Tag Archives: organizing

ropa's 34th annual conference

ROPA Notes Busy Start to 2019

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

These past few months have been very busy with travel and Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA) business, in addition to my gigs, family life, and a real Minnesota winter! I was able to visit the SphinxConnect Conference for only a day. The conference was held in Detroit January 30 – February 2. I joined my fellow ROPA Executive Board member Stephen Wade of Local 400 (Hartford-New Haven, CT), who attended the entire conference representing ROPA. I just missed Local 80 (Chattanooga, TN) and 257 (Nashville, TN) member Maya Stone, who is also a ROPA Executive Board member. She performed in the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra on Saturday evening. 

Also in attendance were my colleagues International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) Chair Meredith Snow, AFM Symphonic Services Division (SSD) Director and Special Counsel Rochelle Skolnick, and AFM Legislative-Political and Diversity Director Alfonso Pollard. It was my first experience at SphinxConnect, the annual conference of the Sphinx Organization. I was truly impressed with the quality of the event, the fabulous attendance of more than 800, and the positive energy. I encourage our AFM membership to support the excellent work that the Sphinx Organization is doing in the areas of equity, diversity, and inclusiveness, as well as addressing the under-representation of people of color in classical music.

Soon after returning home from SphinxConnect, Skolnick, Pollard, Snow, and I participated in a conference call with the leadership of the National Alliance for Audition Support (NAAS). This initiative is made up of leaders of the Sphinx Organization, the New World Symphony, and the League of American Orchestras. It is supported by a four-year $1.8 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and additional contributions from many partnering American orchestras. NAAS provides support to black and Latinx musicians to develop their audition skills and increase their participation in auditions, with the ultimate goal of increasing their representation in professional orchestras.

For several years, SSD, ICSOM, ROPA, and Local 655 (Miami, FL) representatives have participated in an educational and organizing visit with the fellows of the New World Symphony in Miami Beach. For this year’s February 12 visit, I was joined by Skolnick, AFM Director of Symphonic Electronic Media Deborah Newmark, Local 655 President Chas Reskin, ICSOM Chair Meredith Snow, and ROPA Executive Board member and South Florida musician Kendra Hawley. We engaged the aspiring future professional musicians in discussions about the AFM and the role that it will likely play in their future employment. At these visits, our AFM contingent discusses union and AFM history, the role of the player conferences, orchestra committees, the local, and working conditions of symphony, opera, and ballet orchestras. We talk about how an orchestra committee works and its relationship with the local. We discuss collective bargaining and the security, strength, and fairness that comes with standing together.

The 36th ROPA Conference will be held this summer in Boston, Massachusetts, July 28-30. There will be a negotiations workshop Saturday, July 27, for orchestras negotiating new CBAs in the current and coming year. The conference will be held in the Hilton Boston Logan Airport hotel, across the harbor from downtown Boston. Our hosts this summer are Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) and the ROPA orchestras of that local—Boston Ballet Orchestra, new member Cape Symphony, and Portland Symphony Orchestra. There will be a number of guest speakers and presentations, including those of AFM SSD. We look forward to this great annual event and Boston hospitality!

AFL-CIO MLK Civil and Human Rights Conference

Report on the 2019 AFL-CIO MLK Civil and Human Rights Conference: The Fierce Urgency of Now

international diversity awards

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

First, I would like to thank AFM International President Ray Hair for appointing me to serve on the AFL-CIO MLK Civil and Human Rights Conference planning committee in the fall of 2016. Thus, we have been instrumental in suggesting AFM musicians to fill spots where live music is needed. This year the Davey Yarborough Quartet, members of Local 161-710 (Washington, DC), provided music for the awards program and reception Sunday evening. Yarborough is the director of Jazz Studies at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.

The 2019 MLK Conference was held January 18-21 at the Washington Hilton. I was excited that the Awards Gala & Reception would be held at the National Museum of African American History & Culture. However, in the week before the conference began, we were notified that, due to the government shutdown, the event had to be moved to Sunday evening at the Washington Hilton.

The Friday afternoon opening session began with conference co-chairs Fred Redmond, international vice president (human affairs) for USW, and Tefere Gebre, AFL-CIO executive vice president, welcoming delegates to Washington, DC. The theme of the conference was “The fierce urgency of now.” Redmond told us that labor must commit to reclaiming Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream of dignity. He reminded us that King’s dream was that all workers and all Americans be treated with dignity. We need to rededicate ourselves to doing the hard work necessary to make that dream a reality.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka gave the keynote address to open the session. In keeping with the theme of the conference, Trumka reminded us of what King called “the fierce urgency of now.” One year before he was killed, King issued a warning that “in this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” Trumka said, “This is that time. This is a time to take risks; it is time for us to get uncomfortable, because that is how real progress is made.”

After Trumka’s keynote address, we had a town hall conversation with former Tallahassee Mayor and 2019 Democratic Nominee for Governor of Florida Andrew Gillum. President and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation Melanie Campbell moderated. Gillum spoke about his gubernatorial race. Following a discussion between Gillum and Campbell, there was a short question and answer period for delegates.

AFL-CIO MLK Civil and Human Rights Conference
AFM Diversity Committee Chair and Local 65-699 President Lovie Smith-Wright (left) prepares to take part in the Women’s March on Washington, DC, with granddaughter Morgann Clark.

Friday evening there were several Key Issue Forums: “Women in Leadership: Building on the ‘Year of the Woman,’” “Take Back the Ballot: A Voting Rights Mandate,” and “Mobilizing Rising America: Organizing in the Face of Opposition.” Each of these forums had inspirational featured speakers.

On Saturday morning, we all met at the AFL-CIO building for a Department of Labor Wave Rally and Women’s March on Washington, DC. AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Schuler led the list of speakers for the Labor Wave to #StopTheShutDown rally. Then we took to the streets for the Women’s March.

Sunday morning started with an interfaith service. Reverend Darius Brown of the Christ Baptist Church of Delaware delivered the sermon. Following the service, welcome remarks were made by Representative Karen Bass (D-CA), Congressional Black Caucus chair, and the I AM Campaign’s Kenny Diggs (AFSCME). Tefere Gebre delivered the keynote address for the day.

Following the morning session, my husband (Bob Wright, USW) and I took granddaughter Morgann Clark, to two workshops: “Combating Voter Suppression in the Era of James Crow” and “This Is America: Young, Black, and Union.” She raised her hand to speak at the “Young, Black, and Union” workshop, and told us how to reach out to young people. Everyone applauded her comments and encouraged her to continue speaking up for what she believed in. She was thrilled to be a part of the conference.

I attended the awards gala and reception Sunday evening. The Davey Yarborough Quartet opened the gala with a half-hour of music as the delegates made their way to their tables and then performed an hour of dance music after the awards. The following awards were presented: Eyes on the Prize Award to America Postal Workers Union Local 1 President Keith Richardson; Drum Major for Justice Awards to United Food Commercial Workers International Vice President Robin Williams and Association of Flight Attendants-CWA International President Sara Nelson; Justice, Peace and Freedom Award to United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil Roberts; Defender of the Dream Award to Florida Rights Restoration Coalition Executive Director Desmond Meade; and At the River I Stand Award in honor of former National Vice President for Women and Fair Practices AFGE Augusta Thomas (1932 -2018).

The conference concluded Monday after the delegates spent the morning doing community service. Sites for community service were Stoddard Baptist Global Care, Deanwood Recreation Center, Kelly Miller Middle School, Ron Brown High School, First Baptist Church of Glenarden, and Veterans on the Rise.

Visibility is going to be our lifeline in getting other unions to recognize who we are. It was a great honor and pleasure to represent the AFM at this conference. Someday, I hope more representatives from the AFM will attend, for it is an eye-opening event that the Diversity Committee and other members of the AFM should experience. This conference reminds me of the importance of the labor movement and how, together, we can make a difference in the lives of all working people.


Time to Get Organized: Training Session Inspires Union Leadership

by Nicole Bogatz, Assistant to the Trustee of Local 433 (Austin, TX)

My colleague, fellow Local 433 (Austin, TX) member Aaron Lack and I hopped on a plane to Washington, DC, at the beginning of December. We were headed to American Federation of Musicians Leadership Training. The AFM hosted the three days of training with leaders from the AFL-CIO Organizing Institute at the Tommy Douglas Conference Center in Silver Spring, Maryland. We knew that these intensive sessions would be beneficial to the Austin Federation of Musicians (Local 433), our membership, and the Austin community.

Organizing, Transactional, Transformational

AFM Local Officer Leadership Training, December 2018 class

The words of the week were: organizing, transactional, and transformational. These words were daunting the first day. Organizing is arranging into a structured whole. Transactional is when leaders are aware of the link between the effort and the reward. Transactions are activities leaders must do to get them checked off a list. Transformational activities cause changes in individuals and systems. When leaders inspire emotions in their members, they motivate the membership to act beyond the framework of transactional necessities. Every local must complete transactional duties to keep the office running, but providing the transformational experiences within its membership sets the groundwork for effective organizing.

The training tempo was brisk due to the variety of learning activities provided. Local leaders formed new groups or partnered for each training exercise. This allowed us to work with other AFM leaders that we might not typically have the opportunity to work with. Group and partner work enabled networking and the exchange of experiences between all of us. Role playing skits gave each of us a laugh, but provided a safe practice space before heading home.

Bringing It All Together

At Local Officer Leadership Training the officers formed new groups for each exercise, which allowed networking and an exchange of experiences.

The “Organizing Conversation” handout that I have deemed “my new best friend” really brought the meaning of the word organizing into focus. Everything we had been learning during training started to click.

On the last day, we watched the video 1,000 People in the Street: 5th Ave. Musicians Strike, featuring Local 76-493 (Seattle, WA). This provided a real-life example of how transformational activities support organizing and how organizing can change a mindset, and in turn, create results. All of these training activities helped me. At first, I felt a little overwhelmed by the loaded word “organizing.” By the end of the training, the words that once terrified me were now powerful tools for my jurisdiction.

By the end of the training, I had three main takeaways: 1) Organizing is the key to any local’s success for its members and community; 2) We as the local leaders must first help to internally organize, if we want to make future changes to our community and beyond; 3) Don’t “third-party” the union; we are all the union, an organized group of musicians and music industry professionals who stand together, united for the greater good of the industry and of our craft.

Invaluable Training Sessions

Local 257 (Nashville, TN) Secretary-Treasurer Vince Santoro had the best quote: “‘Right to work’ is a label for a mindset.” Let that sink in, repeat it to yourself, and don’t let it deter you from your goals. Any local, big or small, can always make an impact and bring change to its community.

The AFM & AFL-CIO Leadership Program is a valuable training session. Not only did I access a wealth of information and ideas to bring back to my local, but I feel more confident in my ability to assist our members in any campaign they would like to start. I also feel ready to take on any collective bargaining negotiations that may arise in our jurisdiction.

I would like to thank AFM Organizing and Education Director Michael Manley, Lead Organizer Alex Tindal Wiesendanger, Symphonic Services Division Negotiator/Organizer/Educator Todd Jelen, Vice President and Local 99 (Portland, OR) President Bruce Fife, as well as AFL-CIO Organizers T. J. Marsallo and Patrick Scott, for their hard work putting this training together. There was a lot of information to put into just three days of training, but you all pulled it off. To my fellow attendees, it was great seeing familiar faces and meeting new ones. It’s time to get organized!

RMA General Conference Highlights

Marc Sazer

by Marc Sazer, President Recording Musicians Association and member of Locals 47 (Los Angeles, CA) and 802 (New York City)

The 2018 Recording Musicians Association (RMA) General Conference met November 2-3 at Local 802 in New York City. Delegates from New York, Nashville, and Los Angeles gathered to share reports, discuss issues, hear from local and AFM officers and staff, and hold elections.

This year a new generation of delegates attended, bringing together varied experiences and perspectives. New faces included Devin Malone of Local 257 (Nashville, TN) and Martin McClellan and Allison Allport of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA). Our newly elected RMA Executive Board reflects this new generation of musicians: President Marc Sazer of Locals 47 and 802; First Vice President Danny Rader of Local 257; Second Vice President Roger Blanc of Local 802; Treasurer McClellan; Secretary Allport; Executive Officer Malone; Executive Officer Lara Wickes of Locals 7 (Orange County, CA), 47, and 308 (Santa Barbara, CA); AFM Convention Delegate Steve Dress of Local 47; and Alternate AFM Convention Delegate Malone.

On November 2, RMA hosted a forum open to all AFM musicians, titled “Musicians/Media/Union.” The panel gave a PowerPoint presentation on the history of our current pay structure for streaming in live TV, film, and television film. A successful, wide-ranging round-table discussion with the attendees and panel followed the presentation. It ended as Local 802 meetings often do, with musicians leaving for work on Broadway shows and in concerts.

AFM Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal gave a comprehensive report on AFM finances, AFM negotiations, the status of the AFM office relocation, preparations for the 2019 AFM Convention, and other issues that affect us all. Local 802 President Tino Gagliardi welcomed the conference and described his history of involvement with negotiations both on Broadway and for national contracts, as well as his long participation in RMA.

Electronic Media Services Division Director Pat Varriale provided a comprehensive report on the status of negotiations and current media issues. He participated in discussions with the delegates as a valued team member throughout the conference. Local 802 Recording Supervisor John Painting helped us analyze wage and other data that is critical to our understanding of employment trends across the different contracts and cities.

AFM Rank-and-File Representative for Live TV Negotiations Jason Poss of Local 47 joined our conference as a guest and participated in our open forum. His broad knowledge of the history of negotiations, contract issues, and the real-life functions of our contracts greatly enriched our discussions.

One issue we discussed in some depth was the importance of touring to musicians’ lives and finances. AFM Director of Organizing Michael Manley, who was previously AFM Touring/Theatre/Booking director, spent a very productive session with the delegates from each of the cities. He discussed the different kinds of tours that travel across the continent on a regular basis and what strategies the AFM might employ to bring benefits, coverage, and predictability to at least some parts of this industry.

The conference reviewed reports prepared by the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund, the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Fund, and more. We walked our way through the pension fund website online, reviewing the professional and effective legislative advocacy resources available to all participants.

A new committee was formed to help musicians lobby US Congress on behalf of pension reform that will provide a lifeline to our pension fund. This is an effort we have discussed in the past, which we will all be ramping up.

RMA would like to express our deepest gratitude to the officers and staff of Local 802 for being such gracious hosts. We came away from NYC with a new and energized team—stay tuned; you’ll be hearing more from us soon!

theatre musicians

Theatre Musicians Gather in LA to Examine the Future of Musical Theatre

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

The 23rd annual Theatre Musicians Association conference was held this past August at the new AFM Local 47 office in Burbank, California. It was a day and a half of interesting and informative addresses, presentations, and discussions. Our host, Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) President John Acosta, couldn’t have been more welcoming and generous. Their new home is nothing short of beautiful.

The conference was loosely structured around the theme of the current and future state of the musical theatre business. I’d like to share some of the highlights of the presentations and remarks given during the conference.

In my president’s remarks, I encouraged all TMA members to get involved in the organization by bringing in new members or starting new chapters. I also addressed the issue of national touring acts such as Evanescence or Il Volo, who come into our cities and hire local musicians for below-scale wages. While not theatre work per se, the musicians hired for these shows are often the same players that are hired to play traveling Broadway shows that come into local theatres.

TMA Vice president Heather Boehm, of Locals 10-208 (Chicago, IL) and 802 (New York City), gave an impassioned address about gender equality in the musical theatre pits. We still have a long way to go before this equality is achieved.

AFM President Ray Hair updated us on the Sound Recording Labor Agreement (SRLA) negotiation, the work being done to collect unallocated pension contributions, and the 2019 jingle agreement negotiations, which will most likely focus on licensing. Hair spoke a bit about the efforts to relocate the AFM office, and how, in the end, it makes sense to remain at 1501 Broadway, but make a move to the ninth floor. Later, Hair returned to the podium to give a history of the Pamphlet B agreement.

theatre musicians
Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) Secretary-Treasurer Gary Lasley (far left) swore in Theatre Musicians Association (TMA) officers and directors. (L to R) are: John Trombetta, Brian Butler, President Tony D’Amico, Mark Berger, Carey Deadman, Jeff Martin, Paul Castillo, Secretary-Treasurer Mark Pinto, and Bob Bowlby.

AFM Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal reported the AFM has a $2 million surplus and 187 locals, with nine mergers taking place in the past year. He gave details about the 2019 AFM Convention to be held in June.

AFM Local 802 (New York City) President Tino Gagliardi gave a report on the state of the Broadway theatres, noting there are currently 28 musicals on Broadway, employing about 418 musicians. Next season, there are 31 musicals slated to come in, which is the most in recent history.

AFM Touring/Theatre/Booking Division Director George Fiddler gave a report outlining the money Broadway and touring musicals generated this past season, as well as the number of theatergoers these shows attracted. He gave a list of the AFM contracted shows on tour during the 2017-2018 season, and how many travelers and local musicians each show employed. Fiddler also discussed how the overages on SET agreements affected the traveling musician’s paycheck, and how that compared with musicians on full Pamphlet B shows. Finally, he gave a preview of shows we can expect to be on the road in the 2018-2019 season.

AFM Director of Organizing & Education Michael Manley gave a presentation on organizing, including a screening of the film 1,000 People in the Street, a documentary about the 1997 5th Avenue Theatre musicians strike in Seattle.

TMA SoCal President Paul Castillo led a panel discussion entitled “Organizing, Unity, and the Future of Musical Theatre Employment.”
AFM President Hair and Local 802 President Gagliardi led an AFM-EPF report that also included participation by fund actuaries and lawyers.

All national TMA officers were re-elected by acclamation: myself as president, Vice President Heather Boehm, and Secretary-Treasurer Mark Pinto of Locals 9-535 (Boston, MA) and 126 (Lynn, MA). We began discussions about the location of next year’s TMA Conference.

It is always a pleasure to attend these conferences and meet with theatre musicians from all over the United States and Canada. Our organization has done some truly great work over the past 20-plus years, but there is so much more that must be done.

Negotiations for a Pamphlet B successor agreement are right around the corner, and TMA will be at the table for these talks. Whether you only occasionally play musical theatre productions or the pit is your full-time job, I think you will find TMA membership worthwhile. Please go to afm-tma.org to learn more about our organization, or write to me: president.tma@afm-tma.org.

Folk Music Ontario Conference

CFM Supports and Participates in Folk Music Ontario Conference

Pour la version française cliquez ici.

On September 27-29, representatives from the Canadian Federation of Musicians (CFM) took part in the Folk Music Ontario Conference (FMO). CFM involvement has varied over the years, but this year they were proud to present the Folk Music Ontario Awards Showcase, which featured many of its award-winning members, including The O’Pears (Meg Contini, Jill Harris, and Lydia Persaud, members of Hamilton Local 293) and Tragedy Ann (Liv Cazzola of nongeographic Local 1000 and Lenka Lichtenberg of Toronto Local 149).

Folk Music Ontario Conference

“When I am asked what my definition of a ‘showcase’ is, the Folk Music Ontario Conference is often the example I give,” says CFM Licensing and Outreach Coordinator Rosalyn Dennett. “The organizers do a great job of creating an opportunity for artists to perform for international and Canadian buyers, network with the industry and fellow artists, and receive top-of-the-line professional development training, all without exploiting their performances in a public setting for ticket and bar sales.”

CFM Director of Administration Susan Whitfield and Consultant Robert Baird from Baird Artist Management gave a “Touring in the US” presentation to a full room of delegates. They outlined visa options and touring tips for Canadian musicians performing in the US.

Dennett moderated a panel titled “Networking and Touring from a Remote Location,” which focused on how artists based in remote or rural locations can access the same opportunities as those based in large cities.

For the second year in a row, the CFM partnered with MusicOntario, the provincial music industry association for Ontario, to host the CFM Artists Hospitality Room. Together they supplied refreshments, healthy snacks, and AFM “swag bags” for the showcasing artists in a green room where performers could safely store their instruments and warm up.

icsom conference

Breakout Groups Bring ICSOM Conference Delegates Together

by Laura Ross, ICSOM Secretary and Member of Nashville Symphony and Local 257 (Nashville, TN)

The 56th annual Conference of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) was hosted by the musicians of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Local 1. The conference included the typical reports, presentations, and discussions. However, this year the schedule provided more opportunity for smaller breakout groups and closed sessions. This allowed the delegates to choose the topics and issues for discussion.

Pre-conference events included a volunteer activity at the David and Rebecca Barron Center for Men. Musicians from the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Grand Rapids Symphony, Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, Louisville Orchestra, and Nashville Symphony, along with two attorneys, entertained an appreciative audience on Tuesday afternoon. That evening delegates, local officers, AFM staff, and orchestra members attended a negotiating orchestras workshop.

Wednesday, following the New Delegate Breakfast, the conference began with the usual welcome remarks from our hosts. Welcoming the conference were four groups of stakeholders in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra—Board Chair Francie Hiltz, President & CEO Jonathan Martin, Orchestra Committee Chair and ICSOM Delegate Ted Nelson, and Local 1 President and Conference Coordinator Paul Frankenfeld—who stood together in a demonstration of their strong working relationship.

ICSOM Chair Meredith Snow (Los Angeles Philharmonic, Local 47) gave an address that reminded attendees “we are living in a dangerous time for our democracy and there is no room for complacency or ignorance. We must reach out, educate, and support our brothers and sisters, of all political persuasions, race, and economic standing—not just in union solidarity, but that’s a good place to start.”

President Paul Austin (Grand Rapids Symphony, Local 56) spoke about the numerous successful and progressive ICSOM settlements during the past season. Wednesday afternoon, Austin moderated presentations from six ICSOM orchestras—Grand Rapids Symphony, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Utah Symphony, Louisville Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO), and Nashville Symphony—about special projects they had created within their own communities or abroad.

Following AFM President Ray Hair’s address, attendees heard an updated AFM-EPF presentation that included Q&A from presubmitted and written questions. That evening, a wonderful reception was held at the newly refurbished Music Hall. Tours included a visit to the massive library that houses 125 years of music and scores for CSO, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Cincinnati Opera, and May Festival. Guests were also treated to Cincinnati specialties—goetta sliders, Skyline chili (preferably on spaghetti), and Graeter’s ice cream.

icsom conference

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) ICSOM Delegate Ted Nelson greets the conference with CSO colleague and Local 1 President Paul Frankenfeld (left), CSO President & CEO Jonathan Martin (standing, right), ICSOM President Paul Austin (Grand Rapids Symphony, Local 56) (seated), and CSO Board President Francie Hiltz (far right).

Thursday and Saturday “Bookends of Bargaining” presentations from ICSOM Counsel Kevin Case of Local 10-208 (Chicago, IL) covered how to prepare for negotiations and what to do if your contract expires without an agreement. In the Saturday session, Cypress Media President Randy Whatley also participated, providing examples from previous ICSOM work stoppages.

On Thursday afternoon, delegates heard from the AFM Symphonic Services Division (SSD). SSD Director Rochelle Skolnick provided helpful information about dealing with sexual harassment in the symphonic workplace. SSD Symphonic Electronic Media Director Debbie Newmark discussed the role orchestra committees play in decision-making and approval when working with the Integrated Media Agreement (IMA). SSD Negotiator and Educator Todd Jelen’s presentation addressed building solidarity through orientation.

Parts of Thursday and Friday were also devoted to small group breakouts. A new breakout session allowed groups to compare notes on subjects within orchestras of similar budgets and those in pit orchestras. On Friday, members-at-large and their constituent orchestras met in small discussion groups during lunch provided by ICSOM. Two town hall style meetings were convened for delegates and governing board members, which covered numerous issues raised by the delegates in a closed session.

Friday also included two timely presentations. One advised orchestra musicians on how best to utilize their orchestra’s broker when dealing with 401(K)/403(B) accounts. The second offered further exploration and discussion of diversity within our orchestras.

On Saturday morning August 25, in celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday, attendees were treated to coffee and cupcakes before tackling the final important business of the conference—the resolutions. Delegates adopted five resolutions: recognizing National Symphony violist and former ICSOM Electronic Media Committee Chair Bill Foster of Local 161-710 (Washington, DC) on his retirement from the orchestra after 50 years; advocating for the inclusion of librarians in orchestra collective bargaining agreements; demanding workplaces free from discrimination, harassment, and bullying; standing against ICSOM musicians accepting nonunion work; and encouraging the use of screens for all individual rounds of auditions.

Incumbents Chair Meredith Snow, Treasurer Michael Moore (Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Local 148-462), Senza Sordino Editor Peter de Boor (Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, Local 161-710), and Members-at-Large Dan Sweeley (Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Local 92) and Greg Mulligan (Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Local 40-543) were re-elected. Sweeley was elected AFM Convention delegate; Member-at-Large Martin Andersen (New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Locals 16-248 and 802) was elected alternate delegate.

Next year’s conference, hosted by the Utah Symphony and Local 104 (Salt Lake City, UT), will be held August 21-24, 2019.

ocsm-omosc conference

2018 OCSM-OMOSC Conference Offers Timely Discussions

by Melissa Goodchild, Secretary OCSM-OMOSC and Member of Local 553 (Saskatoon, SK) and Matt Heller, Vice President OCSM-OMOSC and Member of Local 547 (Calgary, AB)

Pour la version française cliquez ici.

The 43rd annual Conference of the Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM) was held August 13-17 at the Hotel Pur in Quebec City, Quebec. The Players’ Association of the Orchestre Symphonique de Quebec hosted the conference.

Quebec and Bilingualism

Since 2008, the Quebec Symphony Players’ Association, AMMOSQ, has operated as an independent bargaining agent outside of the AFM. Delegates passed a resolution urging reconciliation between musicians of the Quebec Symphony Orchestra and Local 406, the AFM local representing all of Quebec.

The executive board acknowledged that OCSM has not done enough to engage with francophone members. OCSM is a bilingual organization, and as such, would like to do more. Delegates passed a resolution recommitting the organization to create a culture welcoming to francophone members; to facilitate greater exchange and interaction with members in their native language; and to work towards ideals and principles of bilingualism set forth in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Media and Communications

The Canadian Symphonic Media Agreement, negotiated by the CFM and a group of Canadian symphony managers, is now being offered for use by Canadian orchestras. The agreement sets conditions and fees for streaming and on-demand distribution of live performances. It is considered an experimental agreement; further details are available by contacting Symphonic Services Division Canada Director Bernard LeBlanc.

It has been a year of revelations of sexual harassment and toxic workplaces. Legal counsel Michael Wright discussed processes for investigation of allegations, how organizations can offer due process to all parties, as well as steps towards remediation, where circumstances allow.

A role-playing workshop titled “The Curious Case of Charles the Cellist” highlighted the complex ambiguities of a disciplinary meeting held amidst unfounded allegations. AFM Symphonic Services Division Director Rochelle Skolnick designed the scenario and led an informative debriefing session, exploring relevant case law applicable both in the US and Canada.

A workshop on decision bias in the audition process was led by Local 149 (Toronto, ON) member Lisa Chisholm. It demonstrated how even well-intentioned committee members can be swayed by nonmusical factors, as well as verbal and nonverbal cues made by colleagues.

The Musicians’ Pension Fund (MPF) of Canada report outlined recent and prospective legislative changes affecting target-benefit multi-employer pension plans. The MPF follows Ontario law and the status of Ontario’s proposed rules is highly uncertain.

ocsm-omosc conference
Delegates and presenters at the 2018 OCSM Conference held in Quebec City, Quebec.

Conference Topics

Auditions are a perennial subject for debate; a recent resolution by the Canadian Conference of Locals recommended that orchestras add CBA provisions specifying eligibility requirements for national auditions. One Canadian orchestra has determined that holding national auditions is no longer necessary under federal immigration requirements.

Diversity, inclusion, and representation are all matters of great concern among orchestras. A wide-ranging discussion touched on issues of colonialism, community impact, engagement, gender parity, programming, youth orchestras, grant agencies and criteria, and acknowledgment speeches.

Airline policy and regulations on importing rare and endangered materials were discussed, since the AFM has pursued advocacy on both fronts. An informational booklet prepared by the AFM and Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) is available to inform members and gate/security agents of current policies.

Resolutions and Elections

Tommy Banks was honoured for astounding musicianship and inspiring advocacy. Banks appeared as keynote speaker at the 2016 Conference in Calgary and was a key player in the creation of Edmonton’s Winspear Centre. He was added to the OCSM Honour Roll.

Two dedicated unionists and administrators were also honoured for their contributions to Canadian musicians: Ellen Versteeg-Lytwyn, who retires this year after 46 years as fund administrator for the Musicians’ Pension Fund of Canada and Len Lytwyn, who served as executive director of the AFM Canadian Office and as founding director of Musicians’ Rights Organization Canada. Len Lytwyn passed away in July. Both were added to the OCSM Honour Roll.

A resolution calling on the AFM to uphold and communicate best practices regarding data security was passed by delegates. Identity theft has been a growing concern for musicians, and Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) strongly discourages the use of Social Insurance Numbers as customer identity numbers; the AFM now has unique member numbers.

Saskatoon Symphony Delegate Melissa Goodchild was elected secretary, while Treasurer Liz Johnston and First Vice-President Matt Heller were re-elected. All OCSM officers serve two-year terms.

ropa conference

Delegates from 89 Orchestras Meet at 2018 ROPA Conference

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

The Regional Orchestra Players’ Association (ROPA), with 89 member orchestras at the time of this writing, represents AFM union orchestras from all parts of the country. Our annual conference gives us a terrific opportunity to work with our colleagues. For the past 35 years, delegates have gathered in many of our orchestras’ communities, including our two Portlands. This year’s conference was in Portland, Oregon. (Our 2011 conference was in Portland, Maine). Our hosts this year were AFM Local 99 (Portland, OR) and the Portland Opera Orchestra. Joining us at this conference were our four new ROPA Orchestras: San Jose Opera Orchestra, Sacramento Philharmonic Opera, Marin Symphony, and Cape Symphony.

At the 2018 ROPA Conference, held July 31-August 2, delegates gained knowledge from peers and experts in our industry, covering the topics of negotiating, union organizing, interpersonal relationships, musician self-care, financial health, and the overall state of our profession.

Local speakers at the conference included Local 99 President and International Vice President Bruce Fife and Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlin. After welcoming delegates to Portland, Fife was proud to present a locally produced film promoting Portland that included a 61-piece locally hired orchestra.

Chamberlin, representing Oregon’s 300,000 AFL-CIO members, gave an inspiring talk describing the proactive measures they’ve taken to counteract unfavorable court decisions against unions. Attorney Liza Hirsch Medina covered a similar topic when she presented an in-depth look at the Janus decision and its effect on unions. She described the importance of organizing in the face of upcoming court and legislative challenges to union protections.

Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) President Pat Hollenbeck and musician Norma Stiner shared the successful journey of organizing ROPA’s newest orchestra, Cape Symphony. AFM Symphonic Services Division (SSD) Negotiator, Organizer, and Educator Todd Jelen highlighted the importance of new musician recruitment/orientation and the optimum moments to approach potential members.

Diversity Consultant Shea Scruggs presented “Seeing the Blind Spots: An Inclusive Vision for American Orchestras.” He spoke of the need to confront our cognitive biases and improve our organizational cultures. Local 65-699 (Houston, TX) President and Diversity Committee member Lovie Smith-Wright and AFM Diversity, Legislative, and Political Director Alfonso Pollard discussed projects that the AFM Diversity Committee has taken on this year.

SSD Director Rochelle Skolnick led a timely discussion on identifying sexual harassment in the workplace and how to deal with it. On the topic of musician self-care, Audiologist Heather Malyuk of Soundcheck Audiology followed up her popular 2017 presentation with specifics on how various methods of hearing protection work or don’t work in an orchestral setting. We examined performance anxiety through the film Composed, by John Beder. The filmmaker took questions from delegates.

AFM President Ray Hair discussed the current status of the AFM Pension fund. A panel of pension trustees and administrators took questions from the delegates.

ropa conference
Newly elected ROPA Board members (L to R) Naomi Bensdorf Frisch, Sean Diller, Kendra Hawley, Lisa Davis, Casey Bozell, Steve Wade, John Michael Smith, Karen Sandene, Amanda Swain, Christian Green, Maya Stone, Katie Shields. Not Pictured: Cory Tiffin.

Representatives from our fellow AFM Conferences highlighted their year’s activities: Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (President Robert Fraser), Theater Musicians Association (Director, Member at Large Lovie Smith-Wright), Recording Musicians Association (Gary Lasley), and International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (President Paul Austin). Alfonso Pollard detailed the legislative success in protecting the National Endowment for the Arts. Austin related progress on the new online survey for the ICSOM Conductor Evaluation Database.

Every year, delegates get the opportunity to attend a Negotiating Orchestras Workshop (held July 30 this year), where they learn necessary skills to improve our working conditions and financial standing. They also engage in valuable small group discussions with their members at large, sharing successes and challenges with delegates from orchestras of similar budget sizes.

Throughout the conference, AFM Symphonic Services Division (SSD) Director Rochelle Skolnick, Symphonic Electronic Media Director Debbie Newmark, Chief Field Negotiator Chris Durham, Negotiators Jane Owen and Todd Jelen, and Contract Administrator Laurence Hofmann taught the “nuts and bolts” for improving our contracts and organizational structures. Our orchestras benefit so much from their expertise!

Following the election of officers, the 2018-19 ROPA Executive Board will include President John Michael Smith (Minnesota Opera Orchestra, Local 30-73), Vice President Amanda Swain (Houston Ballet and Grand Opera orchestras, Local 65-699), Secretary Karen Sandene (Omaha and Lincoln symphony orchestras, Locals 70-558 and 463), Treasurer Sean Diller (Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra, Local 232-278), AFM Convention Delegate-at-Large Naomi Bensdorf Frisch (Illinois Philharmonic and Wisconsin Chamber orchestras, Local 10-208), and Members-at-Large Casey Bozell (Portland Opera Orchestra, Local 99), Lisa Davis (Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, Local 579), Christian Green (Ann Arbor Symphony, Local 625), Kendra Hawley (Palm Beach Opera, Local 655), Katie Shields (Arizona Opera Symphony Orchestra, Local 586), Maya Stone (Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, Locals 80 and 257), Cory Tiffin (Las Vegas Philharmonic, Locals 369 and 10-208), and Steve Wade (Local 400, Hartford Symphony Orchestra).

And finally, we offer our sincere appreciation to conference hosts, the musicians of the Portland Opera Orchestra, Local 99, Portland Local 99 President Bruce Fife, and numerous hard-working local volunteers. We would especially like to thank Portland Opera Delegate Casey Bozell for her outstanding work assisting the ROPA Board in presenting a well-run conference. We look forward to our 36th Annual Conference in 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts!

LCC/PCC Conference

AFM Leadership Meets Representatives at LCC/PCC Conference

by Dan Cerveny, Locals’ Conferences Council, President Mid-States Conference of Musicians, Secretary Local 70-558 (Omaha, NE) and Marc Sazer, Player Conferences Council, President Recording Musicians Association, and Member of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA)


LCC/PCC Meeting

At the Locals’ Conferences Council/Player Conferences Council meeting (L to R): Western Conference Delegate and Local 105 (Spokane, WA) Secretary-Treasurer Rachel Dorfman; OCSM President and Local 247 (Victoria, BC) Member Robert Fraser; Professional Musicians of Texas Delegate and Local 72-147 (Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX) President Stewart Williams; Southern Conference President and Local 655 (Miami, FL) Secretary-Treasurer Jeffrey Apana; New England Conference Secretary and Local 400 (Hartford-New Haven, CT) Secretary-Treasurer Candace Lammers; TMA Delegate and Local 369 (Las Vegas, NV) Member David Philippus; ICSOM Chair and Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) Member Meredith Snow; RMA President and Local 47 Member Marc Sazer; ROPA Delegate and Local 166 (Madison, WI) Member Naomi Bensdorf-Frisch; Mid America Conference President and Local 3 (Indianapolis, IN) Secretary Martin Hodapp; Canadian Conference President and Local 276 (Sault Ste. Marie, ON) Secretary-Treasurer Paul Leclair; Mid-States Conference of Musicians president and Local 70-558 (Omaha, NE) Secretary Dan Cerveny; RMA Secretary and Local 47 member Steven Dress; Illinois State Conference Delegate and Local 98 (Edwardsville, IL) Secretary Jerrold Cobetto, and New Jersey Conference President and Local 399 (Asbury Park, NJ) President Dorian Parreott.























Since the mid 1980s, during years when there is no AFM Convention, leadership from AFM conferences meets with AFM officers and department directors to discuss issues relevant to their particular constituents.

The Locals’ Conferences Council (LCC) consists of leadership from all the AFM’s locals conferences and essentially represents the entire AFM membership. The Player Conferences Council (PCC) consists of leadership from all the player conferences and specifically represents AFM symphonic, recording, theater, and touring musicians.

On June 17-18, the LCC/PCC Conference was held at the Westgate Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. Saturday began with a meeting of AFM leadership and staff with delegates from both the LCC and PCC. A presentation on the current status of the pension fund was followed by several individual reports. AFM President Ray Hair spoke about office relocation and industry negotiations and AFM Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal reported on AFM finances. AFM Touring/Theatre/Booking Division Director George Fiddler talked about his department’s work. AFM directors Michael Manley of the Organizing and Education Division, Paul Sharpe of Freelance Services and Membership Development, and Rose Ryan of Communications gave reports. Director Pat Varriale reported on the work of the Electronic Media Services Division (EMSD). Symphonic Services Division Director Rochelle Skolnick talked about resources available to orchestra musicians. Diversity, Legislative, and Political Director Alfonso Pollard relayed his efforts representing the AFM on Capitol Hill.

On Saturday afternoon LCC and PCC met individually to prepare their reports for presentation to AFM leadership on the following day. Sunday was another opportunity for a joint meeting of the LCC and PCC with AFM leadership and staff.

The LCC portion of the meeting covered a wide range of questions and concerns. The purpose was to solicit information and offer suggestions that might help the AFM aid local officers in the performance of their duties. Main topics were: maneuvering around the AFM website, existing and potential organizing campaigns, local officer education, and general messaging about the AFM to musicians and the public. Interactions between LCC delegates and AFM representatives were extremely informative and greatly appreciated. Thanks to Mid America Conference President and Local 3 (Indianapolis, IN) Secretary Martin Hodapp and Local 105 (Spokane, WA) Secretary-Treasurer Rachel Dorfman for co-chairing the council.

The Player Conferences Council consists of leaders from the Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM-OMOSC), the Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA), the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM), the Theatre Musicians Association (TMA), and the Recording Musicians Association (RMA). Their conversations throughout the weekend centered on how to support the health of our US pension fund, organizing and educating our respective members, and sharing experiences in negotiations and other activities over the past year.

The LCC/PCC Conference meetings are invaluable resources that bridge the gap between national conventions and provide attending delegates with updated information that they can share with their locals and constituent groups.