Pin It

OCSM 1st VP Matt Heller has compiled highlights from the 43rd annual OCSM Conference, held in Québec City in August 2018, covering: Quebec and bilingualism; media and communications; conference topics; and resolutions and elections. 

2018 OCSM Conference photo

Quebec and bilingualism

Delegates passed a resolution urging reconciliation between musicians of the Quebec Symphony and Local 406, the AFM Local representing all of Quebec. Since 2008, the Quebec Symphony Players’ Association, AMMOSQ, has operated as an independent bargaining agent outside of the AFM. Good faith talks have already begun between representatives of AMMOSQ and the AFM.

Business consultant Phillipe Dancause outlined a process of strategic reimagining and transformation at the Quebec Symphony, following a crisis and lockout in late 2015. Beginning with the question “What is a 21st-century orchestra?”, Dancause led an ambitious consultation process – which fully included musicians, who were
paid for their time –- aimed at escaping old paradigms and drawing out fresh viewpoints, resulting in a new business model, marketing strategy, and organizational vision.

The executive board acknowledged that OCSM has not done enough to engage with francophone members. Delegates passed a resolution recommitting the organization to create a culture welcoming to francophone members; to facilitate greater exchange and interaction with members in their native language; and to work towards ideals and principles of bilingualism set forth in the Canadian Charter or Rights and Freedoms.


Media and communications

The Canadian Symphonic Media Agreement, negotiated by the CFM and a group of Canadian symphonic managers, is now being offered for use by Canadian orchestras. The agreement sets conditions and fees for streaming and on-demand distribution of live performances, for use on the orchestra’s own website or broadcast channels. It is considered an experimental agreement, available 2018-21; further details are available by contacting Symphonic Services Division Canada Director Bernard LeBlanc.

It has been a year of revelations of sexual harassment and toxic workplaces, which have left shock waves through the arts community and elsewhere. Legal counsel Michael Wright discussed processes for investigation of allegations, how organizations can offer due process to all parties, as well as steps towards remediation, where circumstances allow.

A role-playing workshop titled The Curious Case of Charles the Cellist highlighted the complex ambiguities of a disciplinary meeting held amidst unfounded allegations, challenging Delegates to portray the main actors and work towards a solution. Rochelle Skolnick, Director of the AFM Symphonic Services Division, designed the scenario and led an informative debriefing session, exploring relevant case law applicable both in the US and Canada.

A workshop on decision bias in the audition processes led by Lisa Chisholm demonstrated how even well-intentioned committee members can be swayed by non-musical factors, and influenced by comments as well as non-verbal cues made by colleagues.

The Musicians’ Pension Fund of Canada report outlined recent and prospective legislative changes affecting target-benefit multi-employer pension plans. The MPF follows Ontario law, since that is where most members reside; the status of Ontario’s proposed rules, which would increase the level of funding the Fund must maintain to prove solvency, is highly uncertain. The Fund has also been working with the AFM to better protect member data, and outlined several improved procedures.

The Editorial and Bylaws Committee revised two of OCSM’s guiding documents: Member Information and the Delegate Handbook. While OCSM’s Bylaws dictate governance and structure, many of the organization’s projects, principles, and day-to-day processes are found in the Delegate Handbook.  

Conference topics

Auditions are a perennial subject for debate; a recent resolution by the Canadian Conference of Locals recommended that orchestras add CBA provisions specifying eligibility requirements for national auditions. One Canadian orchestra has determined that holding national auditions is no longer necessary under federal immigration requirements.

Diversity, inclusion, and representation are all matters of great concern among orchestras. A wide-ranging discussion touched on issues of colonialism, community impact, engagement, gender parity, programming, youth orchestras, grant agencies and criteria, and land acknowledgment speeches.

Committee work within Players’ Associations is almost universally valued and appreciated, yet only rarely is it paid. Delegates considered whether paying a nominal hourly rate for committee work could encourage greater commitment and professionalism, or whether it would disrupt a culture of selfless volunteerism.

Airline policy and regulations on importing rare and endangered materials were discussed, since the AFM has pursued advocacy on both fronts. An informational booklet prepared by the AFM and CATSA (Canadian Air Transport Security Authority) is available to inform members and security personnel of current policies; it will be updated as regulations develop.

Resolutions and elections

Tommy Banks was honoured for astounding musicianship and inspiring advocacy, which Delegates experienced firsthand when he appeared as keynote speaker at the 2016 Conference in Calgary. Tommy Banks was also a key player in the creation of Edmonton’s Winspear Centre. He was added to the OCSM Honour Roll.

Two dedicated unionists and administrators, who happened to be married, were also honoured for their contributions to Canadian musicians: Ellen Versteeg-Lytwyn, who retires this year after 46 years as Fund Administrator for the Musicians’ Pension Fund of Canada; and Len Lytwyn, who served as Executive Director of the AFM Canadian office and founding Director of Musicians’ Rights Organization Canada. Len passed away in July. Both Ellen and Len were added to the OCSM Honour Roll.

A resolution calling on the AFM to uphold and communicate best practices regarding data security was passed by Delegates. Identity theft has been a growing concern for musicians, and Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) strongly discourages the use of Social Insurance Numbers as customer identity numbers; the AFM now has unique member numbers, but SIN numbers are still requested on certain forms and contracts.

Elections: Saskatoon Symphony Delegate Melissa Goodchild was elected as Secretary, while Treasurer Liz Johnston and 1st Vice-President Matt Heller were re-elected. All OCSM officers serve two-year terms.

The 2019 OCSM Conference is planned for mid-August in Hamilton, Ontario -- dates and conference hotel are to be confirmed!

A version of this post appeared in the AFM International Musician, adapted by Melissa Goodchild under the headline 2018 OCSM-OMOSC Conference Offers Timely Discussions. Compiled by 1st VP Matt Heller. Additional information and resources on items listed here are available. Please contact your OCSM Delegate, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Attendees at this year’s OCSM conference in Quebec City: Row 1: Eline Brock, (Orchestre Symphonique de Québec), Gwen Klassen (Calgary Philharmonic), Xiao Grabke (National Ballet of Canada Orchestra), David Thies-Thompson (National Arts Centre Orchestra), Michelle Zapf-Belanger (Thunder Bay Symphony), Liesel Deppe (Windsor Symphony), Rebecca Morton (Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony), Liz Johnston (OCSM Treasurer). Row 2: Bernard Leblanc (SSD Director for Canada), Etienne Chenard (Symphony Nova Scotia), Francine Schutzman (OCSM President Emerita), Melissa Goodchild (Saskatoon Symphony), Marie-Julie Chagnon (Orchestre Symphonique de Québec), Arlene Dahl (Winnipeg Symphony), Rochelle Skolnick (AFM-SSD Director), Becky Whitling (Vancouver Symphony), Matt Heller (OCSM 1st V-P), Varun Vyas (AFM Local 571), Peter Sametz (Regina Symphony), Morgan Mackenzie (Western Financial Group Insurance), Edith Stacey (Edmonton Symphony), Barbara Hankins (OCSM Publications Editor). Row 3: Miles Jaques (Toronto Symphony), Scott Harrison (CFM Local 149), Alain Cazes (Orchestre Métropolitain), Benoit Cormier (Orchestre Symphonique de Québec), Bob Fraser (OCSM President), Paul Beauchesne (Victoria Symphony), Humbert Martins (Musicians’ Pension Fund of Canada), Richard Sandals (SSD Assoc. Director), Pierre Yves Gagnon (Niagara Symphony), Mark Rogers (Canadian Opera Company Orchestra), Faith Scholfield (OCSM Secretary), Brian Baty (OCSM 2nd V-P).