I’m writing this article as I listen to the Metropolitan Opera’s live radio broadcast “A Concert for Ukraine.” It’s wonderful to hear this great orchestra and voices—so uplifting! But the reason for this concert is deplorable and distressing: a tribute to the people of Ukraine who have been invaded by Russia. They are fighting to keep their country with death and destruction at their door. We hope that peace and resolution of this tragedy will come soon.
Most of our Regional Orchestra Players’ Association (ROPA) orchestras have gotten back to work over the past several months. There are lots of side letter agreements, contract extensions, and COVID protocols to deal with. I expect the next year will be full of negotiations and rollbacks of COVID protocols as we continue to return to live performing. There will likely be a new “normal” for our concerts and way of doing business, having been affected by two years of the pandemic, Zoom, streaming, and the many other adjustments that had to be made to keep the music going. There will need to be a great deal of patience and understanding for everyone as the playing field for many of our orchestras may well have changed.
One thing going back to normal is the annual in-person union education presentation to the fellows of the New World Symphony (NWS) by the AFM Symphonic Services Division, ROPA, and International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM). The fellows of NWS and our conservatories, colleges, and universities will be auditioning for a record number of open positions in ROPA and ICSOM orchestras. These union colleagues of the future need to have the resources, organizing, and union knowledge that we share with them.
The 39th Annual ROPA Conference is scheduled for July 26-28 in Costa Mesa, California, at the Hilton Orange County/Costa Mesa Hotel. Our host is Orange County Musicians’ Union, Local 7. There will be a Negotiations Workshop on Monday, July 25.
This is the hotel we scheduled two years ago. We hope the third time’s the charm and we will finally meet in person! While much can be said for Zoom conferences, they are not the same as meeting in person. The conversations, connections, and learning that occurs outside of the presentations and meetings is where the worth of player conferences is measured. There is great value to socializing and conversing face to face (or mask to mask) with delegates and musicians who have experienced similar situations and issues, as well as with our wonderful AFM leadership and staff.
ROPA is again offering a scholarship to cover travel, room, and board to members of ROPA orchestras who would like to attend Labor Notes, which will be held in person June 17-19 in Chicago. Since 1979, this media and organizing project has been the voice of union activists who want to put the movement back in the labor movement. Here’s the application link: https://bit.ly/3N8px6P
We are stronger together!