Tag Archives: OCSM conference

Bob Fraser Photo

OCSM Looks Forward to Full In-Person Conference

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

The 48th annual Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM) Conference will be held August 14-17 at Hotel Ruby Foo’s in Montreal, Quebec. Local 406 (Montreal, PQ) has made a generous donation toward our conference. We look forward to having close to a full slate of delegates, something we have missed since before the pandemic.

The opening day of our conference always has a roundtable of reports from each of our 21 delegates. From there, we learn of the ups and downs of everyone’s season, which is usually fodder for discussion later in the conference.

The second day will be largely about organizing. AFM Symphonic Services Division (SSD) Director Rochelle Skolnick and the SSD staff will do a workshop on mobilizing your bargaining unit, and our legal counsel, Michael Wright, will go over the legal do’s and don’ts of various job actions.

We are excited about new developments and advances in the study and teaching of musician health and wellness. Dr. Christine Guptill of the University of Ottawa, and Carolyn Christie, former musician with Montreal Symphony and current faculty of McGill University, will share their expertise.

As we come out of a major disruption, it is more important than ever to be equipped to understand orchestra finances, financial reporting, and how to gauge the health of our organizations. To that end, Julia Gaunt-Rannala from Young Associates, a Toronto consulting/teaching firm that assists not-for-profits, will be giving us the presentation “Orchestra Finances 101.”

As always, we will hear reports from our sibling player conferences, the Musicians’ Pension Fund of Canada, and Orchestras Canada. Because we are in the province of Quebec for this conference, we are hoping that representatives from the many AFM orchestras in the region can join us. There are 25 orchestral bargaining units in Local 406, and only three of these are OCSM members. If you are reading this and are a musician in one of these orchestras, we would love to see you in Montreal, if you are available.

Next year, 2024, will be the 50th anniversary of the first “Symphony Symposium” held at the 1974 AFM Canadian Conference in St. Catherines, Ontario. This was the meeting that led to the formation of OCSM’s first executive board a year later, and its inaugural conference a year after that, in 1976.

We look forward to meeting in Montreal soon and we are eager to report back to you this fall. Happy summer season to you all.

L’OMOSC se réjouit de tenir sa conférence en personne

par Robert Fraser, président de l’OMOSC et membre de la section locale 247 (Victoria, C.-B.)

La 48e Conférence annuelle de l’OMOSC se tiendra du 14 au 17 août à l’hôtel Ruby Foo’s à Montréal, au Québec. La section locale 406 a fait un don très généreux envers notre conférence, et nous nous réjouissons à la perspective d’accueillir l’ensemble de nos délégués, un plaisir dont nous sommes privés depuis avant la pandémie.

La première journée de notre conférence comprend toujours une table ronde où nos 21 délégués rendent compte des hauts et des bas de leurs saisons respectives, nous fournissant souvent la matière de nos discussions pour les jours suivants.

La deuxième journée sera essentiellement consacrée à la syndicalisation; Rochelle Skolnick et le personnel de la DSS de l’AFM donneront un atelier sur la mobilisation de votre unité de négociation, et notre conseiller juridique Michael Wright fera un tour d’horizon des moyens de pression à utiliser ou à éviter.

Les progrès et les nouveaux développements en ce qui concerne l’étude et l’enseignement relatifs à la santé et au mieux-être des musiciens nous intéressent vivement. Nous avons donc invité la Dre Christine Guptill de l’Université d’Ottawa et Carolyn Christie, ex-membre de l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal et professeure à la faculté de musique de l’Université McGill, à nous parler de leur expertise en la matière.

Alors que nous sortons d’une perturbation majeure, il est plus important que jamais de pouvoir comprendre les finances de nos orchestres, de savoir lire les rapports financiers ainsi que de bien mesurer la santé de nos organismes. À cette fin, Julia Gaunt-Rannala des Young Associates, une firme de consultation et d’enseignement de Toronto qui assiste les organismes à but non lucratif, nous donnera une présentation sur les « finances d’orchestre 101 ».

Et comme toujours, les associations de nos collègues américains nous présenteront leurs rapports, tout comme la Caisse de retraite des musiciens du Canada et Orchestres Canada. Parce que cette conférence a lieu au Québec, nous espérons que les nombreux orchestres de l‘AFM dans la région pourront y être représentés. En effet, la section locale 406 compte 25 unités de négociation d’orchestre, et il n’y en a que trois qui sont membres de l’OMOSC. Si vous lisez ceci et que vous êtes membre d’un de ces orchestres, nous aimerions beaucoup vous voir à Montréal si vous êtes libre.

L’année prochaine, 2024, marquera le 50e anniversaire du premier symposium symphonique (Symphony Symposium) qui a eu lieu dans le cadre de la Conférence canadienne 1974 de l’AFM à St Catharines, en Ontario. C’est cette rencontre qui a mené à la formation du premier conseil de direction de l’OMOSC l’année suivante et à sa première conférence l’année d’après, en 1976.

Nous avons hâte de vous voir à Montréal et serons heureux de vous rendre compte de la conférence cet automne. Bonne saison d’été à vous tous.

OCSM: The Long Coda

As I write this, the two-year anniversary date of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic has just passed, and my colleagues in the Victoria Symphony are performing a concert on the two-year anniversary of our first COVID-related cancellation (March 12, 2020). Tonight’s concert is the first “mask optional” concert for us, the order having been lifted just yesterday.

Last month, all 21 of our Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM) orchestras reported on their 2021-2022 seasons so far. Some delayed performing altogether until February 2022; some began live performances in fall 2021, only to be shut down again by the omicron variant (then going to virtual performances or going silent); and some, like my colleagues here on the west coast, have been able to do limited capacity live concerts the whole time, with some surprises along the way in the form of deferred programs, changes to repertoire, and constant re-evaluation of safety protocols.

For the most part, these protocols have kept us safe. Nobody reported workplace outbreaks, although some OCSM delegates did report isolated cases among colleagues. Most of our orchestras are back to prepandemic pay levels, but none seem to have fully returned to prepandemic service density. With lowered production costs during the pandemic, and government subsidies, several of our orchestras have generated operating surpluses over the past two seasons.

The pandemic has made all of us reluctant to attempt to predict the future. (Remember the predictions that this would be over by fall 2020?) What will our future audiences look like? Will we ever return to prepandemic work density? Nobody wants to attempt to predict anything anymore, which will be a huge challenge to our negotiating committees, many of which are active now.

As most orchestras produced concerts online during the shutdown under the COVID-19 side letter, many have continued to do so now that audiences have returned, producing “hybrid” seasons, where some offerings are made available online in addition to live performances. Production rules and fair compensation for media work will be subjects of interest to most orchestra musicians, not just to musicians of the larger orchestras that did media work in the past. Orchestras Canada did a major study of media work during the 2020-2021 season, which gives us a glimpse of the media landscape post-COVID.

Delegates have also reported many vacancies in their orchestras—one orchestra that normally has 67 contracted musicians has nine vacancies, another of similar size has 10. The audition and tenure review procedure, which has been a topic of discussion ever since there were orchestral conferences, seems to be ripe for re-evaluation. At least two of our orchestras have asked for recorded submissions for preliminary rounds (no more auditions with dozens of people auditioning live over two full days).

For me, a sure sign that we’ve reached the double bar on the pandemic will be the OCSM Conference, which will be held at the Hotel Saskatchewan in Regina, Saskatchewan, August 8-12, 2022. Being able to travel and gather as colleagues from across the country is something I will never again take for granted. Until then, I wish you all the best with the remaining weeks of your respective orchestral seasons.

La longue coda

par Robert Fraser, président de l’OMOSC et membre de la section locale 247 (Victoria, C.-B.)

Au moment d’écrire ces lignes, nous venons de passer le cap des deux ans depuis la déclaration de Au moment d’écrire ces lignes, nous venons de passer le cap des deux ans depuis la déclaration de pandémie mondiale par l’Organisation mondiale de la santé, et mes collègues du Victoria Symphony donnent un concert deux ans, jour pour jour, après notre première annulation en raison de la COVID-19, le 12 mars 2020. Le concert de ce soir est le premier au cours duquel le port du masque sera facultatif, puisque l’obligation de le porter dans les lieux publics a été levée hier.

Le mois dernier, les 21 orchestres membres de l’Organisation des musiciens d’orchestre symphonique du Canada (OMOSC) ont rendu compte de leur saison 2021-2022 à ce jour. Certains ont dû reporter leurs représentations jusqu’en février 2022; d’autres ont repris les concerts à l’automne 2021, mais ont ensuite été contraints de suspendre leurs activités en personne en raison du variant Omicron, et de donner des représentations virtuelles ou de ranger leurs archets. D’autres encore, comme mes collègues sur la côte ouest, ont pu continuer de donner des concerts devant des salles à capacité réduite, mais leur saison a été ponctuée de programmes reportés, de changements de répertoire et d’une réévaluation constante des protocoles de sécurité.

Dans l’ensemble, ces protocoles ont été efficaces : aucun orchestre n’a signalé d’éclosions en milieu de travail, bien que certains délégués de l’OMOSC aient fait état de cas isolés parmi leurs collègues. La plupart des orchestres membres de l’OMOSC sont revenus aux niveaux de rémunération d’avant la pandémie, mais aucun ne semble avoir retrouvé les mêmes taux d’occupation. La réduction des coûts de production et l’octroi de subventions gouvernementales en raison de la pandémie ont fait en sorte que plusieurs de nos orchestres ont dégagé un excédent d’exploitation lors des deux dernières saisons.

Après deux ans de pandémie, plus personne ne veut se risquer à prédire l’avenir (vous vous souvenez des prédictions selon lesquelles l’automne 2020 marquerait la fin de la pandémie?). À quoi ressembleront nos auditoires dans les prochains mois, les prochaines années? Serons-nous aussi sollicités qu’avant la pandémie? Plus personne ne veut se prononcer, ce qui mettra de gros bâtons dans les roues de nos comités de négociation, dont beaucoup sont d’ailleurs actifs en ce moment.

Comme la plupart des orchestres ont produit leurs concerts virtuels pendant le confinement aux termes de la lettre d’entente COVID-19, beaucoup poursuivent sur la même voie maintenant que les spectateurs sont de retour. Ils proposent des saisons « hybrides », dans le cadre desquelles certaines représentations sont offertes tant en ligne que devant un auditoire. Les règles de production et la juste rémunération du contenu multimédia intéresseront la plupart des musiciens d’orchestre, et non seulement ceux des grands orchestres qui en ont déjà fait dans le passé. Orchestres Canada a mené une vaste étude consacrée aux prestations en ligne pendant la saison 2020-2021, et nous voyons maintenant un aperçu de l’environnement médiatique postpandémie.

Les délégués ont également rapporté que de nombreux postes sont vacants au sein de leurs orchestres. Par exemple, un orchestre qui compte habituellement 67 musiciens sous contrat a neuf postes à pourvoir, tandis qu’un autre doit en pourvoir 10. Par ailleurs, il serait temps de revoir les processus d’audition et d’évaluation menant à la permanence, qui font l’objet de discussions depuis la création des associations d’orchestres. Au moins deux de nos orchestres ont demandé la possibilité de soumettre des enregistrements en remplacement de l’étape préliminaire où des dizaines de candidats se présentent en personne, ce qui occupe deux journées complètes.

La tenue de la conférence annuelle de l’OMOSC à l’hôtel Saskatchewan de Regina, en Saskatchewan, du 8 au 12 août 2022 sera le signe qui ne trompe pas : nous serons arrivés à la double-barre de la pandémie. D’ailleurs, je ne tiendrai plus jamais pour acquise la possibilité de prendre l’avion pour aller rencontrer mes collègues des autres provinces. D’ici là, je vous souhaite une excellente fin de saison.

OCSM Conference Focuses on Musicians’ Health

Pour voir cet article en français, cliquez ici.

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

The Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM) held its 2019 Conference from August 12-16 in Hamilton, Ontario. Hamilton is the birthplace of performing arts medicine in Canada, so we devoted a full day to health issues, beginning with a presentation by Dr. John Chong, one of the founding physicians of the Musicians’ Clinics of Canada. His overview of more than 30 years of working with professional musicians was an excellent introduction, culminating in a live demonstration of technology designed to map the movements of muscle groups of musicians while they are performing.

We also welcomed audiologist Heather Malyuk of Soundcheck Audiology to OCSM for the first time—she has previously presented at both the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) and Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA) conferences. Heather is one of only a handful of audiologists who specialize in musicians’ hearing health, and one of the few in the world with extensive knowledge of the realities orchestral musicians face in their work. We were fortunate to witness the testing of a prototype device that will potentially revolutionize the way we protect our most precious resource: our hearing. This device allows the wearer to both attenuate (reduce) sound levels to protect hearing, and boost frequencies where needed, thus eliminating the one-size-fits-all approach to hearing protection. This is, of course, an oversimplification of how the device works—I would encourage you to follow Heather at her website (Soundcheckaudiology.com) to learn more.

Our day continued with a field trip across town to the campus of McMaster University and the LIVELab facility. As mentioned in one of my previous columns, this is a concert facility equipped to assist in research on how music and the mind/body interact. For those in the Hamilton area who haven’t been to the LIVELab, this is an amazing performance space—the acoustic makes use of enhanced technology to create a highly variable listening environment, from a cathedral-like reverb all the way to an almost anechoic chamber. The delegates took part in a study where we were asked to evaluate performances recorded on a Disklavier piano, to determine if performance anxiety could be “heard” when the performer was not “seen”. It was an interesting exercise, but I couldn’t help but think it would have made a good study of audition committee fatigue, because we were all pretty tired from our two days of meeting up until that point!

Our day concluded with a panel on mental health issues, including the concertmaster of the Hamilton Philharmonic, Stephen Sitarski, and Rachael Finnerty-Hauser from the Ontario Music Therapy Academy. Steve gave a good overview of how a musician’s career typically unfolds, and how different aspects of the stages of a musician’s career affect mental health. Again, this was an issue one could center an entire conference on—we just got enough of an introduction to realize how much work needs to be done toward making our workplaces healthier.

We took advantage of our location to amass the best legal minds in our profession at this conference. Kevin Case, ICSOM’s legal counsel, gave his first presentation to an OCSM conference, on the preparation of negotiation surveys. Our own legal counsel, Michael Wright, gave a presentation on the intersection of criminal law, off-duty conduct, and labour law. AFM Symphonic Services Division Director Rochelle Skolnick, in addition to all her assistance throughout the conference, led us in an excellent role-playing exercise where we took part in a mock peer review of a dismissal for artistic reasons (including some Oscar-winning performances by our delegates!).

In addition to reports from each delegate, our AFM SSD staff, the other Player Conferences, the Musicians’ Pension Fund of Canada, our group musical instrument insurance carrier (Western Financial Group Insurance Solutions), and AFM President Ray Hair, we had an annual update from Orchestras Canada as well on their initiatives toward diversity in our orchestras and their presentations to government bodies on behalf of the industry. We also had a presentation from Elizabeth Simpson (horn player with the National Arts Centre Orchestra), and Erin Parkes (Lotus Centre for Special Music Education) on the “Music Circle” program that NACO operates. It is an educational/outreach program directed at students in the special needs community (especially children on the Autism spectrum).

There were a number of changes on our executive board: Elizabeth Johnston (Canadian Opera Company Orchestra) has moved from the treasurer position to the position of first vice president. Peter Sametz (Regina Symphony) has been elected treasurer, and Xiao Grabke (National Ballet of Canada Orchestra) was elected to the position of second vice president. Melissa Goodchild (Saskatoon Symphony) continues in the role of secretary, and Robert Fraser (Victoria Symphony) was re-elected president.

A more detailed conference report will be published this month in Una Voce, the official OCSM publication, and of course, you are always welcome to consult with your orchestra’s OCSM delegate to learn more.