Tag Archives: ocsm

OCSM Conference to Be Held Online August 4-6

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

Following up on my column in April’s International Musician (“Where is that Coda Sign?”), the 2021 Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM) Conference will be held online again this summer. We are still in the early stages of emerging from the pandemic, and with our locals’ resources stretched, and uncertainty around travel, it seemed the most prudent decision.

By the time you read this, we will have had two June online meetings with our 21 OCSM delegates, where each gave a brief report on their orchestra’s season activity. Almost all of our orchestras made a dramatic shift to the production of digital content this year. These digital offerings took every form imaginable: self-produced videos, collaborations with third parties, outreach projects, livestreams to care facilities, ticketed livestreamed concerts, and prerecorded offerings shown free of charge with donations encouraged. Despite no earned revenue from large-capacity audiences—the orchestra’s “bread and butter”—many delegates reported that their managements had achieved small surpluses and fundraising/donation campaigns raised more money than expected.

In late May and early June, I was privileged to take part in Orchestras Canada’s series of three online seminars, The Future of the Digital Orchestra. AFM Symphonic Services Division (SSD) Director for Canada Bernard LeBlanc and I were on the steering committee for the project. With the help of OCSM’s delegates, I was able to give a presentation on the third seminar from the musician’s perspective: the challenges of recording versus live performance, the pressures of getting it right, and the problems created by COVID-19 protocols. I carried the message that creating digital content is something we are interested in continuing after the pandemic.

I reported in my last column that we now have an Integrated Media Agreement for Canada (the IMAC) and we hope that more of our orchestras will become signatory to this agreement. As the conversation around our digital presence continues, part of our August conference will centre on that topic. Michael Hodgett of The Arts Firm, facilitator of the Orchestras Canada project, is joining us.

As I have reported in previous columns, in 2017, OCSM voted to support Orchestras Canada’s IDEA Declaration—a commitment on the part of our orchestras to inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility. A call for inclusion and diversity must include coming to terms with the uncomfortable facts of current and past events that have created systemic inequalities throughout our nation.

This was driven home recently in Canada with the shocking discovery of the bodies of 215 children buried on the site of a former Indian residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. While that story was being reported in the news cycle, a Muslim family was brutally murdered in London, Ontario, in a crime that is being prosecuted as an act of terrorism.

As we seek to serve our entire community in all its diversity, we have to confront upsetting truths such as these. It may seem far removed from our abilities as musicians to deal with mass social injustices. However, keep in mind that the history of organized labour has always included a strong social justice element and that the arts have always played a role in healing and bringing communities together. How we do this will certainly be a topic of discussion among our members for many conferences to come.

If this column is being read by orchestral musicians who are not yet part of OCSM, or other musicians interested in our work, the Zoom platform conveniently allows us to open our conferences to more people than we can normally fit in one of our hotel conference rooms. Please keep your eyes peeled for more information on how you can observe some of our sessions, by following us on Facebook and Twitter, and visiting our website: www.ocsm-omosc.org.

La conférence de l’OMOSC aura lieu en ligne, du 4 au 6 août

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

Pour faire suite à ma chronique du mois d’avril dans l’International Musician, je vous annonce que la Conférence 2021 de l’Organisation des musiciens d’orchestre du Canada se tiendra en ligne encore une fois cet été. En effet, comme nous commençons à peine à sortir de la pandémie, que les ressources de nos sections locales sont très limitées en ce moment et que l’incertitude persiste quant aux possibilités de voyager, il nous a semblé préférable de jouer de prudence.

Au moment où vous lirez ces lignes, nous aurons déjà tenu deux rencontres en ligne avec nos 21 délégués de l’OMOSC afin qu’ils puissent nous présenter un bref rapport de leurs saisons orchestrales respectives. Presque tous les orchestres ont effectué un virage important vers la production de contenu numérique cette année, et ces réalisations ont pris toutes les formes possibles et imaginables : vidéos autoproduites, collaborations avec des tiers, projets dans la collectivité, diffusions en direct dans des centres de soins, diffusions en direct pour public payant et concerts préenregistrés diffusés gratuitement ou contre un don volontaire. Malgré que les orchestres aient été privés des revenus de billetterie – leur pain et leur beurre – auxquels ils sont habitués, de nombreux délégués indiquent que leur administration a dégagé un léger surplus, et que les collectes de fonds ont rapporté plus que prévu.

Fin mai, début juin, j’ai eu le privilège de participer à la série de trois séminaires en ligne d’Orchestres Canada intitulée L’Avenir de l’orchestre numérique. Le directeur des Services symphoniques de la FAM pour le Canada, Bernard LeBlanc et moi-même faisions partie du comité directeur de ce projet. Avec l’aide des délégués de l’OMOSC, j’ai pu donner une présentation du point de vue des musiciens : les défis que présentent les enregistrements par opposition aux concerts, la pression de la réussite et les problèmes que créent les protocoles liés à la COVID-19. J’ai souligné que nous souhaitons continuer à produire du contenu numérique après la pandémie. Dans la dernière chronique, je vous ai indiqué que nous avons maintenant une Entente canadienne sur les médias intégrés, et j’espère que d’autres orchestres de l’OMOSC l’adopteront.

Les discussions relatives à notre présence numérique se poursuivant, nous consacrerons une partie de notre conférence du mois d’août à cette question. Michael Hodgett de The Arts Firm, le facilitateur pour le projet d’Orchestres Canada, se joindra à nous.

Comme je l’ai dit dans des chroniques précédentes, en 2017, l’OMOSC a adopté une résolution d’appui à la déclaration IDEA d’Orchestres Canada — un engagement de nos orchestres envers l’inclusion, la diversité, l’équité et l’accessibilité. L’appel en faveur de l’inclusion et de la diversité doit nécessairement passer par la reconnaissance des faits dérangeants liés aux événements actuels et passés qui ont créé des inégalités systémiques à l’échelle de notre nation.

Cela nous a été rappelé récemment au Canada avec la découverte choquante des 215 corps d’enfants autochtones enterrés sur le site d’une ancienne école résidentielle à Kamloops, en Colombie-Britannique. Et tandis que cette histoire faisait toujours les manchettes, une famille musulmane a été brutalement assassinée à London, en Ontario, un crime qui fait l’objet d’une accusation de terrorisme.

Dans notre volonté de servir notre collectivité dans toute sa diversité, nous devons regarder ces réalités en face. S’occuper de telles injustices sociales de masse peut sembler bien loin de nos compétences de musiciens, mais n’oublions pas que l’histoire de la syndicalisation est fortement tissée de justice sociale, et que les arts ont toujours joué un rôle important dans la guérison et le rassemblement des collectivités. Les moyens d’y parvenir alimenteront sûrement les discussions de nos membres pendant de nombreuses conférences à venir.

Si vous êtes musicien dans un orchestre qui n’est pas encore membre de l’OMOSC ou simplement un musicien qui s’intéresse à notre travail, sachez que la plateforme Zoom nous permet d’ouvrir nos conférences à beaucoup plus de personnes qu’on ne peut normalement en accueillir dans nos salles de conférence d’hôtel. Gardez l’œil ouvert pour en savoir plus sur comment assister à certaines de nos séances comme observateur. Suivez-nous sur Facebook et Twitter, et visitez notre site Web à www.ocsm-omosc.org.

Where is that Coda Sign?

en français

It has been difficult writing for my colleagues during this pandemic, especially since so much can change during the month that will lapse between the time I am writing this and the time many of you will be reading it. But I am optimistic right now that we are heading to the coda of this rather long piece (after having had to take a few repeats that nobody wanted to take—I am sure all my orchestra colleagues have been on that gig).

Despite the severity of the pandemic during the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, all OCSM members that have service guarantees are being paid at least 65% of their normal compensation levels—the majority of these are being paid between 75 and 100%. For the general state of orchestras in Canada, I highly recommend two items found in the “Resources” section of Orchestras Canada’s website (https://oc.ca—look under the “Learn” tab on the homepage). One is a survey: OC surveyed its member orchestras last fall, and of the 57 that responded, 84% of these tried some sort of digital initiative during the pandemic, whether that be online concerts, special outreach projects, or online fundraising events. The other is the Comparative Report of orchestra finances from the 2019-20 season. That shows the direct initial financial impact of the pandemic.

The state of our organizations will be very much in mind as we look to the fall of 2021. All of us will hope to be released from side letters that were designed to get us through the pandemic, and we will need to be prepared for these negotiations. I think it is safe to say that at some of our organizations will want to continue producing online content. This may fill a need to serve patrons who are unable to make it back to the concert hall just yet, or they may just want to continue to develop digital content as part of the orchestra’s overall mission to serve its community.

With that in mind, and thanks to the tireless work of our two Canadian Symphonic Services Division employees, Richard Sandals and Bernard Leblanc, we now have an Integrated Media Agreement for Canada (IMAC). Richard has already presented it to OCSM delegates at our recent online meeting in January. Some of our orchestras have already ratified it. It is my hope that all orchestra committees and their locals will take a serious look at adopting the IMAC—it will create a national standard for media work in our field in Canada.

Beyond that, what lies ahead for OCSM? At our last executive meeting, we decided to recommend to the delegates that we continue to meet online for now, and hold our next live conference in 2022. As much as everyone is suffering from “Zoom Fatigue” (another new term the pandemic has given us), it has been an effective tool for us. We have started to invite observers from the orchestra committees of non-OCSM orchestras and it is my hope that this is a prelude to the expansion of OCSM—perhaps even to create two different organizations like our colleagues in the US (ICSOM and ROPA).

I am in my third decade of involvement with OCSM now, and there are issues that, despite the progress we have made, are still in need of work. One is the treatment of freelance musicians in our ranks. We call them “extras,” but who is kidding whom? Many of them are anything but “extra”. In some of our orchestras these “extras” have dedicated substantial portions of their careers to an ensemble, but they have never been afforded the benefits given to musicians doing essentially the same job. Nowhere was this made clearer than during the pandemic, when those without the protections afforded by our collective agreements were left behind, especially those musicians without the aforementioned service guarantees.

The pandemic brought another term to our everyday vocabulary, the idea of the “essential worker”—one whose services we cannot do without. We need to redefine what “essential workers” are in our orchestras, at least in terms of whom we protect with our collective agreements.

And lastly, I have always believed that union members should be activists by extension; and to that end, we need to continue to address the issues of Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (the IDEA acronym) within our organizations, whether it be our orchestras or our union. This will be an uncomfortable process for some of us; we will have to face down our history—right back to when the first orchestras were formed under aristocracy—and challenge many long-held notions of what we do. The conversation around this issue started years ago; it is now moving toward the action stage.

I hope this has given you all some food for thought. I can always be reached at president@ocsm-omosc.org and my colleagues among the OCSM executive committee and delegates are always willing to engage on these topics. I wish you all well in the remainder of this season.

Il est où, le signe de coda ?

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

J’ai trouvé difficile d’écrire à l’intention de mes collègues durant cette pandémie, notamment parce qu’entre le moment où j’écris et celui où vous me lisez, il peut se passer beaucoup de choses. Mais je me sens optimiste en ce moment, je crois vraiment que nous nous dirigeons vers la coda de cette longue pièce (après quelques reprises que personne n’avait envie de faire – je suis sûr que tous mes collègues d’orchestre ont connu ce genre d’engagement).

En dépit de la gravité de la pandémie à la fin de 2020 et au début de 2021, tous les membres de l’OMOSC qui profitent de garanties de service reçoivent au moins
65 % de leur rémunération normale, la plupart d’entre eux recevant entre 75 et 100 %. En ce qui concerne l’état général des orchestres au Canada, je vous recommande fortement deux lectures qui sont accessibles dans la section Ressources du site Web d’Orchestres Canada (https://oc.ca/fr/ – sous l’onglet « S’informer » de la page d’accueil). Le premier document est une enquête : Orchestres Canada a sondé ses orchestres membres l’automne dernier, et des 57 orchestres qui ont répondu, 84 % avaient tenté un genre ou un autre d’initiative numérique pendant la pandémie, qu’il s’agisse de concerts en ligne, de projets spéciaux de liaison avec la communauté ou d’activités de collecte de fonds en ligne. L’autre document, c’est le Rapport Comparatif financier des orchestres pour la saison 2019–2020. On peut aisément y constater l’impact initial direct de la pandémie.

L’état de nos organismes sera une préoccupation importante au moment d’envisager l’automne 2021. Nous voudrons tous nous libérer des lettres d’entente qui ont été conçues pour nous permettre de traverser la pandémie, et nous devrons être prêts pour ces négociations. Il me paraît clair que certains de nos orchestres voudront continuer à offrir du contenu en ligne, une option qui pourrait convenir à certains mélomanes qui ne sont pas en mesure de retourner à la salle de concert pour le moment ou qui pourrait s’inscrire dans la mission globale de l’orchestre en matière de service à sa collectivité.

Compte tenu de tout cela, et grâce au travail inlassable de nos deux employés de la Division des services symphoniques, Richard Sandals et Bernard Leblanc, nous disposons maintenant d’une Entente canadienne sur les médias intégrés (IMAC). Richard l’a présentée aux délégués de l’OMOSC lors de notre récente réunion en ligne, en janvier, et certains de nos orchestres l’ont déjà ratifiée. Je souhaite vraiment que tous les comités d’orchestre et leurs sections locales envisagent sérieusement d’adopter l’IMAC; nous aurions alors une norme nationale au Canada pour notre travail en matière de médias.

 Au-delà de tout cela, qu’est-ce qui attend l’OMOSC ? À la dernière réunion de notre comité de direction, nous avons décidé de recommander aux délégués de continuer à nous rencontrer en ligne pour le moment et d’attendre 2022 pour tenir notre prochaine conférence en personne. Bien que tout le monde souffre de  « fatigue Zoom » (une autre nouvelle expression issue de la pandémie), c’est un moyen qui s’est avéré efficace. Nous avons commencé à inviter des observateurs parmi les comités de musiciens d’orchestres non-membres de l’OMOSC, et j’espère qu’il en résultera une expansion de notre association ou peut-être même la création de deux associations différentes, comme chez nos collègues des États-Unis (l’ICSOM et la ROPA).

J’en suis maintenant à ma troisième décennie de participation à l’OMOSC, et en dépit des progrès que nous avons accomplis, il reste des enjeux qui réclament notre attention. Parmi eux, je pense au traitement réservé aux musiciens pigistes dans nos rangs. Nombre d’entre eux sont tout sauf « surnuméraires ». Dans certains de nos orchestres, ces « surnuméraires » ont dédié une partie importante de leur carrière à un ensemble en particulier sans jamais profiter des bénéfices accordés aux musiciens réguliers qui font essentiellement le même travail. Cela n’a jamais été plus évident que durant la pandémie : ceux qui ne jouissent pas des protections offertes par nos ententes les collectives ont été laissés de côté, particulièrement s’ils ne profitaient d’aucune garantie de services. D’ailleurs, la pandémie a introduit une autre expression dans notre vocabulaire de tous les jours, à savoir l’idée de « travailleurs essentiels », ceux et celles qui offrent des services dont nous ne pouvons pas nous passer. Nous devons revoir notre définition des « travailleurs essentiels » dans nos orchestres, au moins pour déterminer à qui nous accordons la protection de nos ententes collectives.

Enfin, j’ai toujours cru que les syndiqués devaient être des militants par extension; dans cette optique, nous nous devons de continuer à traiter les enjeux que sont l’inclusion, la diversité, l’équité et l’accessibilité (l’acronyme IDEA) au sein de nos organismes, qu’il s’agisse de nos orchestres ou de notre syndicat. Ce sera un processus dérangeant pour certains d’entre nous; nous devrons regarder notre histoire en face – remontant jusqu’à la création des premiers orchestres sous les aristocrates – et remettre en question des conceptions peut-être dépassées de ce que nous faisons. Les discussions autour de cet enjeu ont commencé il y a plusieurs années, nous en sommes maintenant au stade de l’action.

J’espère vous avoir donné matière à réflexion. Vous pouvez toujours me joindre en m’écrivant à president@ocsm-omosc.org, et mes collègues du conseil de direction de même que les délégués de l’OMOSC sont toujours disposés à échanger sur ces questions. Je vous souhaite tout le meilleur pour le reste de la saison.

OCSM Responds to COVID-19 Crisis

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

Pour voir cet article en français, cliquez ici.

At the time of my writing this column, it has been exactly one week since my own orchestra, the Victoria Symphony, cancelled a concert with slightly less than four hours’ notice. This was on the evening of Thursday, March 12. By the time the following weekend was upon us, all 21 of the Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians’ (OCSM) orchestras had followed suit and issued concert cancellation notices. Even though it’s only been a week, it feels like both the blink of an eye and a month all at the same time.

It’s difficult for me to write this column for two reasons. One is obvious: a scenario where not just every orchestra in the country stops, but all live music ceases in mere hours is so unthinkable I cannot begin to collect thoughts and articulate them. Second, this article will not reach your screens for at least another two weeks, and if you still wait for the hard copy, a considerable time after that. I have no idea what will unfold between now and then, so I’m dreading that this column will be either outdated news or false speculation.

What I can tell you so far is this: I’m very proud of the immediate response of the OCSM delegates and executive officers. As the whole rather unbelievable scenario unfolded, they were all on our secured email list, sharing details about their own orchestra’s situation. One delegate quickly started compiling the necessary information: how many weeks cancelled, whether promises had been made to pay musicians for cancelled services, whether live streaming of concerts would take place, and how extra musicians and subs were being dealt with.

The AFM Symphonic Services Division immediately set up periodic conference calls with the Symphonic Player Conference chairs, and all five of the Player Conference chairs followed suit to start our own regular conferencing. We have kept lines of communication open with Orchestras Canada and are compiling as many resources as possible. The morning before I submitted this column, the Canadian government announced an emergency response program that would address the issue of workers’ loss of wages, and hopefully by the time you read this, some of these programs will be falling into place.

It would not be speculation on my part to predict that by the time you read this, the negative ramifications of a worldwide pandemic will leave you feeling more than anxious—indeed, you might be overwhelmed to the point of being numb, even if in a few weeks’ time we are able to guess when the end of this will all be. In the early days of this, two things are keeping me sane right now, and I will offer these to you.

The first is to focus on the positive: the cleansing of the environment through our austerity measures, the fact that we are choosing to make a worldwide effort to protect the most vulnerable people in our society, and the fact that at times like this people turn to the arts to not only bring them comfort, but to affirm their resolve that all of this is worth it. The second thing that is keeping me grounded right now is the fact that we are a community of unionized musicians. As I scan my social media feed and see how people are responding, it keeps me going. Performing concerts at home with spouses and children, volunteering in the community, sharing information on resources, and, most important, just simply communicating friendly words to each other.

I hope that soon we will look back on this pandemic as a time when the musicians of the world refused to be silenced—that we resolved to come out of this stronger than ever before. In the meantime, stay safe, and keep those lines of communication open and active.

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.

OCSM Prepares for Upcoming Conference

by Robert Fraser, OCSM President and Melissa Goodchild, OCSM Secretary, both Members of Local 247 (Victoria, BC)

Pour voir cet article en français, cliquez ici.

The Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM) will hold its annual conference at the Sheraton Hamilton Hotel in Hamilton, Ontario, August 12-16. As always, members of OCSM orchestras and representatives of their respective AFM locals are welcome to attend the open sessions, which begin the morning of August 13.

The agenda of the conference is still being worked out, but we are happy to announce that part of the conference will involve a visit to the LIVELab, a facility on the campus of McMaster University, located within the McMaster University Institute of Music and the Mind (MIMM).

According to the MIMM website: “… the LIVELab is a 106-seat research-based performance theatre and testing centre. The LIVELab is committed to developing a world class facility for the scientific study of music, sound, and movement and their importance in human development and human health.”

We will be sharing more information on the conference as it develops, both on our OCSM website (ocsm-omosc.org) and through our social media. We look forward to seeing all our delegates and guests in August.

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.”

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!

Health of Orchestra Musicians

OCSM Looks at the Health of Orchestra Musicians

by Robert Fraser, President Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians

When I began my studies many years ago, I had no idea of the physical hazards of musical performance. Overuse injuries, hearing loss, unsafe performance environments—these were all very new to me and there was relatively little research or remedy in this area. I had never even heard of the drug Inderal and was astonished when my first-year music history teacher mentioned in class how many musicians took it.

Fast-forward to 2018 and there is still much work to be done. While we continually work to improve our physical safety in the workplace, dangers to our personal well-being in the form of harassment still abound, and the demands of our profession can take a toll on our psychological health. In this column, I want to draw your attention to two significant surveys, both conducted in the UK but very relevant to our position in North America.

Early last month, a few news outlets reported on survey results released by the Incorporated Society of Musicians (www.ism.org), a UK-based organization. The survey is ongoing and can still be accessed through their website. I would invite readers to look at both the survey and the report on the initial period of responses from last November. The most telling statistic, and the one that was shared in all the press articles, is that almost 60% of the respondents reported some form of sexual harassment in their musical workplace, and of those 60%, a large majority of respondents who revealed their gender were female. (The survey gives respondents the option to not reveal gender or to choose  transgender; 71.71% identified as female and 10.53% chose not to identify gender.)

The report states that there were more than 250 voluntary respondents to the survey during this period. While this is not a large sample, it is telling nevertheless. It makes me wonder what the responses would be if such a survey was conducted through AFM player conference orchestras.

Another survey, done in 2016 by Help Musicians UK, was entitled Music Minds Matter (www.musicmindsmatter.org.uk) and it presents itself as being “the world’s largest known study of musicians’ mental health.” Of the 2,211 respondents, 71.1% believed they had experienced panic attacks and/or high levels of anxiety and 68.5% reported they had experienced depression—making musicians three times more likely to experience depression and anxiety than the public at-large.

Respondents to the survey listed a number of reasons for ill mental heath.

To quote directly from the summary report:

  • Poor working conditions including: difficulty sustaining a living, anti-social working hours, exhaustion, and the inability to plan their time/future
  • A lack of recognition for one’s work and the welding of music and identity into one’s own idea of selfhood
  • The physical impacts of a musical career, such as musculoskeletal disorders
  • Issues related to being a woman in the industry—from balancing work and family commitments, to sexist attitudes, and even sexual harassment

In October 2017, a follow-up to the Music Minds Matter survey (Phase 2) included in-depth interviews with 26 of the survey’s respondents. Again, quoting from the report, three suggested areas for change were:

  • Education
  • A code of best practice
  • A mental health support service for those working in music

At the last OCSM Conference in August, the delegates adopted a resolution to address all three of these areas. We resolved to “encourage orchestra managers to become familiar with The National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. This document can be found at the website of the Mental Health Commission of Canada. It is a daunting document (more than 70 pages), but I encourage all our members to find and download it. Point it out to your locals, your orchestra committees, and your human resources personnel. This is one area where union-management collaboration and cooperation is a must. Having research and well-documented plans for implementation will help, but the road to good mental health and safety in the workplace will not be easy.

On behalf of the 1,200 members of OCSM, I wish you all a prosperous and healthy 2018, and to my colleagues in the symphony world, an exciting second half of your season.

Canadian Orchestra

Canadian Orchestras Celebrate Our Country’s 150th Anniversary

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

2017 marks Canada’s sesquicentennial (there’s a good word for you logophiles and Scrabble players). Orchestras across the country will be celebrating our rich musical heritage. Perhaps the largest-scale project is the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Canada Mosaic. Funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage, it is described on their website: “A pan-Canadian Signature Initiative of Canada 150, includes the creation of new works by Canadian composers, a celebration of Canadian legacy works and artists, digital resources for all ages, and orchestral collaborations across the country.”

Although the project is managed from Toronto, it involves more than 40 different Canadian orchestras in projects ranging from commissions (both large- and small-scale, including more than 38 short fanfares for the 150 celebrations, dubbed “sesquies”) to tributes to great Canadian artists of the past. There will also be a large educational component to the project, involving a number of web-based resources such as streams and listening guides. You can learn all about the project at canadamosaic.tso.ca.

As of press time, two of our orchestras will be hitting the world stage in 2017: the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is planning a tour in both Europe and Israel, which will include concerts in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Prague, Vienna, Regensburg, and Essen. For the first time in its 36-year history, the Montreal-based Orchestre Métropolitain will tour six cities in Europe—Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Dortmund, Cologne, Hamburg, and Paris—under music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Speaking of Montreal, that city celebrates its 375th anniversary in 2017, and will host the fourth International Orchestra Conference of the International Federation of Musicians (FIM) 11-14 May. There will be a dedicated article about this in an upcoming issue of the International Musician, but you’ll want to save these dates now. This will be an opportunity for AFM members to meet and learn from musicians from all over the world. So if you’re an orchestral musician, see if you can free your schedule to attend this event.

Finally, Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM) will be holding its annual conference in the national capital region, on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River, at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel in Gatineau, 14-18 August. As always, all musicians from our member orchestras are welcome to attend, so save these dates now.

If you are interested in following the orchestral scene in Canada, OCSM compiles a news digest every two weeks or so, that can be accessed through our website/social media pages (ocsm-omosc.org). This digest not only includes news items from Canadian orchestras, it includes links to press items from around the musical world that are of interest to all orchestral musicians.

ROPA Conference

ROPA Conference Explores Wide Range of Symphonic and Labor Issues

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

The 31st annual Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA) Conference convened this past July in Madison, Wisconsin, at the Pyle Center on the University of Wisconsin campus. The conference provided a terrific learning opportunity for the representatives of our 87 orchestras from around the nation. It was also a chance to offer our best wishes to three of our colleagues as they move on to new chapters in their lives.

Throughout the conference, representatives of the Symphonic Services Division (SSD) provided a wealth of knowledge. As well as being available for valuable one-on-one contact with delegates and speaking on several topics, SSD staff provided several hours of training to delegates from negotiating orchestras prior to the full conference. We thank SSD Director Jay Blumenthal; Director of Symphonic Electronic Media Debbie Newmark; Negotiators Nathan Kahn, Chris Durham, and Todd Jelen; Counsel Rochelle Skolnick; and Contract Administrator Laurence Hofmann for sharing their knowledge with the delegates. 

In addition, ROPA utilized resources from the University of Wisconsin School for Workers, with Don Taylor leading the department and presenters Armando Iberra, Michael Childers, and David Nack. Sessions included “Building Community Support” and “How to Jumpstart Your Union.” 

ROPA Conference

ROPA Delegates join the daily Solidarity Sing-Along at the Wisconsin State Capitol Building. The singalong has happened each weekday since March 2011.

The opening session began with a welcome by AFM Local 166 (Madison, WI) President Brian Witty. Wisconsin Public Radio Producer Norman Gilliland spoke about how culture can bring together people with diverse political viewpoints. Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra Executive Director Mark Cantrell spoke about the importance of educating the board. In a presentation titled “Lessons Learned: Hartford Symphony/Grand Rapids Symphony,” Nathan Kahn, Randy Whatley, Paul Austin, and Steve Wade discussed the outcomes of those negotiations as a result of social media, networking, and public relations activities. Following the morning sessions, the delegation headed to the Wisconsin State Capitol Building to participate in the daily Solidarity Sing-Along, which has been a fixture at the capitol since March 2011.

Delegates spent time the first day in small group discussions with their members-at-large. Afternoon presentations included conductor survey procedures; breakout sessions dealing with grievances, public relations, and committee basics; as well as new delegate orientation.

The second day was a busy one. AFM President Ray Hair addressed the conference, discussing highlights of the AFM Convention, the Democratic National Convention, and local officer training. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director Allison Beck spoke in detail about the “gig economy” and the effect it has on the labor industry. Americans for the Arts Vice President of Research & Policy Randy Cohen presented the results of several surveys about the impact of arts on individuals and communities. Representatives from the Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM), the Theater Musicians Association (TMA), and the International Conferences of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) gave updates from their conferences.

Following the day’s sessions, attendees had the opportunity to go to a concert on the lawn of the State Capitol where the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra performed.

The final day of the conference began with presentations by the Symphonic Services Division. Laurence Hofmann introduced features of the new electronic wage chart. Nathan Kahn spoke of the early days of his orchestral experiences and how it led to the creation of ROPA. Rochelle Skolnick led a role-playing activity on peer review. Our final speaker was Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice Executive Director Rabbi Renee Bauer. She described how to build alliances between community organizations and labor.

The conference extended warm wishes to our friends AFM Negotiator Nathan Kahn, ICSOM Chair Bruce Ridge, and ROPA President Carla Lehmeier-Tatum as they step down from their positions. Their service to our orchestras and the AFM has been invaluable. Assuming the role of ROPA President is John Michael Smith, of the Minnesota Opera Orchestra and Local 30-73 (Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN). Along with Smith, the 2016-17 ROPA Executive Board that was elected on the final day of conference includes Vice President Nancy Nelson of 65-699 (Houston, TX), Secretary Karen Sandene, Treasurer Donna Loomis of Local 466 (El Paso, TX), Delegate-at-Large to the AFM Convention Naomi Bensdorf Frisch of Local 10-208 (Chicago, IL), and Members-at-Large Taylor Brown of Local 80 (Chattanooga, TN), Lisa Davis of Local 579 (Jackson, MS), Sean Diller of Local 232-278 (South Bend, IN), Mary Anne Lemoine of Local 154 (Colorado Springs, CO), Dave Shelton of Local 554-635 (Lexington, KY), Maya Stone of Locals 80 and 257 (Nashville, TN), and Steve Wade of Local 400 (Hartford-New Haven, CT).

And finally, we offer our sincere appreciation to conference hosts, the musicians of the Madison Symphony and Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, Local 166 (Madison, WI), Madison Local President Brian Witty, and numerous hard-working local volunteers. We would also like to thank Conference Coordinator Linda Boivin of Local 618 (Albuquerque, NM) and ROPA Board Member-at-Large Naomi Bensdorf Frisch for their outstanding work assisting the ROPA Board in presenting a well-run conference. We look forward to our 32nd Annual Conference in 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona.