Of the many important and indispensable services that the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) provides for its members and the members of the AFM at large, our vital communication network is perhaps the most crucial. Electronic mailing lists and social media give us the ability to communicate instantly with each other, spreading news of opportunities and difficulties, and sharing solutions for issues both old and new that arise for our musicians and their orchestras. Of all the tools that ICSOM makes available, none are more topical and historically significant than our quarterly newsletter, Senza Sordino.
In 1962, ICSOM’s founders knew that, in order for our orchestras to survive and thrive, they must unite, and that a newsletter that could be read throughout the union and the field would be of great importance. For the first time, the issues affecting orchestra musicians could be reported and analyzed by those who knew the issues best—the orchestra musicians themselves. Senza Sordino (Italian for “without mute”) would be the perfect name for this publication.
The first issue was published in January 1963. That issue reported on numerous revolutionary developments for orchestra musicians, including four orchestra summits that had been held in the past year. There were negotiation updates from Los Angeles and Chicago, and a report about how Philadelphia Orchestra musicians were rising up against an unwarranted musician discharge.
One line that jumps off the page in that first issue is from the Cincinnati Symphony, where musicians reported “Last month we were granted the right to ratify our contract.” It is a reminder that so many of the rights that musicians take for granted today were once fought for diligently, and that those benefits and rights are only there to enjoy because of the sacrifices of previous generations.
The complete archive of Senza Sordino is available on the ICSOM website (www.icsom.org). It makes for fascinating reading for anyone who has ever played in a symphony orchestra, or who may one day want to become a member of an orchestra. This archive constitutes a crucial history of symphonies over the past half-century, detailing how orchestras performed, thrived, suffered, and emerged stronger both in our communities and our union.
As a new generation of musicians and leaders joins our orchestras, a reading of any single issue of this newsletter from any year would provide a rich education. Taking the archive in its entirety, it is overwhelming to think of what is represented on these pages and what might have become of our orchestras and our union if not for the work of ICSOM.
Just as the first issue reported on crucial topics, so does the latest. The May 2015 issue includes information on how to utilize new social media platforms, how musicians are serving their communities by organizing benefit concerts, the importance of music education, and how Baltimore Symphony musicians rose up as a beacon of hope for their city at a time of need.
And just as the first issue reported on how the Cincinnati Symphony musicians had gained the right to ratify their contract, the July 2015 issue of Senza Sordino reports on the conclusion of an outstanding negotiation with considerable gains for that orchestra, gains that would have been inconceivable without the actions first reported in 1963.
Now we have other options for our network of communication, and we utilize them daily—Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail. But Senza Sordino remains a stalwart friend of orchestra musicians everywhere. We send each issue to every local office in the AFM, as well as to every member of ICSOM. Each new issue is added to the archive on ICSOM’s website, viewable at http://www.icsom.org/senza/index. We hope that every issue is read with great interest, and we further hope that you will take a moment to read a past issue from the archive. We have no doubt you’ll be amazed at the wealth of information to be found.