ROPA is communication, education and research in the form of wage scale charts, bulletins and newsletters, conferences and surveys.
—Nathan Kahn, 1985 ROPA Conference
ROPA History on YouTube
Documents about ROPA History
Compiled by Rachel Cox, the history of ROPA’s first 30 years can be downloaded here.
More ROPA History can be found in this presentation made to the New World Symphony in 2016.
The origins of ROPA date back to 1982 when Nathan Kahn, a bassist with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, realized that regional orchestras faced two important dilemmas: they experienced unique situations and challenges that were not germane to major orchestras represented by ICSOM, and they lacked player conference representation in the AFM or any established networking system to share information.
Kahn at first hoped that ICSOM could form a subgroup for regional orchestras, but ICSOM’s bylaws regarding membership contained certain stipulations that made inclusion prohibitive for many of its regional-sized cousins. It was therefore imperative that regional orchestras form their own nationwide networking system in order to share information among member orchestras, the AFM, and the Locals.
In November of 1982, Kahn sent a letter to about 30 different orchestra committee chairpersons proposing the formation of ROPA.
He also enclosed a survey to determine how many regional orchestras needed a player conference and how it would best serve their organizations. The overwhelmingly positive response was further enhanced with the interest of Lew Waldeck, the first full-time administrator of the AFM Symphony Department, who was willing to help make ROPA a reality.
The Regional Orchestra Players’ Association was formally launched with the first symposium, which was held from September 7-9, 1984 in Columbus, Ohio. Representatives from thirteen orchestras and seven Locals attended this historic event. Also in attendance were AFM President Victor Fuentealba, ICSOM President Fred Zenone, Lew Waldeck, and Symphony Department staffers Maynard Yost and Lynn Johnson.
The conference witnessed the installation of the first ROPA officers: Nathan Kahn, president; Bruce Schultz, vice-president; Elizabeth Pistolesi, secretary; Leonard Byrne, treasurer; and Dana Karr, editor of the newsletter.
The permanence and importance of ROPA is witnessed in the growth of its membership and in the organization itself. From the nucleus of twenty-four charter member orchestras, ROPA presently has 74 full member orchestras and 11 associate member orchestras. In addition to the offices of president, vice-president, secretary, and treasurer, ROPA also has seven members-at-large, one delegate-at-large to the AFM convention, and five adjunct officers.
The 2014 conference, held in Pasadena, California marked the 30th anniversary of ROPA. The organization continues to serve the needs of regional orchestras throughout the U.S. and remains a valuable resource for information and communication.
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Twenty-four orchestras have the honor of being charter members of ROPA: Austin Symphony Orchestra, Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Colorado Springs Symphony Orchestra, Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Florida Orchestra (Tampa), Fort Wayne Philharmonic, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra, Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Nashville Symphony Orchestra, New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, Omaha Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonic Orchestra of Florida (Fort Lauderdale), Richmond Symphony Orchestra, Sacramento Symphony Orchestra, San Jose Symphony Orchestra, Savannah Symphony Orchestra, Shreveport Symphony Orchestra, Spokane Symphony Orchestra, Tulsa Symphony Orchestra, Virginia Orchestra Group (Norfolk), and Wichita Symphony Orchestra.