As Allegro went to press, President Donald Trump had introduced a budget request that called for eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Even though this budget is just a proposal that must eventually be approved by Congress, it is still alarming.
The National Endowment for the Arts in particular is critical to the cultural life and cultural economy of our city and our nation, and the work that it supports touches the lives of musicians and other performers, children, families and communities throughout the city and country. The call for its elimination is an affront to our national character and is simply unacceptable.
Though it represents only 0.0037 percent of the federal budget, the NEA has had a significant impact on our creative ecosystem, supporting arts education programs and performance organizations like the Apollo Theatre and the New York City Ballet, as well as individual musicians like the NEA Jazz Masters. These organizations and individuals are cornerstones of healthy communities, driving local economies while also celebrating our diversity and encouraging inclusion and creative expression. All Local 802 musicians and others who care about the arts should join us in demanding that Congress reject any budget plan that eliminates the National Endowment for the Arts.
In a joint statement, the major companies of Lincoln Center (including the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera) said, “For more than 50 years, the NEA has provided leadership in the public arts arena. Yet today it faces an uncertain future as its federal funding is considered for elimination. The total cost of the NEA is less than one dollar a year for every American. But because it is so successful and its imprimatur so prestigious, every dollar the NEA contributes leads to nine additional dollars being donated from other sources…To preserve the human and economic benefits of the arts, we urge continued federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts.”
Here are two things you can do:
- Join Local 802’s efforts and call your representatives. Urge them to support the NEA. You can find information here: http://conta.cc/2mwnNH5
- Sign the AFM online petition to save the NEA at www.afm.org/2017/02/save-the-nea/
The Local 802 membership meeting on Feb. 22 to address our pension situation was packed to capacity. (The meeting was recorded and will be made available on the pension fund’s web site, at www.afm-epf.org. As Allegro went to press, it hadn’t been posted yet.) This was the first of several such meetings that the pension fund is having to promote more transparency in how the fund is governed and operated. Everyone is concerned about the health of our pension and that concern could not have been more evident at that meeting. I want to personally thank all who attended. The level of discourse, although difficult at times, was informative and helpful to the trustees and pension plan professionals who were present. The pension fund continues to meet with participants. Every meeting offers an opportunity not only for participants to ask their questions but also a chance for the trustees and fund professionals to continue to adjust the presentation to more accommodate those questions and concerns. In this issue of Allegro, you can read some more feedback from members about our pension situation as well as my response. As soon as more updates regarding the pension are available, including updates to the FAQ’s, they will be posted at www.afm-epf.org. As always, I remain deeply committed as a trustee and a stakeholder to listening to your concerns and doing whatever I can to keep our pension in a position to continue to pay benefits for the long haul.
I recently attended the Western Conference of AFM Locals in California. As with all the conferences this year, the centerpiece issue was the pension fund. As I mentioned above, the fund continues to hone its message in response to all the questions that come its way.
I also attended a meeting of the board of trustees of the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund. For those who don’t know the fund, it pays out royalties to instrumental musicians and vocalists for a variety of usages of their recorded performances. To see if you have money waiting for you, check out https://www.afmsagaftrafund.org/unclaimed-royalties.php.
OTHER UNION UPDATES
- I recently presented to the Executive Board a letter of agreement between Local 802 and New York City Opera to utilize orchestra members of Teatro Lirico di Cagliari for a co-production of “La Campana Sommersa.” The agreement ensures that the musicians of the New York City Opera Orchestra are not displaced by musicians from the Italian company. Of equal importance is the artistic collaboration between these two companies to bring an exciting opera to the audiences of New York City.
- There is a change in leadership at the New York Philharmonic. After five seasons, Matthew VanBesien has stepped down as president to pursue other interests. Local 802 welcomes Deborah Borda, who returns to the helm after most recently serving the L.A. Philharmonic for the past 17 years to much acclaim. Ms. Borda previously led the New York Philharmonic for eight seasons starting in the 1990s. Welcome back to the Apple!
- Jazz is truly one of America’s gifts to world music. Many Local 802 members are jazz musicians and jazz is a critical part of the history of both Local 802 and New York City. Congress has even declared jazz to be a national treasure. In 2002, the Smithsonian designated the month of April as Jazz Appreciation Month. Please see our feature interview with Regina Carter and a report on our most recent Jazz Mentors program.
- Equal Pay Day is the symbolic day dedicated to raising awareness of the gender pay gap. The date symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. This year, Equal Pay Day is April 4. That means that, statistically speaking, it took women from Jan. 1, 2016 to April 4, 2017 to earn the same amount that men earned from Jan. 1, 2016 to Jan. 1, 2017. As a society, we must strive to do better and fight for equality. For more information, see www.pay-equity.org.
- Let’s never forget those who have given their lives for their work. Every year, the labor movement observes Workers Memorial Day on April 28 to commemorate those who have died on their jobs and to focus on making workplaces safer. For more information, see www.aflcio.org/Issues/Job-Safety/WorkersMemorialDay.
- Earth Day is celebrated this month, on April 22. Check out the latest updates from the Broadway Green Alliance and a feature story by Local 802 member Marc Schmied. Also, read information on a benefit concert by the MET Orchestra to benefit an innovative environmental organization called Our Children’s Trust.
- Finally, this year’s deadline to file taxes is April 18. Read our annual roundup of tax tips for musicians in this issue.