Tag Archives: Regional Orchestra Players Association

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!

ROPA: A Decade of Growth

by Carla Lehmeier-Tatum, ROPA President and President-Secretary of Local 618 (Albuquerque, NM)

Carla-LehmeierIt is hard to believe that nine years have passed since I stepped into the position of Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA) President. I have served on the ROPA Board for more than a decade. During that time, I’ve watched the organization grow from 68 member orchestras to 87.

I am delighted to announce that the Boston Ballet Orchestra has voted to join ROPA. The ROPA Board would like to thank the Boston Musicians’ Association, Local 9-535, for its continued support in recruiting new members. I also received notice that the Annapolis Symphony has voted to join ROPA as an associate member. While unions have faced membership challenges, we are proud to see a 25% increase in participants. It is clear that musicians understand the importance of an industry affiliation where they can network and have representation at the national level.

This past spring, I attended a planning meeting in London for the 4th International Orchestra Conference hosted by the International Federation of Musicians (FIM). The conference will take place for the first time in North America—May 12-14, 2017, in Montreal. I was the only US representative present. The meeting was very productive. The participants were some of the most respectful representatives that I have had the pleasure to work with. Having a voice at this international forum was a strong reminder of influence ROPA can have. This was an incredible moment for ROPA musicians, to have such input. It was a bittersweet journey home as I recognized it would be one of the last meetings of such magnitude that I will be involved in. 

It has been an honor serving as ROPA president. After transitioning to a new work focus, I have decided not to run again. As a result, this summer’s ROPA Conference will be my last. I have been fortunate to organize the conference with the ROPA Board and the host orchestras and local. This unique conference has a new twist in that it will take place at the University of Wisconsin School for Workers—the oldest university labor program in the US, celebrating 90 years. Over the years, the ROPA Board has engaged labor schools in the region to provide global perspectives on unions. Labor school faculty will cover the following topics: connecting with younger members, cutting through the fog and myths of the union, how to jump-start your union, and how unions build community support. With the expertise of the AFM Symphonic Services Division, guest presenters, and the topics offered by the labor school, the 32nd Annual ROPA Conference will prove to be an empowering and stimulating opportunity for our AFM brothers and sisters.

I am proud of the work of ROPA and will always be grateful for its founding members and former AFM SSD Director Lew Waldeck who had the vision and the foresight to create this entity of the AFM. I have made so many friends during my many adventurous assignments and will miss working with such an amazing board. For the last decade we have worked diligently to be recognized by the AFM as the largest players conference in our union, representing more than 7,000 musicians, focusing on the relevance of ROPA through an extensive long-range strategic planning process. That work can be seen firsthand at our conference where ROPA Delegates, ROPA Board, AFM staff, local officers, and national representatives have the opportunity to network, learn new perspectives, and build strong connections within our union and industry. Please consider joining us July 26-28 in Madison. Conference information is available at www.ropaweb.org.