#TBT Yes, Seattle Is A Union Orchestra

Among the long list of myths in this field, one of the most enduring is that Seattle Symphony Orchestra (SSO) is a non-union orchestra. Spoiler alert: that’s not true.

As a matter of fact, the SSO has been a union orchestra since it was formed in 1903 but the myth was born in the 1980s when the SSO musicians voted to leave the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) and form an independent union, the International Guild of Symphony, Opera and Ballet Musicians (IGSOBM).

You can find a trio of articles here from 2006 that provide an in-depth review of the history behind why the Seattle musicians decided to form IGSOBM. It includes interviews with the union’s leadership from that time along with everything else you need to put this myth out to pasture.

Everything You Wanted To Know About Seattle (But Were Afraid To Ask) Part 1

Everything You Wanted To Know About Seattle (But Were Afraid To Ask) Part 2

Answering Some Questions About The Seattle Articles

Add to that, the IGSOBM website includes one of the best overviews you can find. If nothing else, explaining the same thing over and over really helps refine a tight elevator speech style message.

In addition to the articles from 2006, you can also find more in the dedicated IGSOBM article archive.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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