South American orchestras get backing from International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM)

The embattled orchestras of Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Quito (Ecuador) can take comfort from fresh resolutions of support and action by the international orchestras conference, ISCOM. Here are the three new resolutions:

Resolution #14 – to offer support for the Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira


Whereas, The Fundação Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira (FOSB) of the Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira (OSB) sought and procured a major increase of federal funding in 2010 to develop a world class destination orchestra for the purpose of substantially improving musician salaries; and


Whereas, In January, 2011, rather than increasing musicians’ salaries, the FOSB ordered that every player submit to artistic re-evaluation by Music Director, Roberto Minczuk, who promised to dismiss everyone who refused; and


Whereas, The FOSB simultaneously scheduled auditions in New York, London and Rio to replace those dismissed musicians during a five months suspension of the OSB season and attempted to force the OSB Youth Orchestra to replace the suspended professional musicians (in other words, those students’ teachers) during this transitional phase; and


Whereas, The FOSB ultimately sacked 33 from their complement of 82 musicians, including both officers of the local Rio Musicians’ Union; and


Whereas, Following months of local and international outcry, and after the Brazilian Labour Ministry and Immigration Board refused to issue work permits to foreign musicians hired to replace those illegally terminated musicians, the FOSB finally began initiating steps to address this injustice when they announced a reduction of Roberto Minczuk’s responsibilities from Artistic Director to that of Staff Conductor; and


Whereas, A new committee named by the FOSB to assume Roberto Minczuk’s artistic authority has begun in earnest to negotiate with the local union to find a rational and amicable solution to the current crisis; and


Whereas, An agreement was reached and ratified in early August, to re-integrate all 33 musicians without re-audition, in a newly created Chamber Orchestra that is not under the direction of Minczuk; therefore, be it


Resolved, That the Delegates to the 2011 ICSOM Conference express their support for their colleagues in the Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira and condemn and deplore the actions of the FOSB Chief Executive and former Music Director as a blatant attempt to destroy the rights and livelihoods of the musicians of the Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira; and, be it further


Resolved, That, while recent negotiations between the FOSB’s newly appointed Artistic Direction Committee and the local musicians’ union resulted in a newly ratified agreement, a number of sensitive issues remain that should be handled in a fair, equitable and transparent manner; and be it further


Resolved, That the FOSB additionally investigate and consider implementation of the same audition, tenure and termination procedures commonly accepted by most major Western European and North American orchestras rather than the oligarchic and arbitrary termination practices demonstrated this year by the Music Director and board.

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Resolution #15 – to offer support for Orquesta Sinfónica de Guayaquil (Ecuador)


Whereas, There has been a great deal of unrest in orchestras in Brazil, Ecuador and Argentina at the end of 2010 and into the spring of 2011; and


Whereas, In a stunningly similar move to recent actions by the Fundação Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira (FOSB), the Management of the Orquesta Sinfonica de Guayaquil (Ecuador) cited similarly unrelated federal laws pursuant to the regular re-evaluation of federal workers, and has ordered mandatory re-auditions of its entire orchestra this September; and


Whereas, Symphonic musicians in Ecuador work without either the rights guaranteed by a legally binding collective bargaining agreement or the benefits of a musicians’ union to act as bargaining agent; and


Whereas, Union representation (from non-existent to strong) available to orchestra musicians throughout the Americas appears to be wide ranging and complex; and


Whereas, ICSOM and the other North American orchestral player conferences’ core principle is to promote and support the rights and welfare of all orchestral musicians; and


Whereas, The American Federation of Musicians and ICSOM believe the rights of workers of all kinds to join together and act in concert for their mutual aid and protection should be considered inalienable; therefore, be it


Resolved, That the Delegates to the 2011 ICSOM Conference express their support for orchestral musicians throughout the Americas and the world, and condemn and deplore the actions of the management of the Orquesta Sinfonica de Guayaquil as a blatant attempt to abuse and destroy the rights of their musicians; and, be it further


Resolved, That because the players’ conferences of the American Federation of Musicians – ICSOM, OCSM, ROPA, RMA and TMA – have proven to be such valuable resources for their members, that orchestras in other countries be offered encouragement, resources and support for their efforts to organize their own national conferences tailored to their own regional needs and cultural values.


* * *


Resolution #16 – to offer support for Orquesta Filarmónica de Buenos Aires and Orquesta Estable del Teatro Colón


Whereas, The Orquesta Filarmónica de Buenos Aires and Orquesta Estable del Teatro Colón endured a three-month period when musicians and other staff employees performed without paychecks; and


Whereas, These employees, including 41 permanent musicians of the Teatro Colón Orquesta, were locked out by the Buenos Aires government-backed management; and


Whereas, In April, the management falsely and publicly accused those 41 musicians of inciting a strike and terminated the contracts of those 41 musicians; and


Whereas, In June, the General Director of the Teatro Colón attempted to sue the eight alleged “spokesmen” during the strike consisting of four orchestra musicians, three chorus members and the theater’s official photographer, for $15 Million (US) for losses incurred by the Teatro Colón as a result of the ongoing ‘strike’; and


Whereas, The General Director’s suit was ultimately unsuccessful; therefore, be it


Resolved, That the Delegates to the 2011 ICSOM Conference express support for their colleagues in the Teatro Colón Orquesta and all staff employees of the Teatro Colón, and denounce these reprehensible actions by the management and General Director of the Teatro Colón; and, be it further


Resolved, That the management and General Director of the Teatro Colón be urged to identify responsible and amicable solutions to this disastrous situation that has unnecessarily wrought havoc upon the lives and livelihoods of these musicians who went unrecognized by that same management when the musicians and staff employees faithfully performed their duties without pay for three months before their illegal termination.

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  • Thanks to the colleagues of the 2011 ICSOM Conference. Their support and their wise words are quite welcome.

    I hope we do not take too long to understand how it is important to organize ourselves and to have institutions that effectively can stand up in defense of our rights, keeping the continuous dialogue in order to allow the development our artistry with no risk of serious “injuries” like we had this year in Brazil.

    I hope any musician in any place in the world have to face such moments of sadness, disrespect and ingratitude. We don’t deserve it! Any one deserves it!

    • Attempting to correct my poor English:

      I hope any musician in any place in the world should face such moments of sadness, disrespect and ingratitude. We don’t deserve it! Any one deserves it!

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