802 Reaches Out to Young Musicians

Volume CV, No. 11November, 2005

Bill Rohdin

Bonus photos below article.

On Oct. 5, Local 802 hosted a “meet and greet” networking meeting for the musicians of the New York Musical Theatre Festival. It marked the finale of 802’s Theatre Community Initiative, which had been set in motion in-mid September (see article “Organizing New Musicals at Their Roots”).

Over 60 people from the NYMF, as well as 802 officials and reps, and members of 802’s Broadway Theatre Committee attended the event. Local 802 had supported the festival by becoming a sponsor and purchasing an ad in the NYMF journal.

The union has for a long time known that the Broadway contract is one of its cornerstone agreements. In an effort to assure the continuing vitality of Broadway, it has been looking for opportunities to reach out to the people who will be the future producers and performers on Broadway. In the past, when there has been no prior relationship between these parties, negotiations have sometimes

become unnecessarily adversarial. However, when there is a previous relationship, any fears the musicians may have about the union showing up on the gig are assuaged, and the employers know that the appearance of 802 on the scene will not sound the death knell for their show. With a contract in place the musicians know they have a strong organization behind them, and the employers know they can expect a high quality performance.

With this in mind, the Theatre Department, spearheaded by reps Mary Donovan and Lynne Bond, came up with a plan. Two representatives from 802 attended each of the nearly 40 musicals put on by the NYMF, and met the musicians from each show, inviting them to our “meet and greet.”

Most of the NYMF musicals were in workshop form, some with little in the way of costumes and scenery. Others were more fleshed out. The orchestras ranged in size from one musician to as many as six. Each show had only a handful of performances, but all are hoping for the backing that will take them to the next level – Off Broadway, or perhaps even the Great White Way.

In 2004, which was the NYMF’s first year, “Alter Boys” and “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” both went on to a run at Dodger Stages.

At the meeting, emceed by Executive Board member Tino Gagliardi, the NYMF musicians were given an opportunity to hear from a panel assembled from various aspects of the theatre business in New York.

The panel consisted of Radio City organist George Wesner, keyboardist and Small Theatre Committee rep Frank Lindquist, musical directors Constantine Kitsopoulos and Lynne Shankel, musical coordinators Michael Keller and John Miller, arranger/orchestrator Kim Scharnberg and myself.

Each panelist spoke, describing his or her own personal journey through the freelance jungle, and offered bits of advice to the young musicians in the room. Afterwards there was a lively question and answer period, followed by food and informal discussion. (The CAC sponsored refreshments for the evening.)

This Theatre Community Initiative was a first attempt. All those who participated felt that it was a resounding success and plans are being made for an expanded effort next year.

Bill Rohdin is a trumpeter, Theatre Committee Rep. and Chair of the CAC.

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