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

Bob Fraser, OCSM President (Bass Trombonist, Victoria Symphony and Secretary-Treasurer, Local 247) | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Greetings to all – I hope your seasons are going well, and if they’re not, I hope that OCSM can be of some assistance to you. Our greatest asset is that because of OCSM and our parent union, the AFM, no orchestra musician, orchestra committee, or bargaining unit needs to be all on their own. 

We have built a huge knowledge base over our almost fifty-year history. It was almost exactly fifty years ago that Sam Levine and Ruth Budd, two double bass players, were envisioning an organization of Canadian symphony musicians, and it gave rise to a dedicated day of meetings in St Catharines, ON in conjunction with the Canadian Conference of the AFM in 1974, which led to the formation of what we now know as OCSM.

As I am writing this, I am keenly aware that my columns can become a bit repetitive – especially those for the International Musician. (Do you actually read my columns there, or does everyone still read the IM starting from the back cover and stop when the audition ads run out??) Seasons change, yet I seem to be continually reporting on similar topics (tax status of musicians, anyone?). But looking at my own orchestra, I see so many new faces – an almost unprecedented number of them – and I realize that many orchestras are seeing similar turnover. So our challenge now is passing on all the knowledge we have accumulated to our new colleagues.

Crises are also nothing new, unfortunately. I know many of you have given generously to help our colleagues in the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony as they have dealt with their season and their livelihoods being literally pulled out from under them. We remain optimistic that the good people of the Kitchener-Waterloo region will get their orchestra back; our colleagues there are doing incredible work to make that a reality. Again – we have our history to draw on: similar shutdowns have happened most recently in London, but also in Hamilton and Halifax in the past. It is hoped that we can learn valuable lessons from these difficult chapters in our history.

One development I’m happy to report on is OCSM’s continued relationship with health professionals – we have found some new allies in this field: Christine Guptill and Carolyn Christie. Both presented at our last Conference in Montreal, and wrote about their work for this issue. It warms my heart when OCSM delegates and observers of our meetings tell me how much they appreciate the information they receive from our presenters. Topics like performance anxiety, depression, injury, and hearing loss are no longer taboo.

Throughout the season, our Executive meets monthly (first Monday of each month) and we begin planning our summer Conference a year in advance. Right now, the plan is for us to meet in Kitchener from August 12-15. If there is a topic you would like to see addressed, please let your OCSM Delegate know. Soon we will have two online meetings with all 21 of OCSM’s Delegates (in late February), to hear reports on how your seasons are progressing, and that alone generates many of our Conference topics.

Wishing you all the best.

– Bob Fraser, January 2024