The most important committees are the Player’s Committee and the Negotiation Committee. Others such as the Musical Advisory, Tour, and Audition Committees also play important roles in governing the orchestras business with management. There are also some practical committees such as: Retirement, Pension, Health, non-Renewal, and Re-Seating Committees.The most active committee is the Player’s Committee which handles the day-to-day business between the orchestra and management. The Chair, elected by the committee, is the go-to person and usually becomes the unofficial “complaint department.” This committee will meet at a moment’s notice between rehearsals or concerts to address situations that may arise. If needed, they will convene the entire orchestra to vote on a proposal by management—and the majority rules!
Serving on orchestra committees is a duty of the orchestra members. And although there is no requirement, most musicians are willing to participate. Some committees are very active and others may only meet a few times a year. The Player’s Committee chair is quite busy and this person can be involved on a daily basis meeting with the Personal Manager or other management personnel.Orchestras in the United States are a union shop and full-time members are required to belong to the American Federation of Musicians. One major difference between orchestras in America and other union shops is that the musician union officials do not negotiate directly with management during contract negotiations. The reason for this is because union officials have no idea of our working conditions and details of our day-to-day operations. The AFof M therefore recognizes the Negotiating Committee as their official representatives at the bargaining table. These orchestra members sit down at the barganing table to hammer out contract language and try to come to agreements on the issues. When not successful, and the current contract expires, the orchesta members have the right continue to "work and talk" or call for a "strike" until the issues are resolved and the orchestra votes to acctpt the contract. Management also has the right to "lock out" the musicians until a contract is signed.
The only issue not discussed is recording. This part of the contract is negotiated by the union on a national level and all union orchestras record under this agreement.Most orchestra have a committee dealing with artistic issues with a name such as the Musical Advisory Committee. Note the word “advisory.” This is because the Music Director has the sole power in deciding on musical issues. This committee may meet a few times a year with the Music Director to discuss such issues as repertoire, guest conductors, tours, recordings, and other pertinent issues regarding working conditions. This committee may “bark” but it has no “bite.” Most Music Directors are open to hearing from the orchestra members on these subjects, but the decision to act on such issues his or her decision. There is no vote!
The Re-Seating and Non-Renewal Committee only meet when management issues a request to dismiss or reseat a tenured member of the orchestra. It is quite rare for a tenured member of the orchestra to be issued a non-renewal of their contract. It is more likely a member may be asked to sit in a different seat within the orchestra. If this happens and the member decides to appeal the decision, the Re-Seating Committee is convened to discuss the matter with management. Most non-renewal of a member's contract come about by independent negotiations between the member and the Executive Director.