Tag Archives: John Michael Smith

ropa's 34th annual conference

ROPA’s 34th Annual Conference: Working with Other Player Conferences and the AFM

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

The Regional Orchestra Players’ Association will hold its 34th annual conference in Portland, Oregon, July 31-August 2. The conference will be held at University Place Hotel & Conference Center, on the campus of Portland State University. Our conference will feature presentations on a variety of subjects of interest to our members, including hearing wellness, sexual harassment, performance anxiety, and diversity and inclusiveness in our orchestras, opera, and ballet companies.

ROPA is one of three AFM symphonic player conferences, along with the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) and the Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM). These three AFM player conferences work closely with the AFM’s Symphonic Services Division (SSD). Throughout the year, representatives of these player conferences meet and communicate with SSD staff in person, by email, and through phone conference calls to discuss issues and topics of mutual interest.

ROPA, ICSOM, and OCSM, together with the Theater Musicians’ Association (TMA) and the Recording Musicians’ Association (RMA), comprise the player conferences of the AFM. The leaders of each of these player conferences comprise the Player Conferences Council (PCC). This council periodically discusses issues of mutual importance among our conferences. In years when there is no AFM Convention, we meet together with representatives of the Locals’ Conferences Council (LCC) to address topics and issues.

It is important to note that each player conference usually sends a representative to address and attend the other player conferences’ annual meetings. This is especially true of the three symphonic player conferences. SSD staff members attend each of the symphonic player conferences and do presentations on important current topics. The AFM president, other AFM officers, and members of the AFM International Executive Board (IEB) may also attend the player conference annual meetings.

Along with ICSOM, AFM, and SSD staff, ROPA participates in the negotiation of national agreements that directly affect our members, such as the current negotiations for the Integrated Media Agreement. ROPA has an Emergency Relief Fund maintained and administered by a board of trustees made up of the AFM international secretary-treasurer, the ROPA president and treasurer, and two additional trustees selected by the IEB. The fund provides financial assistance loans to musicians in orchestras who are involved in strikes or lockouts. ROPA, ICSOM, and OCSM also have a relationship with conductor evaluations, providing information for search committees of orchestras looking for conductors or music directors. Each player conference has its own database, but shares files with the other player conferences upon request.

ROPA, ICSOM, and SSD staff frequently provide educational programs for musicians new to the AFM and the symphonic field, such as the fellows of New World Symphony. ROPA and ICSOM have participated at the Sphinx Organization’s SphinxConnect, where the focus is diversity action and leadership in our orchestras. ROPA and ICSOM representatives often attend the League of American Orchestras national conferences.

ROPA publishes its quarterly newsletter The Leading Tone both in print and electronically. This publication goes to musicians in our member orchestras, other player conference musicians, AFM locals, and others by subscription. ROPA has a website (ropaweb.org), a Facebook page, and is developing other social media pages. ROPA and the other player conferences have email discussion lists, with general lists for members of orchestras, locals, and others interested in topics of common interest to the player conference. Each of the player conferences may permit members of other player conferences to access their general lists.

The Player Conferences of the AFM, the Symphonic Services Division, and the AFM are working every day, side by side on the missions and goals for our musicians,
our orchestras, and our union. We are stronger together!

What Is a Player Conference?

by John Michael Smith, President Regional Orchestra Players Association

There are five player conferences within the AFM: the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) founded 1962; the Recording Musicians Association (RMA) founded 1969; the Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM) founded 1975; the Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA) founded 1984; and the Theater Musicians Association (TMA) founded 1991.

The five player conferences function as a resource for information and advocate in their respective areas of specialization within the AFM. ICSOM, OCSM, and ROPA are symphonic in nature; they represent symphony orchestras, chamber orchestras, opera orchestras, and ballet orchestras. RMA and TMA represent musicians in their areas of specialization, recording studios and theaters. Each player conference holds general meetings, executive board meetings, and other meetings. These communications are necessary to provide resources and information to their members.

For ROPA, the organization is made up of delegates from each of our 86 member orchestras. ROPA has two membership levels: full and associate. Each delegate is selected by their orchestra, with the support of the AFM local. As a delegate, they gather and provide valuable and current information and resources for both the orchestra and their local through communications with the other ROPA delegates, the ROPA Executive Board, and by attending the annual conference.

The ROPA Executive Board is elected from full member orchestras, and consists of a president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, and eight members at-large. The ROPA Executive Board also includes a delegate at-large to the AFM Convention who is a nonvoting member of the board. ROPA has several adjunct positions: editor of its publication, The Leading Tone; social media coordinator for Facebook, Twitter, etc.; historian; webmaster; conductor evaluation coordinator; and conference coordinator. There are several standing committees, including Legislative, Electronic Media, and Annual Conference. The ROPA President, with approval of the executive board, appoints musicians to these adjunct positions.

It is important to realize that all of these positions in our player conferences are voluntary. There are small honoraria for the titled officers and other labor-intensive positions for most of the player conferences. Travel and meal expenses for board members and others working for the boards when attending meetings are covered. The AFM musicians who hold these positions are doing this because they feel strongly that this is work that needs to be done. By taking on these roles, they are supporting their orchestras, as well as fellow musicians, their local, their player conference, and their union. They want to play a vital role in making a difference.

It is also important to remember that the player conferences are partners with the AFM locals where their delegates and orchestras are members. I’ve always been impressed by the number of local officers and members of the local boards of directors who are also ROPA delegates and executive board members.

The player conferences frequently work with AFM international officers and staff. In negotiations for national agreements, representatives from the player conferences are vital members of AFM negotiating committees, and serve side by side with AFM President Ray Hair, Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal, International Executive Board (IEB) members, local officers, and staff. Representatives from both ICSOM and ROPA have participated in orchestra musician education programs with AFM Symphonic Services Division staff. Player conference representatives also participate in the AFM Convention. And in years when there is no AFM Convention, player conferences send representatives to a meeting of the Players Conference Council (PCC) and Local Conference Council (LCC) with the AFM IEB, for the purpose of exchanging information and ideas on issues of common importance to the AFM, its locals, and its members.

I am so appreciative of all the work my colleagues in our player conferences do for our orchestras, our musicians, our locals, and our AFM. Thanks to you all!