How the world is changing, and so quickly, too! I’m writing this in December and who knows what January is going to look like. I, for one, am weary of reactionism.
We know that making music is progressive. Learning the instrument, building muscle memory, and developing our “ears.” And then, using those skills, we create vibrations in the air that evoke emotions, enriching the lives of those who listen. Music flows like a river through the air—moving and changing, not always happy or pretty or predictable, reflecting life.
Taking what we’ve learned, we can choose notes, chords, and rhythms that work together to create melodies and harmonies. We can influence our audience to dance or to cry. It is a learned skill that comes with work, effort, and a plan. We train ourselves to react in some ways, listening to those around us to enhance the sound, and not allowing ourselves to be distracted by outside influences that could interrupt the flow. It takes discipline.
So, now is a time for great discipline. We need to trust what we know and not allow outside influences to distract us. We know that working together we have strength and can build. It’s a time for solidarity. So, let’s lean on our strengths and focus on our plan as defined in our mission statement, which you can find on the AFM website (afm.org) under the “About” section, by clicking on “Mission & Bylaws.” Use your voice meaningfully by being involved in your AFM local. Your knowledge and experience, blended with other member musicians, can help create or maintain a solid foundation for professional standards in your community.
I would be remiss not to take a moment and comment on the rise of women and women’s issues over the last year—pointed conversations, actions, and publicity unlike anything I can remember. How does all of this relate to musicians and our union? It’s been a work in progress for a long time and there have been successes. The drastic changes in our orchestras due to “blind” audition requirements that were negotiated into collective bargaining agreements are a testament to a thoughtful process. As proof, compare pictures of orchestras in the 1950s and 1960s with those of today.
The freelance world is more complicated. Generally, there is no collective bargaining process to provide influence. “Purchasers” of freelance music are less likely to consider the gender make up of the band they engage. Female band leaders can still run into discrimination. It’s very difficult to prove, much less change whether a band is hired or not. We can be part of the conversations to drive changes that will help erode old prejudices and open the door for more fairness and opportunity in musical work. Participation and developing consensus are keys to meaningful change.
Cultural changes such as what we are experiencing are very exciting. As we celebrate the new enlightenment empowering women, I suggest we also remain thoughtful so that the changes that come are the changes we want.