Thank you to everyone who attended our New York City Opera gala, with special guest Placido Domingo. You made the event a success and ensured that the union’s Emergency Relief Fund has enough money to distribute to musicians who are in need. (To learn more about the fund, including how to apply for emergency aid, call Siena Shundi at 212-245-4802, ext. 180.) Just as importantly, we showed that the musicians and singers of the New York City Opera are highly motivated and care about their company’s potential future. What that future may hold is uncertain. NYCO is still in bankruptcy, and Local 802 is attempting to recover wages and benefits due to musicians. However, we demonstrated that when artists are in control, they can produce great concerts and make big things happen. There is an important lesson in this, and one that producers need to learn: be guided by your artists and see what they can do. Thank you to all musicians and singers who took part. We are in awe of your dedication and talent.
We’ll publish photos of the gala in our next issue.
REMEMBERING PETE SEEGER
We lost a legend on Jan. 27, when Pete Seeger died at the age of 94, after being a Local 802 member since 1942. I had the honor of meeting Pete a couple of years ago when Local 802 paid tribute to him at our 90th birthday party, which was also a benefit for the union’s Emergency Relief Fund.
Pete Seeger sang truth to power. As a champion of human rights and the dignity of working people – and of course as a musician – he was an inspiration to anyone who believes that justice is possible. Pete believed that music can play a powerful role in making change. He infused all the music he played – from folk and gospel to popular and world music – with the basic message that we must always strive to do better by our fellow human beings.
When Pete was honored here at Local 802, he said, “If there is a human race a hundred years from now, it will be because of music.”
From his early days in New York’s Almanac Singers, when he befriended Woody Guthrie, to his time in the popular folk group the Weavers, when he was blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee and vilified by the government as a subversive, Pete honed his skills and his message. When his career was revived in the 1960s, he became a beacon for groundbreaking artists such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary, and led a musical movement as a vocal critic of the Vietnam War. Through the years, his reliable output spanned everything from folk music to labor and international songs, and his concerts were known for their participatory nature. His commitment to causes like clean water, workers’ rights and economic justice was unabated into his 90s. Pete’s presence at events like Occupy Wall Street or our own benefit concert always uplifted his audience and inspired renewed commitment to justice in the hearts of his listeners.
Pete was a legend whose legacy lives on in all of us here at Local 802 – and in anyone who believes music can make a difference. See our photos and tributes to Pete Seeger by John O’Connor and Dave Elsila in this issue.
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
March is Women’s History Month, and it has its roots in the textile industry, where women historically have endured terrible working conditions. It’s the month in which we remember the 146 victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, which was the largest industrial disaster in the history of New York City. Most of the victims were immigrant women. The fire led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the textile workers’ union (the ILGWU). This year’s commemoration, which is the 103nd anniversary of the tragedy, will take place from noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, March 25 at the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street, the site of the original building. For more information, see www.RememberTheTriangleFire.org.
In this issue, we are pleased to feature an interview with harpist and Local 802 member Susan Jolles, who recounts some fascinating insights and valuable advice from her career.
Also, in this issue, check out the following stories:
- Our health fund trustee Martha Hyde has taken the Obamacare web site out for a spin, and you must read what she found.
- We have a major feature this month on how musicians can take the maximum deductions on their taxes. We also have information on depreciating your instrument to save tax money, and even info on deducting health expenses like massage therapy.
- Happy 99th birthday to saxophonist and Local 802 member Fred Staton! See our photo feature in this issue.
- Harvey Mars outlines the legal risks faced when musicians are classified as “panhandlers.”
DANCING WITH THE STARS
The battle for live music and culture never ends. After 17 hit seasons performing on one of the world’s most popular TV shows, “Dancing with the Stars,” the 28 men and women of the show’s live backing band – the Harold Wheeler Orchestra and Singers – have been replaced. Producers originally said the group would be replaced with recordings and a much smaller band. However, Local 802 member Ray Chew, who was tapped as the next musical director, convinced producers to limit the amount of backing tracks and not to reduce the ensemble to a significant degree. Although the situation is a loss for Mr. Wheeler and his band, it appears that live music will still prevail under Mr. Chew. I spoke with Mr. Chew personally and he reiterated his support of the AFM and the cause of live music, regardless of the venue. He assured me that there will not be any “electronic” devices used to replace acoustic instruments. If strings are needed, string players will be hired. If horns are needed, real horns will be used, as was his practice at “American Idol.” Network sources say that a recent shift in ABC/Disney’s executive staff had led to pressure to change the band in order to cater to a younger viewing audience.
Negotiations are still ongoing at two venues: 54 Below (in Midtown) and the Resorts World Casino/Aqueduct Racetrack (in Queens). I am happy to report that we are very close to getting a deal with both. These negotiations have been very important to Local 802, as they both represent areas of employment for musicians that have gone unaddressed for far too long. 54 Below is a nightclub below the famed Studio 54. It was the help of the musicians working there that enabled us to open a dialog with the owners. The negotiations with both venues have been professional, courteous and collaborative. I am confident that I will be able to report to you soon that we have reached a consensus on a fair deal with both the racino and 54 Below.
Speaking of 54 Below, Steve Danenberg – our supervisor of music prep and electronic media services – has reported that musicians recently won payments for three recordings that took place there, which had been recorded without a union contract. We were able to retroactively get these dates covered, using Local 802’s Limited Pressing Agreement. Musicians won about $9,000 in wages, $1,000 in pension, and $325 in health contributions. The gigs were with Laura Benanti, Sierra Boggess and Bebe Neuwirth.
This situation shows the power of the union – even in cases where a union contract did not exist in the first place. This is why Local 802 recommends that whenever you are called for a recording date of any kind, you should make a confidential call to our recording department at (212) 245-4802. Ask for Steve Danenberg or any recording rep, and tell them you need to confidentially report an engagement. This same advice applies if you are playing a live gig and you think that the job will be recorded or streamed.
On the national front, the AFM recently began negotiations for the successor to the Commercial Announcements Agreement (the jingles contract). The management side is represented by the Joint Policy Committee of the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies. Representatives from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston and Nashville attended a recent session, as well as the Recording Musicians Association – both the international and the New York chapter. As usual, the talented staff from the AFM was on hand, with AFM President Ray Hair leading the negotiations. I’d like to thank Steve Danenberg and his whole department for help in coordinating the meetings of the Local 802 rank-and-file participants and all the research necessary to go forward.
This is unfolding to be far different than the last time I sat at the table for these talks. Instead of just increases in compensation, there is also a feeling by the musicians who do this work that more needs to be done by both the union and the industry to adapt to the changes in the market. We have only scratched the surface at this point, so I cannot be any more specific than that. You will hear from me as soon as talks resume and there is more to report.
PLAYING FOR THE SUPER BOWL
We’re happy to report that all of the live music associated with the Super Bowl was performed under a union contract. There was a last-minute controversy about a music video produced by Fox, which wanted to use backing tracks, but we were able to resolve that, and all musicians were paid. Any time a high-profile event like the Super Bowl comes to town, it must be a union job and that only happens when the musicians doing the work utilize the resources of our union to ensure that they receive fair wages and benefits. Any time you are called to play a major venue or a major performance, please make a confidential call to the union at (212) 245-4802. Ask for the Organizing Department or for any rep and tell them about the gig. We have a great track record of making sure our members are paid the wages and benefits they deserve, while protecting their identity and their job.
NEW SHOWS OPENING
We’re pleased that some new Broadway shows or revivals will be opening soon, including “Aladdin,” “Bullets Over Broadway,” “Cabaret,” “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” “If/Then,” “Les Miserables,” “Rocky” and “Violet.”
In addition, Radio City Music Hall is producing a live spring show for the first time since 1996, called “Hearts and Lights.” The audition announcement was published in the December issue of Allegro, and auditions took place in January. Previews start on March 27.
The Local 802 Executive Board recently voted unanimously to endorse UPKNYC, the campaign to fund universal Pre-K and after-school programs for middle school students in New York City. The board also donated $300 to ALIGN, which is a local affiliate of Jobs with Justice. See www.AlignNY.org.
REMEMBERING PAUL ASH
He wasn’t a member of Local 802, but Paul Ash did so much for live music. We are sad to report that Paul died on Feb. 5 at the age of 84. He was the president of Sam Ash Music, which has been a regular advertiser in Allegro for at least 20 years. The company is also a co-sponsor of Piano in the Park, which features members of Local 802 in the summer at Bryant Park. Paul was highly respected and loved by the NYC jazz community, as is his wife, Cobi Narita, who survives him. We wish Paul’s family the very best and we salute Paul’s legacy.