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Report on the Twenty-Fifth Annual TMA Conference

Greetings from the Theatre Musicians Association (TMA) international headquarters, located in north central Massachusetts! Full disclosure: I’m sitting at my kitchen table, reflecting on our 25th annual TMA conference, which took place this past August. Twenty-five years of doing anything is a milestone, and it would be dishonest of me to write I was not more than a little sad that our silver anniversary gathering could not be celebrated in person. The reality of the current pandemic necessitated an online event. So, for the first time in our history, TMA officers, directors, members, and AFM leadership assembled virtually to discuss all things theatre-related. However, there was a silver lining to presenting a conference in this fashion: Attendance by the TMA general membership was far greater than what we have seen at past in-person conferences. Also, we were able to open this conference to interested non-members, as well as potential new chapter organizers. More on that in the coming months.

The conference began with my brief welcome, after which I turned the proceedings over to AFM International President Ray Hair. Hair gave a sobering assessment of the music business in general, and the theatre industry in particular. Currently, the Broadway League and Disney have no intention of sitting down with us to negotiate a successor agreement to the expired Pamphlet B contract. Hair predicted that musical theatre producers and presenters will use this pandemic as an excuse to gut contracts and abolish provisions the AFM has fought for over many years.

Following the president, I was pleased to introduce AFM International Vice President Bruce Fife, who spoke about the new version of the AFM’s officer training course. This course was given only once, at the Western Conference, before the pandemic hit and things were shut down. For the time being, the program is being presented via Zoom. AFM Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal reported that work dues coming into the Federation were down, as one might expect. To make matters worse, the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program was not available to labor unions, so no help was to be found there. Blumenthal finished his report by telling us the International Executive Board endorsed the Biden/Harris ticket in the upcoming election.

During my president’s report, I spoke about the timeline of the Broadway and touring shows shutdowns, the plight of our musicians on the road whose instruments were stranded on trucks for months, and the uncertain future of our business. While things certainly look bleak, I pointed out the public misses the theatre, as displayed by the tremendous success of Disney Plus’s broadcast of Hamilton. I am confident musical theatre will return to Broadway and cities across the United States and Canada. 

In preparation of that day, TMA, in cooperation with AFM Director of Theatre, Touring, and Booking Tino Gagliardi, drafted a document outlining suggested safety protocols for theatre reopening, previously published in these pages. TMA Vice President Heather Boehm, Secretary-Treasurer Mark Pinto, and myself have also drafted a document that addresses the complexities of subbing after theatres reopen. There will no doubt continue to be new COVID cases after we return to work, and a clear, carefully considered plan for last-minute pit orchestra substitutions must be in place. I also mentioned how proud I was that the TMA Executive Board published a statement of support for those who work towards ending systemic racism in the United States. 

Boehm then spoke about unemployment insurance issues musicians face, the huge threat the new virtual orchestra technology KeyComp poses to the employment of live musicians in the pit, and the successful organizing campaign of Chicago’s Porchlight Theatre she spearheaded. Pinto gave a positive  report on TMA’s finances and membership numbers.

We were then treated to reports from two of the other four players’ conferences—Chairperson Meredith Snow for the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM), and President Mike Smith for the Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA). Lovie Smith-Wright gave her always-interesting diversity report, made all the more important due to the current wave of civil unrest and protests against systematic racism in the United States. Her report was the perfect precursor for the following day’s diversity roundtable.

Closing out Day 1 was Gagliardi’s report, giving a timeline of the Broadway shutdown and the subsequent closing of touring productions. He reported that while the Broadway League has stated there will not be a resumption of shows before the first of January, there are some regions that are advertising productions for the fall of 2020. He also cautioned about musicians devaluing their work by offering to livestream their performances without receiving compensation. 

Day 2 of the conference began with a presentation from renowned peak performance psychologist Dr. Don Greene, who offered coping mechanisms customized for musicians. We then heard from the other two players’ conference presidents—Robert Frasier of the Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM) and Marc Sazer of the Recording Musicians Association (RMA). AFM Legislative, Political, and Diversity Director Alfonso Pollard gave us a legislative report highlighting the work he is doing to represent musicians’ interests on Capitol Hill. Smith-Wright and Pollard then led a thought-provoking roundtable examining diversity in the musical theatre orchestra. 

The final presentation of the day was titled, “COVID-19, Musicians, and the Return to Work,” led by otolaryngologist Dr. Adam Schwalje. This enlightening presentation examined the science of COVID and the criteria that must be met to ensure our safety as we return to the theatre. 

Finally, elections were held, and all national TMA officers were reelected by acclamation: myself as president, Boehm as vice president, and Pinto as secretary-treasurer. Also elected by acclamation were Jan Mullen as director for Broadway, Lovie Smith-Wright as director of membership-at-large, and Angela Chan as director for travelers. 

My sincere thanks to all the presenters and attendees for making this conference a great success. I look forward to seeing everyone in person next summer!

Report on the 2020 AFL-CIO MLK Civil and Human Rights Conference: “Give Us the Ballot”

international diversity awards

by Lovie Smith-Wright, AFM Diversity Committee Chair and President of Local 65-699 (Houston, TX)

From January 17-19, I had the great pleasure of representing the AFM at the 2020 AFL-CIO Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Civil and Human Rights Conference, held at the Capitol Hilton in Washington, D.C. The theme of the conference, “Give Us the Ballot, Political Boot Camp,” emphasized the importance of us getting out to vote and making sure our members understand why the 2020 election is critical.

Civil and Human Rights Conference

The opening ceremony began Friday morning with the invocation by Terry Melvin, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, and a welcome by Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO. Trumka told us that Dr. King’s words are in each one of us—in our focus, our fierceness, and our fighting spirit. He said that Dr. King’s legacy is shaped by the leaders who came after him who continued to carry the torch that he lit; then Trumka took a moment for us to send out our best wishes to America’s greatest living civil rights leader, the conscience of the Congress, Representative John Lewis.

Trumka reminded us that Dr. King called for the march in Selma because Jimmie Lee Jackson, a woodcutter and a deacon, was shot and killed when he was 26 years old—all because he just wanted to vote. Shortly after the march in Selma, President Lyndon Johnson called on Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act. Today’s Supreme Court has weakened the Voting Rights Act; the voter ID laws of today are the new poll taxes and literacy tests. The attacks on voters’ rights were the fights of Jimmie Lee Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr., and John Lewis; these are still our fights today. “The best way to honor Dr. King’s memory is to lock arms and carry his torch forward together,” stated Trumka.

The Friday afternoon session opened with Tefere Gebre, executive vice president, AFL-CIO, who introduced the speakers for the afternoon plenary: “Give Us the Ballot: A Voting Rights Mandate.” The moderator was Gwen McKinney and the feature speakers were Dora Cervantes, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; Jeanne L. Lewis, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy; and Leon Russell, NAACP. They all explained the significance of getting people involved in voting, because whom you vote for, on local and state levels, determines whether your streetlights stay on or whether you get funding for public schools; the right to vote and the power of votes brings political and economic power in its wake.

Civil and Human Rights Conference
Pictured is the discussion panel, “The Colored Girls: Lessons from the Political Battlefield.” Moderator Elizabeth Powell, far left, talked with featured speakers Leah Daughtry, Yolanda Caraway, Minyon Moore, and Donna Brazile, who are the authors of the book For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics.

The highlight of the conference was Labor Night at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The evening started with an empowering discussion, “The Colored Girls: Lessons from the Political Battlefield.” The featured speakers were: Donna Brazile, Yolanda Caraway, Bishop Leah D. Daughtry, and Minyon Moore, who are the authors of the book For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics. Each panelist spoke of how they got started in politics, and how they were affected by Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Shirley Chisholm, Jesse Jackson, and many others. Donna Brazile had a tremendous impact on me because she spoke so eloquently as to why each one of us should always follow our dreams and never give up hope.

After the presentation, the delegates were given time to explore the exhibits of the museum; we headed straight to the fourth floor where the history of African American Music is found. It is an extraordinary collection of all the great artists of jazz, rhythm and blues, hip hop, classical, etc. Every musician should see this historical collection.

Saturday morning was dedicated to community service, and Saturday afternoon offered several workshops. The three sessions I attended emphasized how important our vote is. Since “civics” is no longer being taught in most public schools, a lot of people do not understand the legislative process; therefore, we must educate everyone to vote in every election in their communities. Along with our vote is the 2020 census—again, we must encourage and educate people why it is important to be counted. The evening ended with a closing reception with remarks by Fred Redmond, United Steel Workers, and Tefere A. Gebre.

A last quote from President Trumka: “We’re the ones who make America great. We keep it safe … We tuck her into our bed at night. And come Election Day. … We vote! We’re fearless. We’re strong. We’re powerful. We’re united. We’re the American labor movement and we will not … WE WILL NOT … be denied!”

The Future is Calling

As unprecedented change transforms the music industry, greater are the demands on our union to bargain strategically within myriad sectors. Through an ongoing transformation in consumption, evolving monetization of content, and ever-expanding cross-collateralization of media across platforms, we are challenged to conform our agreements and to respond to new world paradigms.

With the process of collective bargaining being slow and methodical, only consistently engaged rank-and-file members and union leadership will be able to move our organization forward. This calls for inclusivity at every level. From membership meetings to union caucuses, from player conferences to regional conferences, we should strive to listen to the opinions of all of our members while building the necessary consensus to form policy and initiatives. As our union embarks upon bargaining for the coming year, our commitment to organizing in the workplace must continue to grow, bringing musicians across our Federation’s landscape together to build strength and unity.

With a revitalized focus on organizing, a similar investment of effort and resources should be concentrated in our administration and enforcement of our agreements to provide our members with reliable support. With tightening deadlines, global competition, and the need for quick turnarounds, we should seek to respond to our members with greater urgency. We should also strive to modernize how we track, compute, and collect payments. In Los Angeles, we are in the process of upgrading our computer systems to offer cloud-based services to members 24/7, with app-based interfaces and instant access via computer, tablet, or smartphone so that our members may track their benefits, file a contract, or update their personal information via the web.

The future is now, and the moment to step up our game is before us; we should strive to provide our members easy access to all of their information as is expected in the digital age. As we modernize our infrastructure, we can also tap into a newly activated interest in labor unions among young professionals. With the growth of the “gig economy” and lost sense of community, there is also opportunity to organize non-union musicians into our Federation. At every occasion we should strive to expand our tent, and with growth we should stand ready to expand the bargaining table so that all stakeholders have a meaningful voice in shaping the agreements that they work under.

Update on OCSM’s 44th Annual Conference

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

Pour voir cet article en français, cliquez ici.

It’s that time of year again: as I write this, I’m looking ahead to all the conferences I will attend on behalf of the Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM), and this year is a busy one. In addition to our own conference, which will be held from August 12-16 in Hamilton, ON (more information on our social media pages and at www.ocsm-omosc.org), I, or one of our executive board members, attend each of the other symphonic player conferences, the Theatre Musicians’ Association conference, the annual national meeting of Orchestras Canada, the AFM Canadian Conference, and this year, the AFM Convention, which will have already taken place by the time you read this. In the past, we have also participated in every International Orchestra Conference convened by the International Federation of Musicians (FIM). This summer will mark 20 years since I attended my first OCSM Conference and, since then, I have been privileged to be part of a truly worldwide network of musicians.

As I’ve reported many times on these pages, each of these conferences gives us an overview of our part of the industry: reports from delegates, union officers, and staff; pension fund; and other industry partners. We are fortunate to have experts in every part of our field address us: labour lawyers, communications professionals, and even government representatives. We try to work in as much of a local angle with our host city as possible. Hamilton happens to be the birthplace of music/performing arts medicine in Canada, with the establishment of the Musicians’ Clinics of Canada there in 1985, so we are inviting Dr. John Chong, its founder, to address us. We will also be making a field visit to LIVELab on the McMaster University campus, a facility devoted to “developing a world class facility for the scientific study of music, sound, and movement and their importance in human development and human health.” (https://livelab.mcmaster.ca).

I know I write this almost every time I’m given the opportunity, but there is a good reason why we’re called “player conferences”: because everything we do is driven by players—our membership of working orchestral musicians. That includes your successes as well as your challenges. If you’ve had a particularly good outreach program, or a successful fundraising campaign that made good use of musicians, we want to hear about it through your delegate. If something in your collective agreement went totally wrong, we want to help you rectify it. We exist so that no orchestra, no committee, and no individual musician need be in complete isolation. We are all part of a greater community and, to that extent, we are all activists in our own way.

As always, I look forward to meeting more activists throughout these summer months, and I hope in the middle of that you can all find some well-deserved time to rest.

ROPA’s 36th Annual Conference, and What ROPA Does the Rest of the Year

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

The Regional Orchestra Players’ Association (ROPA) will hold its 36th Annual Conference in Boston, Massachusetts, July 28-30. The conference will be held at the Hilton Boston Logan Airport Hotel, located right on Boston Harbor. Our hosts this year are Boston Local 9-535, and the Boston Ballet Orchestra, Portland Symphony, and Cape Symphony. As always, our conference will feature presentations on a variety of subjects of interest to our members, including wellness, the business of orchestras, our union, and diversity, equity, and inclusiveness in our orchestras.

ROPA is currently 91 orchestras strong, with 79 full-member orchestras and 12 associate members. Our orchestra budget sizes range from around $650,000 to opera and ballet companies of over $40 million. Representing more than 5,000 musicians, ROPA is the largest of the AFM player conferences.

Besides the annual conference, where information and ideas are exchanged with the delegates from each orchestra, what else is ROPA involved with during the year?

This past June, ROPA was present at the League of American Orchestras in Nashville and had a non-voting delegation participate in the AFM Convention in Las Vegas. Immediately after our conference at the end of July, ROPA will connect with the other AFM player conferences with a presence at their annual conferences. The Theater Musicians’ Association (TMA) will be meeting concurrently with ROPA in Boston this year. This conference will be followed in August by the annual conferences of the Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM) in Hamilton, Ontario, and the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) in Park City, Utah. The Recording Musicians’ Association (RMA) meets biennially, and they do not have a conference scheduled for this year.

Over the past year, ROPA, along with ICSOM, was a part of the negotiating team of the AFM for the new Integrated Media Agreement (IMA), which reached a deal with the Employers’ Electronic Media Association (EMA) in April. ROPA participated in the Sphinx Connect Conference in Detroit this past February, and also is participating with ICSOM and the AFM Symphonic Services Division (SSD) in the National Alliance for Audition Support (NAAS), a program for audition preparation for African-American and Latinx musicians. ROPA has participated for several years in a union education program for the New World Symphony, sharing with the fellows in that program the benefits of being union.

ROPA publishes its quarterly newsletter, The Leading Tone, both in print and online. We maintain informational email lists for delegates and for general discussion by ROPA orchestra members and others. ROPA also maintains a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The members-at-large on the ROPA Executive Board each moderate and encourage discussion in a group of delegates of similar orchestra budget size, or specifically pit orchestras, throughout the year.

ROPA is a busy player conference of the AFM. We are working every day, side by side with the other player conferences, Symphonic Services Division, and the AFM on our mission and goals for our musicians, our orchestras, and as a union. We are stronger together!

Partnering with Our Communities

by Meredith Snow, ICSOM Chair and Member of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA)

No orchestra exists in a vacuum. We are part of the fabric of the communities in which we live. Great musicians, our union, and our management and boards are just the beginning. If we isolate ourselves from our audiences and donors, from our community, then what we have to offer becomes pointless. Being accessible and vital partners in our communities is key to the success of our International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) orchestras. The music we play is global, but we are local. We must think and act accordingly, reaching outside the doors of our concert halls to engage with our citizens.

And we do. Our orchestras participate in education initiatives and humanitarian aid, and partner with health and wellness organizations across the country. ICSOM maintains a Twitter feed (@ICSOM) of all things orchestral at ICSOM. Here is just a small sample of activities from the past few months:

April 23: San Francisco Symphony celebrates the 30-year anniversary of their Adventures in Music (AIM) program. In partnership with San Francisco United School District, AIM provides live performance, music education, and lessons to every public elementary school in San Francisco and is designed to enhance language arts, social studies, and science classes.

April 26: Musicians from The Philadelphia Orchestra organize a chamber concert to benefit Syrian refugees.

May 2: Utah Symphony musicians and musicians from The Cleveland Orchestra participate in five-day workshop in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti, culminating in a performance of Tchaikovsky 5th Symphony.

May 7: Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) and the Detroit Pistons partner in a multi-year education initiative to enhance music education for local youth. Donations support the New Youth Percussion Ensemble, the Annual Sphinx Competition, and underwrite tickets for free DSO public school concerts.

May 8: Oregon Symphony and Maybelle Community Singers premiere Gabriel Kahane’s “emergency shelter intake form,” a symphonic and vocal work based on the experiences of homelessness.

May 15: Los Angeles Philharmonic announces four musicians selected for a new resident fellows program launched this year with the purpose of creating a pathway toward more diverse and inclusive orchestras.

May 16: New York Philharmonic, in collaboration with the Harmony Project, selects students from low income neighborhoods for a year-long mentorship program.

May 17: Thanks to an $80,000 grant from Hillsborough County, The Florida Orchestra will begin tutoring at-risk youth, free of charge, through the Prodigy after school program.

June 8: Minnesota Orchestra tickets go on sale for five sensory-friendly, family concerts and three small-ensemble concerts for 2018-2019 season. The audience is encouraged to move, vocalize, clap, and respond to the music freely, at any time.

These are just a few of the most recent news stories about our ICSOM orchestras’ social initiatives. Every one of our 52 orchestras are involved in music education, either through their own programs or in collaboration with already existing organizations and schools. Many of our musicians play live music at prisons, hospitals, shelters, and soup kitchens—helping out and bringing a message of hope and healing where it is needed.

We are in a unique and privileged position to bring awareness where social injustice and need exist. The music we play is not just beautiful. It is founded at its deepest level on human aspiration and the search for meaning. Mozart’s Da Ponte operas were conceived with the idea of the inherent equality of humankind. Beethoven’s Fidelio is about the struggle for justice and liberty. Wagner’s operas explore the gamut of human emotion and desire. We bring this understanding of our shared humanity to every performance. We can inspire that awareness in those who hear us.

Equality and accessibility regardless of race, color, creed, religion, gender, physical ability, or sexual orientation is a core value of union labor. It is everyone’s responsibility to recognize inequities in our society and work to ameliorate them. Our orchestras themselves are not immune to bias. But, by the very nature of what we do, we possess a unique ability to cut through the ignorance and rhetoric that blind us all to the suffering in our communities. With the talent and capabilities we already possess, we can call attention, sway hearts and minds, and foster awareness of our universal humanity.

OCSM’s 43rd Annual Conference: How You Can Be More Involved

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

Pour la version française, cliquez ici.

This summer the Organization of Canadian Symphony  Musicians (OCSM) Conference will be held at the Hotel Pur in Quebec City. All orchestral musicians are invited to observe our open sessions from August 14-16. For the afternoon session on the 15th and the morning session on the 16th, we will have simultaneous English/French translation available. On those days presenters and participants will be able to work in the official language of their choice.

If you regularly read the player conference columns in this publication (thank you, by the way) you already know what we’re all about. At a typical conference, representatives from each orchestra give reports on their orchestra’s activities throughout the year. We zero in on specific issues and topics, we establish working committees that consult throughout the season (especially on issues such as electronic media), and we hear from all parties related to our industry: our union leadership, our management service organization, our pension fund, our legal experts, and guest speakers in fields ranging from public relations to health and safety.

Two years ago in this column I wrote about ways that you, as an orchestra musician, can make the best use of your orchestra’s membership in OCSM, and ways that you can get involved, even if you’re not a delegate or committee member. I will repeat some of those points here. They can never be over-emphasized.

If you are an orchestra committee member or on your orchestra’s negotiating committee: please include your OCSM delegate in your regular deliberations and communications. In cases where the OCSM delegate is on one or both committees, that’s not a problem, but sometimes we have delegates who feel “out of the loop” because there are poor lines of communication. An OCSM delegate can be a valuable asset. If they have attended multiple conferences, then they have met key people from each orchestra and have gained valuable knowledge that can assist in a number of situations. Furthermore, the delegates communicate to each other through a secure e-mail list, so they can easily gather information from each other.

If you are a long-serving musician in your orchestra: take time to compile your orchestra’s history. As orchestral musicians we do a good job of passing our musical knowledge to the next generation, but what about our knowledge of negotiations, strikes, temporary shut-downs, changes in our orchestra’s business practices, search committees, etc.? In my career, I have seen too many things repeated from orchestra to orchestra that should not have been repeated. Staff and boards come and go, but there are people in some orchestras that have been there longer than 40 years. Use them. A good place to start is to make a simple chart of your orchestra’s negotiating history for the last three contracts. This would include wage changes for each year and your orchestra’s operating expenses, at least. Thankfully, some of this has been done already—the AFM has put all our OCSM wage chart data online, going back several years.

And finally—and this is perhaps most important—there are ways to get involved in helping both your orchestra and OCSM, without spending hours on a committee. Do you have a skill that could be put to use part-time? Are you good at photography or videography? Take candid pictures or videos from a musician’s perspective. These are great for musician social media presence. Maybe you write well. Offer to write something for a blog or newsletter. Perhaps you volunteer for a community organization that could involve your colleagues. Any activity that puts your orchestra in the center of the community it serves is worthwhile.

As always, I look forward to meeting all your delegates next month, and continuing our mission to be “The voice of Canadian professional orchestra musicians.”

AFL-CIO Convention Passes Timely Resolutions

Once every four years, elected delegates to the AFL-CIO Convention gather to elect the AFL-CIO Officers and Executive Council. Our AFM delegation consisted of AFM President Ray Hair, Local 65-699 (Houston, TX) President Lovie Smith-Wright, and myself. Unfortunately, due to a death in her family, Lovie was unable to attend.

AFM members from Local 2-197 (St. Louis, MO) entertained the delegates as they filed into the hall to take their seats before AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka banged his gavel bringing the convention to order. Members of the St. Louis local also played for various receptions throughout the convention.

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Countering the Shrinking Pit with Education

Countering the Shrinking Pitby Tony D’Amico, Theatre Musicians Association President and Member of Locals 9-535 (Boston, MA) and 198-457 (Providence,RI)


Summer is AFM conference season, and the Theatre Musicians Association kicked that season off with our 22nd annual set of meetings held in Phoenix, Arizona, July 31 and August 1. It proved to be a pair of jam-packed days featuring presentations, reports, and discussions on many subjects of interest to theatre musicians. Attendees were treated to a pension presentation, facilitated by AFM President Ray Hair and a panel of AFM-EPF trustees, lawyers, and actuaries. A representative from the Actors Fund spoke about health care, and what we might expect from proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act. Chicago TMA Chapter Director Heather Boehm offered some useful member recruitment ideas that have proved successful in her city.

I’d like to extend a huge “thank you” to Local 586 (Phoenix, AZ) President Jerry Donato, Secretary-Treasurer Doug Robinson, as well as TMA Phoenix Chapter Director Jeff Martin for their help organizing the conference and welcoming us to their city.

I am happy to report that Heather Boehm was elected by acclimation to serve as TMA’s national vice president. I look forward to working with Boehm as we continue to build upon the past successes of our organization. My thanks to outgoing Vice President Paul Castillo for all the dedicated work and invaluable assistance he gave me during my first year as president. Castillo will continue to work for TMA as the Southern California chapter director.

During my opening remarks to the conference, I spoke a bit about what I see as perhaps the major issue for theatre players across the US and Canada—the continual downsizing of pit orchestras as technology advances. One player now does the job of what once took an entire section of musicians to perform. Imagine my surprise when, during a trip to a Boston theatre a few years back to see a performance of The Book of Mormon—the epitome of a blockbuster show—I looked into the pit to discover that the percussion-heavy score required not one single piece of percussion, never mind a percussionist to play those sounds.

Of course, this is not a new issue for us. Technology has inevitably improved over the decades, and the practice of acoustic instruments being convincingly mimicked by other means has been going on for decades. While, to me, the computerized or sampled sound of an oboe played on a keyboard cannot compare to the artistry a real oboist brings to the part, in the grand scheme of the modern musical, the nuance is lost in the greater spectacle. In other words, by and large the public doesn’t notice. This is where we can make progress in our fight to keep our pits filled with professional musicians.

The key (as with most things) is education. We must continue to educate the public. They need to know that often they are not getting their money’s worth. A show that used 15 musicians on Broadway will use six on the road, but continue to charge theatregoers the same Broadway ticket prices. Only with an informed public can we ensure the continued integrity of our art form. Only the audiences can demand quality.

The public does notice. During a recent Boston run of a touring show I played, the pit consisted of one trumpet, one trombone, one violin, a bunch of keyboards, and a rock rhythm section. More than one acquaintance of mine commented to me that things sounded quite thin, with one friend even saying the violinist should have just stayed home, since she was contributing so little to the overall sound of the show. An audience would not stand for paying full ticket price for a performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony by the Boston Symphony Orchestra with a choir of 10 people along with some sound “enhancement,” or even worse, with the low brass parts played on a keyboard. Of course, that’s ridiculous.

I believe one of TMA’s main missions is to shed light on this subject and let the public reach the natural conclusion: a show utilizing more highly skilled musicians results in a better theatre experience.

Of course, the question is how to go about getting this message out. Some ideas that have been recently tossed around include educational leafleting in front of theatres before performances, letters to the editors responding to reviews (criticizing a show for a small pit or praising it for healthy numbers), as well as social media campaigns. I’d welcome your comments and suggestions. I can be reached at: president.tma@afm-tma.org

2017 OCSM-OMOSC Conference

2017 OCSM-OMOSC Conference Report—Advocacy, Health, and Media

by Faith Scholfield, OCSM-OMOSC Secretary and Member of Local 566 (Windsor, ON) and Matthew Heller, OCSM-OMOSC 1st Vice President and Member of Local 547 (Calgary, AB)

The 42nd annual conference of the Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM) was held August 14-18 at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel in Gatineau, Québec. The National Arts Centre Orchestra and Local 180 (Ottawa-Gatineau) hosted the conference. 

As at OCSM’s 2016 conference, many of our discussions this summer focused on advocacy. Political and arts journalist Paul Wells offered a reporter’s perspective on trends in media, advocacy, and public relations affecting orchestras. He described priorities and buzzwords capturing the attention of the current federal government (digital, reconciliation, diversity); pointed to eternal advantages orchestras hold (deep roots in communities, a strong network of students and allies); and spoke to the importance of clear, informative website content. 

From Funding to Diversity

Attendees and guests at the 2017 Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians-Organisation des musiciens d’orchestre symphonique
du Canada (OCSM-OMOSC) Conference. Standing (L to R): Delegates Edith Stacey and Shawn Spicer, OCSM Secretary Faith Scholfield, Delegates Mark Rogers and Christopher Palmer, OCSM President Robert Fraser, Delegates Greg Sheldon, Paul Beauchesne, Michael Macaulay, and Michael Hope, AFM Vice-President from Canada Alan Willaert, ICSOM President George Brown, ROPA President John Michael Smith, Delegates Vincent Vohradsky and Peter Sametz, and Assistant Director SSD Canada Steve Mosher. In chairs (L to R): Delegate Xiao Grabke, OCSM Treasurer Elizabeth Johnston, AFM SSD Director Rochelle Skolnick, OCSM 2nd Vice President Brian Baty, Local 625 Board Member Celeste McClellan, Local 625 Board Member and ROPA President Emerita Barbara Zmich, Delegate Michelle Zapf-Belanger,
OCSM Past President and President Local 180 Francine Schutzman, OCSM Publications Editor Barbara Hankins. On floor (L to R): OCSM
1st Vice President Matthew Heller, Delegate Elspeth Thomson, Director SSD Canada Bernard LeBlanc, Delegates Melissa Goodchild and David Thies-Thompson. Not pictured are: Marie-Julie Chagnon, Leslie Dawn-Knowles, Monique Lagacé, and Stéphane Lévesque.

Department of Canadian Heritage Arts Policy Branch Director Lise Laneville gave an overview of her agency’s work and its relationship to other federal funders, such as the Canada Council for the Arts. She outlined and led discussion of funding programs most relevant to orchestras, including the Arts Presentation, Cultural Spaces, and Canada Cultural Investment Funds.

Orchestras Canada Executive Director Katherine Carleton and consultant Parmela Attariwala introduced the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA) Declaration, a manifesto developed by a task force of Canadian orchestra managers. The document is intended as a framework to shape, monitor, and report on organizational efforts in these areas. OCSM delegates unanimously endorsed the IDEA Manifesto through a resolution.

Taking a lesson from the International Conference of Symphony and Orchestra Musician (ICSOM) and the Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA), OCSM’s Advocacy Committee launched a campaign highlighting our orchestras on social media. Each of our 21 orchestras will be featured for a week during the 2017-2018 season. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to meet our members this year!

Health and Safety

The 2017 OCSM Conference also focused on physical and mental health, safety in the workplace, and optimal performance. Lisa Chisholm, a musician and performance psychologist, gave an engaging presentation about performance anxiety. She offered many useful “hacks” of natural body response systems, corrected common misconceptions, and suggested ways to personalize a strategy for optimal performance, based on one’s own tendencies and preferences. Delegates enjoyed a screening of the documentary feature about performance anxiety, Composed, with filmmaker John Beder in attendance and leading a discussion after the film.

OCSM Publications Editor Barbara Hankins of Local 226 (Kitchener, ON) shared recent presentations and research on how orchestra managers might better address mental health issues in the workplace using the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. Delegates unanimously supported a resolution on mental health, encouraging orchestra managers to familiarize themselves with the standard and work toward its implementation. OCSM Counsel Michael Wright and AFM Symphonic Services Division (SSD) Director Rochelle Skolnick led a discussion around workplace harassment and bullying, focusing on the rights and obligations of orchestra committees, the union, and managers in these difficult situations. 

Presentations by AFM International President Ray Hair and Vice President from Canada Alan Willaert both focused on media issues. Negotiations with Canada’s national broadcaster, the CBC, were recently concluded. Ratification materials will be sent out this fall. Agreement was also reached on experimental new remote rates for projects in Québec; there continues to be very little interest in recording orchestras outside of the province. Negotiations for a new Canadian Symphonic Media Agreement are ongoing. The OCSM Media Committee also revised its streaming guidelines, which have been used by several Canadian orchestras; the guidelines promulgate rates and conditions for streaming video and/or audio of live concerts only. Many thanks to SSD Canada Director Bernard LeBlanc, Assistant Director Steve Mosher, and the OCSM Media Committee for all of their work this year. 

Reports and Elections

Reports were accepted from the conference Location, Finance, Editorial & By-laws, Advocacy, and Nominations committees. The following OCSM officers were re-elected by acclamation: President Robert Fraser of Local 247 (Victoria, BC); 2nd Vice President Brian Baty of Local 149 (Toronto, ON); and Treasurer Elizabeth Johnston of Local 149 (Toronto, ON).  First Vice President Matthew Heller of Local 547 (Calgary, AB) and Secretary Faith Scholfield of Local 566 (Windsor, ON) will be serving the second year of two-year terms.