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‘If I Were a Musician’

Our elected officials sound off about their musical tastes, the music in their district…and what instrument they wish they played!

Assemblymember Nily Rozic (Democrat: Flushing, Queensboro Hill, Hillcrest, Fresh Meadows, Oakland Gardens, Bayside, and Douglaston)

NILY ROZIC

Since 2012, Assemblymember Nily Rozic has represented Assembly District 25, comprising the communities of Flushing, Queensboro Hill, Hillcrest, Fresh Meadows, Oakland Gardens, Bayside, and Douglaston. In Albany, Assemblymember Rozic has become an important partner and ally for musicians and other working people. She chairs the Subcommittee on Emerging Workforce, and serves as a member of the committees on Consumer Affairs and Protection, Ways and Means, Labor and many others. Recently, Assemblymember Rozic has emerged as a leading advocate for fashion models, who confront many of the same challenges that musicians face on a daily basis, from wage theft and inadequate representation, to worker misclassification and the challenges of being an independent contractor.

What is your favorite type or style of music? Hip-Hop/R&B. Queens as a borough is a vital piece in the growth of the music, history and culture of the genre. The other thing I don’t think people realize is how many great jazz musicians have lived in Queens and have performed at Queens College’s Kupferberg Center for the Arts or Flushing Town Hall, which still offers a guide of the Queens Jazz Trail.

Who is your favorite musician of all time? Beyonce. I have a feeling that is going to be my answer to a lot of these questions.

Do you have a favorite band? Without question: A Tribe Called Quest.

What’s the first album you purchased? I grew up listening to cassette tapes. The first one that I had was Ace of Base’s “The Sign.” I wore it out.

If you could have dinner or drinks with any musician, living or dead, who would it be? I told you I would have a running theme here! I would definitely go on a double date with Beyonce and Jay-Z. How fun would that be?!

What type of music was played or listened to by your family in your household when you were growing up? No one in my family formally played an instrument, but I grew up listening to lots of music. I remember listening to a mix of Julio Iglesias, Mercedes Sosa, and Carlos Gardel.

Describe in your opinion the role music plays in your district, and in our society? The diversity of the Queens community is reflected in so many different ways, including music. Each culture infuses their own cultural identity into their music whether that be Korean drumming or Bollywood dance music. It is this diversity that makes our communities strong, and music and the arts are an integral part of it. It is often the case that musicians are the foundation of our societal fabric. They help New Yorkers identify with and relate to each other through the unifying force that is music.

How do we ensure that musicians and artists are able to remain in NYC and in their communities? Affordability is among the most important challenges facing musicians. The role of government and lawmakers is to ensure that musicians and artists can afford to live and work in their communities. We can do that through increasing affordable housing options and working to reduce the cost of daily living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. There isn’t one easy solution but it is a goal we are constantly working toward.

Do you feel that we as a city and state should be taking more action to ensure that musicians are afforded workplace protections and fair wages? Yes! I work tirelessly to ensure a safe and productive workplace for all employees and workers, regardless of industry. That includes everyone from musicians to models to professional cheerleaders. High wages for workers and workplace protections are critical to creating a fair and equitable work environment for our city and our state.

And lastly, if you were a musician, what would you play? If I were a musician, I would probably play the piano since I have been fascinated by it for years.


New York City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (Democrat: Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City and Astoria)

JIMMY VAN BRAMER

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer is the majority leader of the NYC Council and represents the city’s 26th district, which comprises the neighborhoods of Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City and Astoria. As chair of the Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations Committee, he has established himself as one of the council’s loudest voices in support of the arts. Councilmember Van Bramer led the effort to create the city’s first comprehensive cultural plan, Create NYC, and has been instrumental in the cultural community’s efforts to expand arts funding in each of the last eight city budgets.

 

What is your favorite type or style of music? I love 1970s and early 80s disco music, as well as salsa and merengue. Also, just to confuse things a little bit more, I grew up listening to a lot of country & western and I still love it today.

Who is your favorite musician? Meat Loaf. I also like Cyndi Lauper, who is a member of Local 802! Also, if you look at my phone, you’ll see that I listen to a lot of Shikra.

Do you have a favorite band? Coldplay. I don’t even have to think twice. My husband and I have traveled across the country and heard them across the world. One of the most memorable experiences of my life was hearing them perform in Paris. We just happened to be there at the same time and the concert was magic.

If you could have dinner or drinks with a musician, who would it be? Louis Armstrong. Not only was he an incredible musician who had to deal with racism and overcome incredible challenges, but he lived in Queens! Have you been to his house? I would have to ask him who designed it and who did the interior decoration.

Have you been to a Broadway show? I’m a gay man and the chair of the Cultural Affairs committee! Of course! My favorite shows have been “Les Misérables” and “Hairspray.”

What about a favorite movie score? Well…our wedding song was “Come What May” from “Moulin Rouge.”

What was the first concert you ever attended? I heard the Go-Gos at Madison Square Garden, and Flock of Seagulls opened. Having those tickets was the first and only time I was a “cool kid” at school.

Was music an important part of your childhood? My mom and dad were children of the 1950s and always listening to something. I grew up listening to their 45s. I remember my sister and I, from our youngest days, listening to the Carpenters.

Describe, in your opinion, the role music plays in our society. Music and the arts sustain us. These are difficult times, regardless of political affiliation. But music gives us hope. It reminds us why we’re here. In the middle of all this, there is a song, a performance, an instrument or a sound that strikes a chord that produces within us inspiration and hope.

What are the challenges that face musicians in New York City and what can our elected officials be doing to support them? Musicians and all artists are facing many challenges that are unique to their industry, and many other challenges that are shared across the city. That’s why we created the new cultural plan, Create NYC. The first part of the plan is complete: it has been created. It is responsive to many issues and it provides great opportunity. Now we will push forward with building affordable rehearsal space and live/work space. We must push for supporting fair wages and protections for musicians, and must ensure that we address all aspects of affordability in the city. We must ensure that musicians have access to fair collectively bargained agreements and pension, and we must help artists advocate for themselves.

And lastly, if you were a musician what instrument would you play? When I was younger, I joined the St. Joseph’s fife and bugle corp. But when I went to junior high, instead of playing the drums, I went to our band teacher, Mr. Miller, and picked the coolest looking instrument I could find: the trombone.

 

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