Tamsin Johnston, oboist, Regina SymphonyTamsin Lorraine Johnston on classical music’s hot new thing, its impact, and how orchestras might respond.

Robert Fraser previews the 2024 OCSM Conference in Kitchener, Ontario.Bob Fraser VS headshot 2022

Christine Guptill bio photoChristine Guptill on occupational therapy for mental health

Christie Headshot with books and flute

Carolyn Christie on her path from OSM musician to mental skills training specialist


Lock Out VSO 85by Stephen Wilkes (from Vancouver Symphony Orchestra: Strike, Lockout and Suspension of Operations) View the full article

At the start of the 1985-86 season, amid tense negotiations, Vancouver Symphony musicians were told to report to the concert hall with their instruments and to be prepared to rehearse the first programme of the new season without a contract. Upon arrival, the entrance area was flooded with every media type and TV cameras from Vancouver and even some US cities. As the orchestra members arrived, they were told to go upstairs to a meeting room for a vote. 

As everyone was assembled, the musicians’ attorney announced that an offer from the management would be put in motion for a vote. “However, I must tell you that I do not advise you to accept this agreement,” he said. “There is a possibility that you may be locked out.” The orchestra voted to reject the offer, and the lawyer left for his discussion with the Vancouver Symphony Society (VSS) negotiating team.

When the attorney returned, he informed the musicians that the VSS had indeed declared the orchestra to be locked out. 

“Do you get that?” he asked. “You are locked out - but you’re in! Would you be prepared to sit in your places and be ready to play? If asked by a peace officer, would you leave promptly and quietly?”

As light travels, so did the musicians scramble down the stairs to their chairs on stage. 

“Why are you here? You are locked out,” said the VSS chief negotiator. 

“We’re willing to play and talk,” answered the musicians. 

“Yeah, why don’t you let them play?” chimed the media: clicking, recording, videotaping.

The GM left in a huff. 

Then, suddenly, complete darkness.

Cameras, video cameras, flash bulbs popping non-stop and the media, all of them, for the sake of balanced reporting, still chirping at the VSS GM, though he had left for his office in the Society’s enclave below the public theatre entrance. 

The next day’s headlines: “Lights out on the Symphony.”

The VSS never had a chance to address its views to the public or to state its case in any form. The public just retained the image of a blackened stage on the newspapers and TV screens. They could not match the tactics, skill, and connections of the VMA/VSO attorney, who later became a Justice in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. 

The lockout lasted eight days, then the two sides made peace — not the everlasting kind, but that of a utilitarian practicality that concealed the pettiness and rancor yet to emerge. The musicians had won the dispute, but to what end remained uncertain.

Stephen Wilkes is OCSM Secretary Emeritus, having served from 1989 to 1999. He was Assistant Principal Viola of the Vancouver Symphony, and a member of that orchestra for over 50 years. 

Tamsin Johnston

Tamsin Johnston (OCSM 2nd VP and Regina SO Delegate) shares her perspective on the millennial generation and its relationship with unions.

Unions and millennials share values, but where is the millennial voice in these organizations? What are unions doing to ensure millennials are heard? During the 2021 federal election, I spoke on the phone to Tria Donaldson, the NDP candidate in my riding, and she shared with me this: younger people have to be convinced that they have a say in their future. They will only get involved in a way that makes a difference to their communities if they feel their efforts will be recognized and taken seriously.

KWS closed until further notice

KW Symphony Delegate Rebecca Diderrich reports on the aftermath of a September bombshell. 

On Saturday, September 16th, one day before payroll would have begun for the season and three days before our first scheduled service, the members of the Kitchener Waterloo Symphony received notice that our board of directors had decided our season would not begin that week, and that we were not called back to work after the summer layoff.

This message came without any warning to us. We had been preparing for the season in all of the usual ways: new employees moving into town, audition excerpt lists being compiled for upcoming auditions, seating charts and practice parts made available to us for the first few busy weeks of the fall. Within an hour, all events were removed from the symphony’s website and it became apparent that not only would the season not begin that week, it would in fact not happen at all.

Kitchener Waterloo Symphony Players' Association Treasurer Jennifer Stephen reports on support, financial and otherwise, for musicians.

Following the declaration of bankruptcy by the Board of the KWS, the Musicians banded together to begin a fundraising campaign. That campaign continues to show very strong support, over six weeks after its initial launch.  

The fundraising efforts have expanded to encompass not only the initial GoFundMe campaign, but also direct donations via e-transfer to the KWS Players’ Association, and donations and ticket sales generated from the concerts that the Musicians have self-produced. 

We have received a great show of solidarity from other Orchestras and Organizations from across Canada and beyond. To date, donations from Musicians’ Associations, Players’ Committees and music-based companies have reached over $42,500. 


The Edmonton Symphony and Calgary Philharmonic performed together on Nov. 10 at Calgary’s Jack Singer Concert Hall and the following day at Edmonton’s Winspear Centre. Thank you to the many musicians who contributed photos!

A view from the harp section at the Winspear Centre

Concertmasters Robert Uchida & Diana Cohen

Coverage of the 1985 VSO lockoutLongtime Vancouver Symphony musician and former OCSM Secretary Stephen Wilkes recounts the early labour history of the VSO, from its first CBA in 1966 to a brush with bankruptcy in 1988.