Paul Judy, Founder  

In Memoriam - Fred Zenone

Paul Judy, Founder
October 26, 2019

Editor's Abstract (Click to Hide)

The Orchestra Musician Forum and its website is saddened by the death of one of its founding board members. Fred Zenone was a past president and director of the Symphony Orchestra Institute (SOI). During his career as an orchestra musician, the majority of which was invested as a cellist in the National Symphony Orchestra, he was a keen observer of and active participant in organizational and industry matters. Throughout the symphony orchestra field, he was known for his leadership and statesmanship during his service as chair of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) and for his work on teams consulting with troubled orchestras. He has also served on the board of directors of the League of American Orchestras and the Symphony Orchestra Institute. He was a valued consultant in the transition of the SOI that created the Orchestra Musician Forum and its website

Editor in chief -

- Ramon Ricker

It was a privilege and a pleasure to know and work closely with Fred Zenone for a number of years. We shared a passion in our desire to alter the way symphony orchestra organizations functioned -- particularly to bring about greater organizational involvement, stake, and responsibility on the part of orchestra members. Fred had a long history of belief in this direction which helped shape the programs of the Symphony Orchestra Institute of which he became President. Our joint retirement from the pursuit of this mutual passion was a difficult and saddening decision for both of us, but it did open to Fred a period of freedom and family enjoyment, and more time with his loving wife Pat. Fate has suddenly ended this last chapter in Fred's life. My and Mary Ann's deepest sympathies go to the Zenone family. I will always think of Fred when I hear symphony orchestra music.

Paul Judy
Founder of the Orchestra Musician Forum

Comments (Click to Hide)

Sir Isaac Newton, generally regarded as the most influential scientist in human history, once said "if I have seen further, it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants." Those of us who make a living playing in orchestras stand on the shoulders of giants as well. One of them, Fred Zenone, died on October 22, 2019.

The first time I ever saw Fred was at the 1989 ICSOM conference. He had been invited by then-chairman Brad Buckley to "talk about trends he has seen while serving on teams that advise troubled orchestras" - the famous SWAT teams. My very strong reaction to his presentation was "who is this guy and why is he telling me stuff I don't want to hear?" I certainly didn't want to hear his predictions of health insurance premiums eating away at orchestra budgets or the fact that we still had made no impact on the job satisfaction front - about both of which, of course, he was completely right.

As it happened, that was a perfect introduction to what made Fred so important and influential in our field. He saw ahead of where most of us could see. When he saw something that was important, he said so. Without trying to be provocative, he spoke hard truths, regardless of whether people were eager to hear them. Fred personified a rare combination of searing intelligence, intellectual honesty, and moral courage.

Fred began his professional career as an instrumental music teacher in the Levittown (PA) school system. After chairing the strings program in the Princeton public schools, he went back to school at Rutgers, studying cello with Orlando Cole and David Soyer. He joined the National Symphony in 1969 and remained there until retiring in 1999.

But he didn't stop teaching; he just switched subjects. He became involved in ICSOM, becoming an ICSOM officer in 1974 and serving as ICSOM chair from 1980 to 1986. He was the first orchestra musician to serve on the board of the League of American Orchestras. He was one of the first orchestra musicians to serve on a panel of the National Endowment for the Arts. And he was critical in the formation of the Symphony Orchestra Institute in 1995, becoming its president in 1999.

The title of the American statesman Dean Acheson's autobiography, Present at the Creation, would have been equally appropriate for Fred. It is still startling to read a list of all the developments in our field that Fred was at the center of making happen. The right of orchestra musicians to ratify their agreements, the original symphonic Audiovisual Agreement, the Code of Ethical Audition Practices, an adequately staffed AFM Symphony Department, the Internet Agreement of 2000, and the controversial St. Paul Chamber Orchestra contract of 2003 are only part of what he helped to make happen during his long career as an orchestra statesman.

I never knew Fred as an activist; by the time I got involved in ICSOM, Fred had already moved on. But I was very fortunate to have him as a mentor. When I became ICSOM chair, Fred was someone who I regularly called for advice. Those calls became more and more frequent during my time as chair; the quality of his advice and his insights were far more valuable than what I was able to provide in exchange, which was free tech support for his Macintosh (eventually he became entirely too proficient to need amateur tech support, but I suspect he called for tech help sometimes just to make sure I didn't need any help of my own). And I did get to work with him on the Internet Agreement of 2000 and the major revision of the Audiovisual Agreement of 2001 in his role as co-facilitator along with his colleague Paul Boulian, during which I saw first-hand what made them so valuable in that role to so many different orchestras.

The debts that we owe people like Fred Zenone are inherently unpayable. Fred did most of what he did as a activist on a volunteer basis, spending countless hours on the phone and countless days away from family and cello helping others. Of course it was work he found gratifying, both for the challenge and the benefit it brought to others. But that does not change what we owe him.

Look at any orchestra contract, or any orchestra board with musicians on it, or any interaction between ICSOM, ROPA and OCSM with the AFM, or any orchestra ratification meeting - and you will see Fred's memorial.

Robert Levine, Milwaukee Symphony
Senior Editor,
ICSOM Chairman Emeritus
mreed on October 26, 2019 at 8:51 AM
I am shocked and saddened to learn of the death of Fred Zenone. I was privileged to serve as editor of Senza Sordino during years that Fred was ICSOM chairman, and I learned much from him.

Fred Zenone was chairman from 1980 to 1986. "It will be necessary for us to develop coalitions," he said early in his tenure, and that he did, networking with AFM leadership, the Major Orchestra Managers Conference, and other national organizations to pursue ICSOM goals. In so doing Fred raised ICSOM's visibility and credibility.

Fred's was a voice to be listened to, and ICSOM was a force to be reckoned with. Fred was often sharply critical of shortcomings in ICSOM's representation process and of the frequent failure of orchestras to share information. Under his leadership, the governing structure of ICSOM was revised to improve communication between the governing board and member orchestras. The office of vice-chairman was eliminated, the office of president was established, area vice-chair positions were discontinued in favor of more comprehensive member-at-large positions, and a President's Council was created.

In all his endeavors as ICSOM chairman, Fred exhibited a keen intellect, profound dedication, and strong leadership. He was one of the giants of our organization, and we owe him much.

Tom Hall Chicago Symphony Orchestra (retired)
Editor Emeritus, Senza Sordino
kbogdanovski on October 26, 2019 at 2:00 PM
I was new to the Nashville Symphony when we went on strike in early 1985 but I was very much aware that we owed a great deal to Fred Zenone and Henry Fogel who helped settle our strike. There are a handful of former managers traveling around evaluating orchestras in crisis but Fred understood, early on, that musicians were much more likely to feel their message was being heard and delivered if a musician was one of those evaluating the health of an orchestra and making recommendations to managers and boards.

Just a few years ago I had a wonderful conversation with Fred about this very subject and he was very proud of the good work he and a handful of managers were able to accomplish. I now find, thanks to Nathan Kahn's comments, that I also have Fred to thank for his part in developing the dog and pony presentations I participated in over the years. I remember spending an entire day listening to Lew Waldeck as he prepared our orchestra for what was to come.

I finally met Fred a few years after he had retired from the National Symphony. As a member of the AFM electronic media negotiating team representing ROPA, we were trying to devise a completely new agreement for the AFM - what became the audio-only Internet agreement. When a situation occurred that made us question actions by members of the opposing side of the table, Brad Buckley asked Fred to join us as co-facilitator. I was thrilled to finally have the chance to meet and thank Fred in person for his helping hand in Nashville way back when.

I was also pleased to be a fly on the wall listening to discussions about ICSOM over the years. Knowing and learning from people like Fred have made a big impact on my life and I am honored to call many of them friends. As ICSOM secretary I took over updating the Delegate handbook in 2002 and I speculate that, while many touches like the history section detailing officers, orchestras and conferences through the years are most likely due to the influence of Tom Hall, the first section in the manual is adapted from an article Fred wrote for Senza "How delegates make ICSOM work." Based on Tom's remembrance of Fred, it is clear to me that Fred understood the importance of communication if ICSOM was going to be effective.

I agree wholeheartedly with both my friends Tom Hall and Nathan Kahn, we in the orchestra community and ICSOM in particular have much to be thankful for, and it's in large part due to Fred Zenone's leadership and vision. It was an honor to know him and I know he will be missed. Thanks Fred.

Laura Ross
ICSOM Secretary
kbogdanovski on October 26, 2019 at 2:43 PM
I first met Fred at the 1974 ICSOM Conference, and thus began both a personal and professional relationship that lasted over 35 years. It was my privilege and pleasure to serve as Vice - Chairman of ICSOM, and Chairman of the ICSOM media committee while Fred was Chairman of ICSOM. For me, working with him was both a fascinating and rewarding experience. Fascinating because I was always amazed at the way he could see into problems. Rewarding because more often than not he could find a solution when none appeared to be present.

His list of accomplishments in service to the field is lengthy, and his influence on the field will continue even though he is gone. Many do not know that it was through Fred's efforts that ratification of symphony contracts became a right under AFM by-laws, not a privilege granted by Local unions. As previously mentioned he fostered the creation of an active and potent "Symphony Department" and proactively supported the organizing efforts of the department. His leadership in the creation of the Symphony Audio Visual Contract not only revolutionized media for Symphonic orchestras but also influenced other AFM media contracts. He restructured ICSOM to make it more responsive to the member orchestras, and more able to deal with unforeseen problems in the future.

I believe that his lasting legacy to us will be his efforts after he left ICSOM to find options, and solutions for how musicians interact with the institutions that employ them. One of my favorite pictures is of Fred, Bill Foster and "Slava" Rostropovich walking with arms linked, daring the U.S. Park police to arrest them during a strike by the National Symphony. Although as that picture demonstrated, Fred was no stranger to confrontational tactics, he was very concerned by the often difficult relationship between musicians and their orchestras, and he spent the last 20 years of his life looking for answers to that difficult relationship.

Rest in peace old friend, I miss you already.

Brad Buckley
St Louis Symphony
ICSOM Chairman Emeritus
kbogdanovski on October 26, 2019 at 2:44 PM
It was Fred who first came to former AFM President Victor Fuentealba proposing an expanded AFM Symphony Department, after years of having one person responsible for all symphonies as well as other duties. Thereafter, Lew Waldeck (then chair of the NYC Opera Committee) was engaged as the AFM Symphony Department Director. Fred and Lew then developed what we refer to today as "the dog and pony show," otherwise known as the symphony seminar. It was and is a tremendous educational and organizing tool.

It was Fred who did seminars for us at the first ROPA Conference in 1984, and that summer he taught and inspired many activists who took his message home to their respective orchestras. He guided the first ROPA Executive Board and myself as president into our journey into forming an AFM Player Conference. I cannot count the nights that I sat on the phone with Fred until the wee hours of the morning, absorbing massive amounts of labor history from our industry and others, as well as guidance on how our new ROPA conference might best serve our constituency.

It was Fred who initiated what were then called "the swat teams;" a union/management team that went into troubled orchestras and sought to resolve labor disputes and other orchestra crises. It was Fred and Henry Fogel who settled our 1985 Nashville Symphony strike. He went on to intervene in many other crisis situations that I am sure others can cite.

ICSOM has lost a former Chairman, and ROPA, OCSM and the entire symphonic world has lost one of our greatest mentors and symphonic labor leaders. He will be greatly missed by all of us. My condolences to his wife Pat and his family.

In Solidarity,
Nathan Kahn,
Negotiator Symphonic Services Division American Federation of Musicians
Administrator-AFM Symphony Audition Complaint Hotline
kbogdanovski on October 26, 2019 at 2:45 PM
I had the pleasure of serving on the ICSOM Media Committee in the '80s with Fred Zenone. It as a wonderful group -- Lew Waldeck, Brad Buckley, John Palanchian, Don Whyte and myself. Fred was a wonder, nothing escaped him at the negotiating table. He had the remarkable ability to look into the heart of problems and find a solution that would satisfy all. He had the complete respect of not only our committee but also of those on the other side of the table. Working with Fred was an experience I shall never forget. I spent some time with Fred and his wife Pat at their home. The memories are priceless. ICSOM could not have done better,

Don Muggeridge Emeritus Los Angeles Philharmonic Trustee - Local 47
kbogdanovski on October 27, 2019 at 8:25 AM
We are deeply saddened to inform you that ICSOM Chair Emeritus Fred Zenone has passed away. ICSOM has lost a great leader and pioneer. Fred was a member of the National Symphony, and he served as chairman of ICSOM from 1980 until 1986. Under his leadership, ICSOM built strong alliances throughout the field, resulting in multiple landmark achievements such as the creation of an audition code of ethics. Following his term as ICSOM Chair, Fred served the field in many capacities, including as president and director of the Symphony Orchestra Institute.

We are certain that in the coming days there will be many remembrances of this legendary ICSOM Chair. Fred Zenone was the fifth chairperson in ICSOM's history, and there can be no doubt that he was revered as one of the most dedicated and visionary musicians to ever walk on a concert stage. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with his family and his wife Pat.

With sadness,
Bruce Ridge,
ICSOM chair,
on behalf of the ICSOM Governing Board
kbogdanovski on October 27, 2019 at 8:27 AM
Fred Zenone was a "great man."

At times during the last 15 years when Fred would become very introspective about what had been accomplished over all the years and he would lament the challenges moving forward, I would say, "Fred, you are a great man. Greater than the things you have done."

He would look at me with a face of denial and say, "No, there are times when I think I have failed."

"Fred, great men change more than those close to them. They transform the world, they just don't transact in it. They change it. They bring something that would not have been into the world. You did that."

"Paul, I know what you are saying but I could not see where it would lead. I thought I could, but I could not. I am frustrated with missing the piece we are working on now."

"Fred, great leaders can't see everything. They can see some way out into the future and that they need to take people on a journey. And they take them. As they go, the true nature of the journey unfolds. You saw into the future and led the journey. If you had failed, we would not be having this conversation about the next part of the journey."

"I understand that, but I did not foresee that some of what I am so proud of would turn out to be what I am struggling with my colleagues to change today."

"Sometimes to build something better we must tear down part of what we have built."

"Paul, I recognize that now. But it frustrates me. I did not see that the path had to include musicians being part of the governance, not as negotiators but as partners."

"Yes, I hear that. That is one of the things we are all trying to do now."

This is only the dialogue that could take place with a great man, a great leader, a great visionary. This is only the dialogue that could take place with someone of great humility and self-observation. Fred was this man.

I had the privilege, honor, and luck to have worked closely as a partner with Fred during his years with the Symphony Orchestra Institute—from his retirement with the National Symphony through and beyond his retirement from SOI.

I did not know that when my work began with Fred, he would become my mentor, provocateur, philosophical and conceptual partner, and most importantly, my friend. I wish I had known Fred earlier in my life; I would have been the better for it. But I am thankful I had him in my life for the short time that I did.

In the years I worked with Fred, he was tireless and relentless in his devotion and dedication to assuring the stability and viability of the art form he loved so much. He could see the next part of the vision for the field, that part that is so hard for many others to see today. In September of this year he and I reflected on the struggle and opportunities ahead. Maybe because of his physical situation, he thought it seemed easier back in the early days. But I cannot imagine that back then it seemed any easier or more difficult. It is always hard to create a transformational change. I am sad that Fred is no longer here to help others see this vision.

The greatest tribute that the industry can make for Fred is appreciating and acting vigorously and courageously on his vision for the industry in the areas of governance, musician development, the quality of musician work-life, and uplifting the spirit of musicians. This would extend and continue his legacy like nothing else.

Fred will be missed by all of us who knew him (and by those who did not) but he can rest peacefully knowing that he changed all of our lives and that he laid the foundation for changing us even more if we only listen to his voice.

Paul Boulian
Former board member of the Symphony Orchestra Institute
Partner in Lodestar Associates
And devoted disciple of Fred Zenone.
AnnDrinan on October 29, 2019 at 9:33 AM
Fred was an amazing gentleman. He was committed to his field and knew how to make a deal ! He also was a kind and funny man with many interests. He is missed indeed.

It was my pleasure to know him and work with him on a number of occasions.

David Hyslop
Hyslop on November 4, 2019 at 5:24 PM

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