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ROPA Conference

ROPA Delegates Discuss Diversity and Organizing in Phoenix

Karen Sandeneby Karen Sandene, ROPA Secretary and Member of Locals 70-558 (Omaha, NE) and 463 (Lincoln, NE)

During the first week of August, delegates representing orchestras from all corners of the nation convened in Phoenix, Arizona, for the 33rd Annual Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA) Conference, hosted by Local 586 (Phoenix, AZ) and Arizona Opera Orchestra, with activities centered at the Westin Downtown Phoenix Hotel. ROPA’s annual conference is one of the most important benefits of ROPA membership. Information gleaned the conference assists with negotiating, organizing, and understanding the current state of the orchestral world.

Central themes highlighted throughout this year’s conference were diversity and inclusiveness in the symphonic world. Several excellent guest speakers offered their perspectives over several days. Local 699 (Houston, TX) President Lovie Smith-Wright gave the AFM Diversity Committee report. Phoenix Symphony Principal Clarinet Alex Laing of Local 586 offered a detailed description of plans for recognizing the diversity in our locals and in orchestras. As part of his report, AFM Legislative-Political Director and Director
of Diversity Alfonso Pollard shared information about musicians from minority groups who hold positions in symphony orchestras. On the final day, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra Trombonist Weston Sprott of Local 802 (New York City) presented “Actionable Strategies to Make Your Orchestra More Diverse and Inclusive.”

ROPA Conference

ROPA Board Members include (L to R): Steve Wade, Maya Stone, Mary Anne Lemoine, Lisa Davis, ROPA Treasurer Donna Loomis, ROPA Vice President Dave Shelton, ROPA President Mike Smith, Sean Diller, ROPA Secretary Karen Sandene, Amanda Swain, Naomi Bensdorf Frisch, Taylor Brown, Katie Shields, Nancy Nelson. Not pictured: Marika Fischer Hoyt.

Informative Sessions

The opening session featured addresses by Local 586 President Jerry Donato, Arizona Opera General Director Joe Specter, and Arizona Commission for the Arts Communications Director Steve Wilcox. Donato reported that union membership in the area is up, despite the fact Arizona is a “right to work” state. He shared recruiting techniques Local 586 implements. Specter highlighted several of the opera company’s successful projects. Wilcox reinforced the common knowledge that arts and culture radiate throughout the economy. The final presentation of this first morning was a well-received presentation on hearing protection with Heather Malyuk, AuD, of Sensaphonics.

Delegates spent much of the first day in valuable small group discussions with their members-at-large, sharing information with orchestras of similar budget sizes. Wrapping up official business for the first day, new delegates received training from ROPA officers and members of the AFM Symphonic Services Division (SSD).

On the second day, ROPA warmly welcomed representatives from our fellow AFM Conferences—Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM) President Robert Fraser, Theater Musicians Association President (TMA) Tony D’Amico, Recording Musicians Association (RMA) President Marc Sazer, and International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) Chair Meredith Snow—highlighting their yearlong activities. AFM President Ray Hair led a panel discussion that provided important clarity on the status of the AFM Pension Fund. A large number of resolutions were approved, including the addition of an eighth member-at-large to serve our delegates, which acknowledges that ROPA is a growing organization.

AFM SSD Director Rochelle Skolnick and Negotiator Todd Jelen led the delegates through a lively role-playing activity, “Internal Orchestral Organizing.” The day’s final presentation was by ROPA’s good friend and former AFM Negotiator Nathan Kahn, who shared his wealth of knowledge on negotiations. That evening, conference attendees traveled to the home of the Arizona Opera for a dinner hosted by Local 586.

Along with the diversity sessions mentioned earlier, the final day of conference included remarks by SSD staff. Throughout the conference, AFM SSD staff, including Skolnick, Director of Symphonic Electronic Media Debbie Newmark, Chief Field Negotiator Chris Durham, Negotiators Jelen and Jane Owen, and Contract Administrator Laurence Hofmann, provided valuable knowledge and support to our delegates. We thanked them for their service to the orchestral world. We also welcomed ICSOM Attorney Kevin Case who discussed the topic of bullying in the orchestral world.

Officer Elections

Following the election of officers, the 2017-2018 ROPA Executive Board will include President Mike Smith (Minnesota Opera Orchestra, Local 30-73), Vice President Dave Shelton (Lexington Philharmonic, Local 554-635), Secretary Karen Sandene (Omaha Symphony Orchestra and Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra, Locals 70-558 and 463), Treasurer Donna Loomis (El Paso Symphony Orchestra, Local 466), Delegate-at-Large to the AFM Convention Naomi Bensdorf Frisch (Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra and Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, Locals 166 and 10-208), and Members-at-Large Taylor Brown (Chattanooga Symphony and Opera, Local 80), Lisa Davis (Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, Local 579), Sean Diller (Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra, Local 232-278), Marika Fisher Hoyt (Madison Symphony Orchestra, Local 166), Katie Shields (Arizona Opera Orchestra, Local 586), Maya Stone (Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, Locals 80 and 257), and Steve Wade (Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Local 400).

And finally, we offer our sincere appreciation to the 2017 conference hosts, the musicians of the Arizona Opera Orchestra, Local 586 members and President Jerry Donato, and numerous hard-working local volunteers. We would also like to thank Conference Coordinator Linda Boivin of Local 618
(Albuquerque, NM) and ROPA Delegate Katie Shields for their outstanding work assisting the ROPA Board in presenting a well-run conference.

We look forward to our 2018 34th Annual Conference in Portland, Oregon.

Convention Delegates Renew Commitment to Legislative and Political Action

The 100th AFM Convention became the forum for our delegates to organize around legislative and political issues that impact the lives of professional musicians. Delegates to the Convention stepped up in very real, tangible ways, committed to support our goal to keep government focused on the honest treatment of musicians impacted by legislation and regulations that might be harmful, if not kept in check.

Not enough praise can be bestowed upon Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-MS), ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee. The congressman took time on Father’s Day, June 19, to travel to Las Vegas from Mississippi to engage the delegates. He addressed our ongoing immigration battle over delays in P-2 and O-1 visas, filling the delegates in on the work he and his staff are doing with the AFM Office of Government Relations to address this complex issue.

Prior to his appearance at the Convention gala, the congressman met with AFM President Ray Hair and AFM staff to lay the groundwork for congressional action. Thompson was true to his word about resolving this issue as evidenced by ongoing meetings with his congressional staff and exchanges with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) administrators.

(L to R) AFM Legislative-Political Director and Diversity Director Alfonso Pollard, Congressman Bennie Thompson, and AFM President Ray Hair.

(L to R) AFM Legislative-Political Director and Diversity Director Alfonso Pollard, Congressman Bennie Thompson, and AFM President Ray Hair.

It should be noted that resolution of this matter will be “a process,” not a quick fix, as his staff establishes a path toward a permanent solution. In his comments to the delegates and to the congressman, AFM President Ray Hair noted, “The AFM has no greater champion on the issue of repairing the broken P-2 visa process than Congressman Bennie Thompson. My long-term relationship with him and my family over decades underscores the fact that he is a man of means and great integrity. Congressman Thompson is very knowledgeable about, and has a wonderful appreciation for, music and the arts, as well as a heart of gold as relates to the plight of professional musicians struggling to earn a living. We welcome a man of his stature and superlative character into our house and pledge to do all within our power to assist him in his endeavor toward a resolution of this difficult issue.” 

A discussion also took place over the importance of locals getting behind HR 1733, the Fair Play Fair Pay Act. Convention delegates were treated to a remarkably lucid presentation by SoundExchange President and CEO Mike Huppe. An independent nonprofit collective management organization,
SoundExchange collects and distributes digital performance royalties to featured artists and copyright holders. Huppe was able to clearly outline the nexus between the importance of a solid royalty stream to artists and the passage of the act. HR 1733 will provide a permanent royalty stream for current day musicians whose sound recordings are performed on AM/FM radio, as well as provide copyright law protection for artists who performed on pre-1972 recordings.

On the political front, special appreciation goes out to the AFM convention delegates, all of whom showed exceptional leadership by joining the AFM Signature TEMPO Campaign. This vital leadership campaign was developed as a platform for AFM officers and members to more actively engage in our legislative-political work. Signature Members participate in group conference calls discussing long- and short-range plans to create a stronger national legislative political base throughout the union. In addition to participation on strategic calls, Signature Members receive special TEMPO marketing tools, along with a monthly copy of The Atlantic Magazine to share with members.

We also thank AFM International Representatives and AFM TEMPO Coordinator Sandra Grier in Washington, DC, for the work they do promoting this special campaign. Convention membership increased exponentially due to their diligent monthly promotion of the campaign. Again, this is not just a fundraising drive but a strategic effort to boost AFM member participation in government affairs.

This year, convention delegates participated in the first AFM TEMPO sweepstakes. It replaced the AFM Convention raffle, giving all participants a chance at winning the grand prize. Winner of the sweepstakes piano was Local 34-627 President Don (Warner) Warmbrodt. Congratulations, Don!

Five TEMPO Achievement Service Awards went to locals that meritoriously participated in TEMPO fundraising over a three-year period between the 2013 and 2016 conventions. AFM Local 257 (Nashville, TN), led by President Dave Pomeroy, had the fifth highest level of contributions. AFM Local 9-535 (Boston, MA), led by President Pat Hollenbeck, achieved the fourth highest level of contributions. Local 47, led by President John Acosta, achieved the third highest level of contributions. AFM Local 161-710 (Washington, DC), led by President Edgardo Malaga, achieved the second highest level of contributions. The highest award went to AFM Local 6 (San Francisco, CA), led by President David Schoenbrun. We congratulate the outstanding work of these locals as we work to find ways to successfully integrate all AFM Locals into the TEMPO program.

New USFWS Rules on African Elephant Ivory

On July 6, 2016, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) placed new rules in effect regarding the African elephant ivory ban that includes positive language for musical instruments. After more than a year, working in cooperation with our national ivory partners (League of American Orchestras, The Recording Academy, Chamber Music, American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers, National Association of Music Merchants, and Performing Arts Alliance) we finally accomplished regulatory language that provides a level of comfort for musicians who own musical instruments with de minimis amounts (200g or less) of banned African elephant ivory, particularly musicians who wish to buy, sell, or otherwise trade instruments with de minimis amounts of banned ivory. Helpful new guidance from USFWS in the form of frequently asked questions is found on the website: www.fws.gov/international/travel-and-trade/ivory-ban-questions-and-answers.html, appropriately titled, “What Can I Do with My Ivory.” A more extensive review of these new rules and the AFM’s ongoing efforts to “do no harm” to professional musicians in every musical genre will be posted in the September International Musician.  For additional information contact Alfonso Pollard at apollard@afm.org.