Tag Archives: Symphonic Jazz Orchestra

collective bargaining agreement

We Have an Agreement! What Comes Next?

by Jane Owen, AFM Symphonic Services Division Negotiator

The new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) has been agreed upon and ratified. The revised document has been proofread and signed and the ink has barely dried. Now the musicians of the orchestra, and especially the orchestra committee, get to breathe a sigh of relief and go back to practicing, playing concerts, and living their lives, right? Well, yes, and no.

Right away work begins for the orchestra committee to start preparations for the next negotiation. There should be a strong committee in place every season, but it is especially important during the first year of an agreement when the musicians and management have new working conditions to implement. It is recommended that committee member terms be staggered two-year periods to provide continuity of experienced members on the committee. Some orchestras have separate committees: one to negotiate and one to handle the day-to-day business of the orchestra. It is important that these two committees communicate throughout and after the negotiation. Also, a member of the committee during the negotiation should continue on to the orchestra committee when the new agreement begins, if possible.

The orchestra committee must document all problems that come up during the term of the new CBA, whether grieved or not, and the results of dealing with those problems. It can be helpful to keep a copy of the CBA with notes about these issues to review for the next set of negotiations. If a resolution or grievance results in new language, that language must be saved with the CBA to be included in the new agreement when future negotiations occur.

If the CBA provides for musician representatives to the orchestra board of directors or artistic advisory committees that meet with management, the orchestra committee must establish clear lines of communication with those representatives. Interactions between any of these representatives and management should be coordinated through the orchestra committee to avoid confusion about issues governed by the CBA. All these representatives must be aware of their responsibilities and the extent of their authority, if any. Musician representatives to the board and artistic advisory committees can be extremely useful for communication with management and the board, but the orchestra committee and the union are the only musician representatives able to allow waivers to clauses in the CBA or negotiate items not covered by it.

It is important that the musician representative(s) to the board report back to the orchestra committee and the orchestra as a whole, if necessary, any pertinent information they receive at board meetings. They should periodically receive financial statements, which can be analyzed as the seasons progress to be aware of any problems that may be brewing, or conversely, good news that is happening. (For example, if ticket sales are flourishing or the recent gala was a great success.) It’s best to gather information along the way and avoid being surprised by good or bad financial news when preparations for negotiations start in earnest.

If your orchestra hasn’t yet done so, start a “musicians of” website, Facebook page, and Twitter account. Start an email newsletter. Use social media to present positive information about the orchestra and musician community involvement. Our communities often don’t know that this is how we make our living. There is little awareness of the number of concerts we play in schools, churches, adjoining neighborhoods, or other venues. Help spread the news! These are great resources to build and identify your fan base and supporters, if you face a troublesome negotiation along the way. Once again, of course, the orchestra committee needs to monitor what information goes out via these outlets before it is posted. This ensures that the musicians are always portrayed in the best way possible.

The orchestra committee can also work with the local union to encourage musician participation in local activities. Are orchestra members on the local’s board or do any act as local officers? Are there regular meetings that orchestra members could attend? The time between negotiations is a good opportunity to strengthen the connection between musicians, their local, and area labor groups and to seek out available resources should they be needed. AFM orchestra conferences, ICSOM and ROPA, provide valuable information and support. Through their conference delegate, the committee can maximize those resources as well.

Finally, communication is key. Be sure that orchestra musicians know who is on their orchestra committee and who their local representatives are. Distribute contact information for these representatives at the beginning of the season. Establish how and when all committees and representatives will communicate with each other and the orchestra as a whole. This is all hard work, but well worth it when you are gathering the forces and the information you need to negotiate your next CBA.

MPTF Co-Sponsored Symphonic Jazz Orchestra Brings Concerts to Southern California

Symphonic Jazz Orchestra

Supported in part by the MPTF, Symphonic Jazz Orchestra (SJO), whose musicians are members of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA), celebrates its 15th Anniversary May 7.

The Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF) co-sponsors hundreds of free live events annually that enrich communities across North America with the talents of inspiring professional musicians. Here we shine the light on one of our outstanding partners: Symphonic Jazz Orchestra (SJO).

SJO is a nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles and dedicated to symphonic jazz—the blending of the American language of jazz with European orchestral traditions. Its mission is to commission and perform new symphonic jazz works, and inspire and educate through its Music in the Schools residencies.

May 7, the SJO celebrates its 15th anniversary with a concert at Long Beach Carpenter Performing Arts Center as part of their Arts for Life concert series. The event will feature two world premieres—Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) member Alan Chan’s “Denali World” and Local 47 member Gordon Goodwin’s “Fantasia,” featuring saxophone soloist Eric Marienthal, also a member of Local 47.

Founded in 2002 by Music Director Mitch Glickman, the 67-member hybrid jazz/classical ensemble comprises Local 47 musicians and is a fusion of a symphony orchestra and a big band. The SJO has commissioned 10 new works and performed 25 world premieres at Southern California concerts. The orchestra has been joined by some of the world’s leading jazz soloists including George Duke, and Local 47 members Dave Grusin, Lee Ritenour, Ernie Watts, and The Yellowjackets. Composer and keyboardist Duke also served as the orchestra’s co-music director from 2004 to his passing in 2013.

In 2015, the SJO released its debut recording featuring two of its commissioned works, along with the piece that began the symphonic jazz genre, Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” The CD includes Ritenour’s “Symphonic Captain’s Journey” featuring guitarist Ritenour along with pianist Dave Grusin as soloists. Pianist and Local 47 member Bill Cunliffe is featured in “Rhapsody in Blue,” supported by drummer Peter Erskine of Local 47.

To honor George Duke, the SJO, along with support from the ASCAP Foundation created the George Duke Commissioning Competition in 2015. The national competition selects a composer to create a new symphonic jazz work for the orchestra to be performed in concert.

From its first concert in 2002, the SJO has presented free concerts in such venues as the Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach, Royce Hall in Los Angeles, Walt Disney Theater at CalArts, and the Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood. Throughout the SJO’s history, the MPTF has been a vital supporter of these concerts that serve students, families, and community members. For most of the audiences, these concerts marked their first jazz or orchestral experience.

In 2008, the SJO piloted a Music in the Schools residency in four classrooms. Today, the program is in 172 classrooms across 12 schools and four school districts in Los Angeles County, serving almost 4,000 students every week. The yearlong residencies for kindergarten through 5th grade students includes “Bach to Bebop,” where students compose and perform their own blues songs, “Families of the Orchestra” workshops, “Music of the World,” and “Playing the Bells.”