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Home » Officer Columns » Executive Board Members » Time to Inspire and Organize

Time to Inspire and Organize

  -  International Executive Board Member and President of Local 105 (Spokane, WA)

What an amazing time this is, complete with dramatic challenges and remarkable possibilities. Plague, war, and social and economic upheaval coexist with a real desire to change the work-life balance and find meaning beyond accumulation. There seems to be an enhanced awareness of individual needs, which must be balanced against others’ needs. We are in a time of change and opportunity.

I’ve attended so many virtual meetings over the past couple years, many of them were not music related, and yet, during “ice-breakers” and conversations many people mentioned that listening to music was on the top of their list of what keeps them going and helps them make it through. Streaming concerts of local live music helped maintain a sense of community, providing hope and resilience.

Other types of workers have re-examined their value and are banding together, demanding to be recognized and compensated fairly for their work. Musicians should be doing so as well. Musicians have a unique power to bring much-needed healing to our communities, to gather individuals together for a shared experience, and reweave the fabric of our societies. It’s important work in these times and a good argument can be made to community leaders and potential sponsors for investing in concerts.

To make anything happen we need a coalition of the willing. Not only willing to perform, but willing to organize. What is needed to reinvigorate the music scene in your community? Develop a vision and plan. Identify effective communicators with experience using the variety of tools available.

Look for other organizations that could be good partners. Don’t limit your scope. Make it a union activity, but be sure to invite others to participate and help. Use it as an opportunity to build strength in your music community—your union. And use it as a steppingstone for other necessary actions to ensure that musicians are valued fairly, treated with respect, and have a meaningful voice in their work and community. Borrowing from what I learned serving on the Spokane County United Way executive board: invite, connect, commit. Who will lead the way?

I’ve had the fortune to examine other unions at a local level through my work at the Spokane Regional Labor Council as well as at the statewide level serving on the Washington State Labor Council executive board. While each local union and type of work is unique, we share a lot.

One strength that is building in labor is apprenticeship and mentoring. The building trades have a long tradition of apprenticeship that helps instill good skills, workplace safety, good work ethics, as well as participating in and valuing their union. I’m seeing this happen more through mentoring in public sector unions and I suggest we consider following this lead in our union.

We’re a bit different in that our work and training as musicians tends to make us competitive with each other, but I think we need to change our mindset. Many of us teach, which creates an opportunity to not only instruct students on technique and interpretation, but also to pass along our knowledge of our performance workplaces, valuing ourselves, and the value of our union. I invite you all to challenge yourself to have conversations with less experienced musicians about how you developed your work and how being part of the union has supported your career. If you’re already having those conversations, I’d love to hear your stories.

Thank you for your work!