If There Was Ever A Topic Musicians And Employers Can Get Behind, This Is It

Recently, the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) elected a slate of new officers and it got me thinking about some of the exchanges unfolding at performing arts org venues and orchestra social media accounts in response to required vaccination requirements. Not sure how those twop things go together? No worries, it will all come together in the end.

While it should come as no surprise to see performing arts orgs receive a mix of support and angst for their decision to require ticket buyers, artists, and staff are fully vaccinated, I am wondering if the unions connected to those organizations will weigh in.

If there was ever a politically third-rail topic that both employers and unionized employees could get behind, this is it. Low levels of vaccination are conspiring to keep many businesses closed or operating at reduced capacity and the performing arts have been hit especially hard.

Consequently, I would hope the decision to require vaccination for the full range of stakeholders would receive a great deal of public support.

At many of these organizations, the unionized employees have taken internal votes to approve the policy and while I’ve seen some where a handful of members voted no, they have all passed with near unanimous support.

I would think Local and/or National union offices would be interested in preparing statements of support for the decision that highlight how hard their members have been hit and how the vaccination requirement will help them get back to work and maintain stability. It provides an opportunity to educate the public about their members, rally around a common vision, and show support for decisions that carry a degree of risk.

In addition to the Local and National offices, larger unions like the American Federation of Musicians have player conferences, like ICSOM, that maintain their own public relations presence. I hope those groups add their voice of support for vaccination requirements to any orchestra or venue where their members operate.

If anyone is aware of something like this and has a link to those statements at a social media thread, please take a moment to share. I would love to give those groups a shout-out.

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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