Bruce Ridge, ICSOM Chair
August 4, 2012- Minneapolis
It is a great pleasure to be with you today here in Minneapolis, and to see so many friends. ICSOM and ROPA share a strong and beneficial relationship, built through a shared idealism, and also through a close friendship among the leaders. I consider President Lehmeier-Tatum one of my closest friends, and my respect for her bravery and dedication is immense. I rely on her advice frequently, and I admire every member of your executive board.
The ICSOM Governing Board is busy preparing for our 50th anniversary conference in just a few weeks in Chicago, the city of our founding. We will be welcoming many of people who built the organization through perseverance and bravery in the face of great challenges.
The need to create ICSOM was great in the early sixties, as at that time few musicians were able to earn a living wage, and they were often subject to immediate and arbitrary dismissal. Orchestral musicians had virtually no say in the negotiation of their contracts or in the governance of their own workplace.
It was a time when the field either had to move forward, or dissolve into irrelevancy. Through the leadership of America's musicians, the field did indeed move forward. Orchestral musicians were able to build a successful artistic life, with job security, with the freedom to take artistic chances, and with benefits that would allow them to care for their own children even as they dedicated their lives to advancing the education of the children of their communities, and to elevating the profiles of their cities through their diligent service.
The founders of ICSOM faced persecution from their managements, scrutiny from their union, doubts from their colleagues, and even caught the attention of their government through the House Un-Americans Activities Committee.
It seems so odd to me that union musicians would come under the scrutiny of the House un-American Activities Committee, because the creation of ICSOM was an entirely democratic act. After all, the Norris-LaGuardia Act, passed in 1932, proclaimed that “The individual unorganized worker is commonly helpless to exercise actual liberty. To be genuinely free, the individual worker must be able to organize collectively."
As I have prepared for ICSOM's 50th anniversary, I have studied the work of the founders and I've been amazed at their bravery and ingenuity. A recent, modern event reminded me of the difficult task the ICSOM founders encountered
This year, when the management of the Louisville Orchestra put out the despicable call for replacement musicians, I wrote a notice to musicians everywhere urging them not to accept work from the Louisville Orchestra Incorporated while the true musicians of that orchestra were unjustly out of work. The message I wrote went around the world in just 24 hours. It was re-posted on Facebook 1400 times, and I received messages of support from as far away as Egypt.
But, the modern age of the Internet and social networking allowed me to accomplish that while sitting at my home desk in my pajamas. I merely hit "send" and the message spread across the world.
This incident made me all the more aware of the Herculean accomplishments of ICSOM's founders. The revolutionary ideas they brought to the arts scene of North America were advanced in those early years without even the convenience of a Xerox machine. Their idealism, dedication, bravery and unwavering commitment all are still at work as we gather here today as a united network of friends.
Now, our field faces another time of challenges, and we must once again come together in the spirit of friendship, dedication, and innovation that orchestral musicians found 50 years ago. We must re-dedicate ourselves, and we must not allow ourselves to feel discouraged. We must not give in to negativity and we must not allow the misguided and in astute statements about the future that emanate from some managerial organizations to dampen our spirit. There is a positive message that our audiences are eager to hear, and it is a message that stands in contrast to the negativity too often quoted in newspapers.
While the odds may at times seem stacked against us, we have the decided advantage of being right.
At the time of ICSOM's founding, the arts and culture industry in America was a $3 billion dollar marketplace. Today, as revealed in studies conducted since the recession, the arts represent over $135 billion dollars in annual economic activity. And, at a time when America is concerned with unemployment, the arts support over four million full-time jobs.
The new study from our friends at Americans for the Arts demonstrates the remarkable resiliency of the arts in America. The arts generate over $86 billion in household income.
These numbers are even more remarkable when viewed in context with the environment in which this research took place. The new study, called Arts and Economic Prosperity IV, was conducted throughout 2010, a time when unemployment was 9.7% (or more than twice the rate during the first study by Americans for the Arts.) The consumer confidence index had plummeted, and home foreclosures reached 2.9 million. The results of this study on the arts industry demonstrate clearly that the arts continue to play an essential role in our country's economic health, and in the recovery currently underway. When ICSOM gathers in Chicago in 18 days we will be meeting in a city where the arts generate over $2.1 billion annually, and where ICSOM musicians are vital to the economy of the region.
As we have often said, the question should not be whether we can afford to invest in America's orchestras, but rather how can we afford not to?
Some managers profess with great commitment that the current climate for fundraising represents an insurmountable obstacle. But according to Giving USA, in a study conducted with Indiana University, arts giving in America increased by 4.1% in 2011, to over $13 billion. This followed an increase of 5.7% in 2010. Arts contributions are recovering from the depths of the 2008 recession almost twice as fast as other categories of charitable giving.
While putting a monetary value on priceless music seems counterintuitive, we find ourselves in a place where we must dispute the claims of some managers that our orchestras cannot be supported. They emphasize the negative while seemingly blind to the positive, and seemingly unaware that negativity breeds only negativity.
If you look at the food industry, approximately 90% of restaurants fail in their first year of business, but no leader within the restaurant industry would profess that Americans no longer like to eat.
I read a book this year on James Garfield who once followed an over the top performance by one his political opponents by saying that while he too could often be mesmerized by the tumultuous churning of the sea, he realized that the true depth of the sea is measured in the calm.
If we can set aside the negative, hyperbolic rhetoric of some managers during this time of economic difficulty, in the calm we can see:
- That the Buffalo Philharmonic generates over $25 million annually for the city of Buffalo and currently has a surplus.
- The Boston Symphony generates over $166 million for Massachusetts, and just received a $7.5 million gift.
- The St. Louis Symphony saw tickets sales, gifts, and the endowment grow in 2011
- The Oregon Symphony has seen ticket sales and attendance rise.
- The North Carolina Symphony has met an $8 million challenge grant two years in a row.
- The New York Philharmonic has raised $90 million, nearly double its goal.
- The New Jersey Symphony raised $35 million, surpassing its goal
- The Houston Symphony broke its own records for fundraising for its annual fund for the second straight year
As we face the challenges before us, and there will certainly be challenges ahead, we must not be discouraged.
As ICSOM led at its founding, we all must lead again into a new era of positive advocacy. I call on musicians everywhere to join in the positive message of advocacy. It surely must be clear to us by now that no one is going to do this for us. This is our mission, and we must join together as never before, because something precious is at stake. While we cannot guarantee success, we can guarantee failure should we not make this effort.
There was a study recently conducted in the Chicago public schools, where three pilot schools of very different socio-economic populations were immersed in an intense arts program. The standardized testing for those schools improved by 12%. No one would protest that music is good for education. Why is that message lost in negativity?
In remembering Gore Vidal this week, I was reminded that he once said that "whatever is wrong with human society can be put right by human action."
The message of hope that we can promote is that orchestras are relevant to the community. Orchestras are an investment, with both financial and educational results for the community. Every orchestra is a family, and every manager has been granted a sacred trust with the community to preserve that family.
The future of the field and the future for live performance of this incredible music is in the hands of everyone here, and in the hands of every musician everywhere.
At a time when there are some who doubt America's orchestras, we will not doubt ourselves.
Let us continue to be inspired by the human action of the founders of ICSOM 50 years ago, and let us continue to build this great united network of friends of all symphonic musicians across the world.
Thank you for your friendship and support, and congratulations to you all, and your executive board for everything that you have accomplished.