFM product, they could potentially pocket the fees paying nothing to the musicians who did the recording. For me, such a notion is incredibly unacceptable. Also, we met the burden of proof in other ways, as did Warner. So, I then made the decision to cease providing a copy of the B4, to anyone, period. After all, it’s an internal document, resulting from an agreement between the labels and the AFM. A third party should not be entitled access to a document containing wages, pension, and Social Security or Social Insurance Numbers.

When informed of my new policy, the production company, of course, was extremely upset. In what appeared to be a search in support for their cause, the company then reached out to other music supervisors, the jingle agencies, and even the major labels. Copies of the Master Licence Agreements issued by the labels were obtained to determine exactly what language tied the licensee (producer) to paying new use fees to the AFM. When the dust settled, a meeting of all concerned was scheduled in downtown Toronto, ostensibly to challenge my decision, and possibly to the extent of challenging the labels’ licence language, and the validity of new use.

Contract Administrator for Canada Daniel Calabrese and New Use Administrator James Gadon attended, along with myself, as the presenter for the AFM. The turnout was surprising. There were more than 50 attending in person, with SAG-AFTRA representatives Skyped in from Los Angeles. The meeting lasted in excess of two hours.

SAG-AFTRA presented first, followed by the labels; it was then CFM’s turn. I prefaced the question period with a brief history of the SRLA, the rationale for new use payments, and the fact that similar requirements live in all our scale agreements. I also detailed the setup of our ramped-up new use department, new servers, contract scanning procedures, and link with Los Angeles as our view was to deliver a new use quote in minutes, not days or weeks.

We answered all questions quickly and succinctly, and in the end, not one music supervisor dared to suggest that the musicians did not deserve new use fees for having their music synchronized or repurposed. In fact, all comments directed at the CFM were positive. It seems our quotes and responses were understood and very well received. All were left with the knowledge that we’re approachable and easy to work with. Indeed, good news to our team.

I believe the meeting was a major step forward in having a working relationship with the city’s music supervisors, and a reminder to them that tracks must be cleared through our office. In addition, dialogue that occurred with the major labels prior to the meeting, as well as after, was a positive step toward developing a sustainable rhythm in the process of tracking, billing, collecting, and disbursing new use fees to our members.

CFM Commends Government Commitment to Canada’s Creative Industries

Canadian Federation of Musicians (CFM) praised the federal government’s investment in Canada’s cultural organizations. Consistent with the liberal government’s 2015 election platform, the 2016 federal budget recognizes that entertainment and creative industries are among the most dynamic in the country and require effective policy that will assist the sector to continue to grow.

“The much-needed funding for revitalization of the CBC and the National Film Board will open the door for new programming which features Canadian musicians and artists,” says AFM Vice-President from Canada Alan Willaert. “The CFM is eager to begin work to help bring our superlative Canadian talent and content to the world stage, where it belongs.”

The federal government yesterday announced a $675 million investment to CBC alone, plus a total investment of $1.9 billion in the cultural sector, which includes the National Film Board of Canada, to be rolled out over five years. CFM sees this commitment as a positive first step, which they expect will include ongoing investment in the fast-growing and culturally important creative cluster.

Conservatives Force Anti-union Bill into Law in Canada

An unconstitutional, anti-union bill (Bill C-377) has been forced through the Canadian Senate. Seven provinces oppose the bill, stating that it intrudes into provincial jurisdiction. Experts agree that the bill is unconstitutional for several other reasons as well, and when challenged in courts, will not survive. The bill attempts to force unions to disclose all of their financial information employers and to the general public. Unions and individuals across the board oppose the bill, from the NHL Players Association to the AFM to Conservative and Liberal senators to constitutional experts. The best opportunity for the public to oppose Bill C-377 is in the upcoming federal election.

OCSM/CFM Unity Conference to Be Held in August

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

In my March 2014 article in the International Musician I pointed out that 2014 marked the 40th anniversary of the meetings that led to the formation of the Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM). OCSM’s first stand-alone meeting was held in Edmonton a year later, in 1975, and OCSM’s inaugural conference was held in Toronto the year after that. So this summer will be our 40th Conference. We are pleased to announce that it will be held alongside the AFM Canadian Conference in Windsor, Ontario, from August 7-11. August 8 will be a shared day between the two conferences. Details will be provided in a future issue of the IM.

In Between Conferences

Like the other symphonic player conferences, OCSM is a network of orchestral musicians that works within the AFM, and with other interested industry partners, to advocate for its members and to share valuable information. Readers of the IM are well aware of the work we do with the AFM Symphonic Services Division (SSD) to prepare the wage charts.

From time to time we deal with other specific issues. For example, a task force consisting of OCSM delegates, local officers, and representatives of Orchestras Canada recently prepared a submission to the Government of Canada about problems musicians and staff have encountered in our orchestras due to changes in the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP). Occasionally, OCSM orchestras hire non-Canadian musicians, and the new TFWP rules have made it difficult for these musicians to qualify for provincial medical coverage, or to have work permits renewed while they are still under probation. We hope these submissions will produce some results.

Although we are all busy orchestral musicians (the executive included), OCSM delegates maintain open communication throughout the season. This is invaluable when orchestras are negotiating, and when issues arise where we need to seek the advice of colleagues. Each delegate reports mid-season to the executive, and topics are collected for open discussion and action at the conference. Such topics include: health and safety issues, new forms of media promotion of orchestras (especially social media), musician involvement in conductor and executive director searches, and musician involvement in education and outreach programs.

Orchestra London Canada Shutdown

Orchestra London Canada ceased operations December 2014. Their board has not officially declared bankruptcy, but staff have been laid off and all concert dates for the remainder of 2014-2015 were cancelled. The musicians of Orchestra London have rallied to keep music alive in their community, and have continued to perform on their own. You can find out more about their efforts at: https://musiciansorchestralondon.wordpress.com/. A call to action has seen donations from AFM members across North America, with musicians from close to 30 orchestras assisting their colleagues in London. This showing of solidarity makes me personally proud to be a member of this union.

Good Newslets

  • On March 19, the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal (Montreal Symphony Orchestra) announced a five-year record deal with Decca. That same week saw similar announcements from other orchestras: it would seem that major labels are reviving their interest in orchestral music. Fans of the OSM will know that their international reputation is due in part to the catalogue of more than 80 recordings made on the Decca label with former Music Director Charles Dutoit.
  • The Canadian Opera Company just finished its third production at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with Handel’s “Semele” in March (previous visits were in 1993 and 2011).
  • Symphony Nova Scotia ratified a five-year agreement that sees its season expand from 33 to 35 weeks with the addition of their first-ever summer season.
  • The Edmonton Symphony recently recorded the score for the CBC TV series The Great Human Odyssey with composer Darren Fung.

CFM, a Year-in-Review

The year 2014 has been a turbulent one for the Canadian Federation of Musicians (CFM).

However, to start on a positive, February saw the removal of rules about unionization votes from proposed Bill C-525. The deleted rules were completely biased against unions.

At a December 2013 general meeting of Local 406 (Montreal, PQ), a motion was passed to conduct a referendum to determine if the local should disaffiliate from the AFM. The local and the AFM struggled to find a solution for a shortfall in the local’s ability to pay its per capita dues. Balloting took place in June. The July IM announced that barely a simple majority of 46.6% of members surveyed voted against disaffiliation from the AFM. Now the local’s leadership has placed a motion before the courts to obtain a declaration that the 53% majority obtained in the consultation survey is sufficient to disaffiliate, in spite of the local bylaw requirements.

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