ROPA Conference 2017 Report

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Report on ROPA conference
Westin Phoenix Downtown Hotel
Phoenix, AZ
August 1-3, 2017

By
Gigi Dang, Delegate for Symphony Silicon Valley and the Monterey Symphony
David Granger, Substitute Delegate for the Oakland Symphony
Laurien Jones, Delegate for the California Symphony
Andrew Lewis, Delegate for the Santa Rosa Symphony

The ROPA conference ran from August 1-3 and was held at the Westin in downtown Phoenix. While there were many interesting speakers one of the best was Heather Malyuk who spoke about the current technology of hearing protection. Ms. Malyuk is a violinist who became interested in audiology and worked for Sensaphonics for several years focusing on hearing protection for musicians. Research on musician hearing loss has not been done recently, but she offered a 2003 study that showed 74% of musicians tested had music-induced hearing disorders. A 1996 study revealed that 70% of violinists tested had hearing loss in the left ear. She recommended all musicians be examined regularly by an audiologist who understands the risks musicians face.

Andy Lewis, delegate from Santa Rosa, proposed a resolution on fair and equitable hiring for substitute and extra musicians. David Granger spoke on behalf of it, and Andy addressed the convention as well, urging everyone to create language for fair sub/extra hiring practices in their local negotiations. It was passed, as were 13 other resolutions proposed by various ROPA committees and members, most of a congratulatory nature.

There was a presentation by Nathan Kahn on negotiating. He emphasized the importance of orchestra committees greeting new members, involving as many as possible on committees and other organizing activities, keeping orchestra meetings short and orderly, training leaders, developing campaign strategies and dealing with management delays, responses and making counter-proposals. Mr. Kahn recommends reading Local 6 Attorney, David Rosenfeld’s Offensive Bargaining.

Alfonso Pollard’s presentation was revealing in how involved the AFM is attempting to influence legislation. After 3400 AFM letters and emails sent to their representatives, Congress reestablished funding for the NEA which had been eliminated from the president’s proposed budget. Congressional Republicans are proposing legislation that would establish a “Right to Work” law for the entire country, overriding any state statute that protects unions. Other issues being addressed are intellectual property rights and military bands taking work that would otherwise be offered to local musicians. Mr. Pollard reminded the delegates that TEMPO’S “Signature” program of $1 per week supports the AFM’s very important efforts in Washington, D.C. (See page XX)

AFM Diversity Committee members Lovie Smith-Wright and Alex Laing spoke on recognizing diversity in our orchestras and locals. Ms. Smith-Wright presented a list of diverse musicians in orchestras dating back many decades and solicited ROPA and freelancer contributions to the list. Noticeable absent on that list were the many Bay Area, diverse, professional musicians. Mr. Laing observed that only 18% of orchestral musicians were diverse, and only 8% of symphony board members had ethnic backgrounds. Mr. Laing promoted the National Take a Stand Foundation which is studying how to change our institutions to promote diversity. He observed that with audiences, especially younger audiences, becoming more and more diverse, orchestras need to appeal to a broader ethnicity for support, resources, and funding,

In conclusion, attending a ROPA conference is empowering. It renews confidence in dealing with an orchestra’s management by showing how the union is an equal partner to management in determining our wages, working conditions, and all other aspects of our jobs as orchestral musicians.