President’s Report

Broadway on Broadway: Restoring Live Music!

Volume CVI, No. 10October, 2006

David Lennon

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This year’s “Broadway on Broadway” celebration packed Times Square. Additional photos by Walter Karling below article.

On Sept. 10, some 50,000 spectators enjoyed the annual live celebration of the Broadway musical, as “Broadway On Broadway” kicked off the fall season.

Since 1991, the League of American Theatres and Producers has produced the event, which features musical numbers and star appearances from almost every play and musical on Broadway, including several upcoming shows scheduled for the new season. Up until this year, its principal sponsor was the Music Performance Fund (MPF). The MPF was, in fact, part of the creation of this New York extravaganza.

The magnificent 30-piece orchestra, assembled by veteran music director Paul Gemignani, features the professional Broadway musicians of Local 802.

In recent years, however, the increased use of recorded tracks in place of the live orchestra has caused great concern to the MPF, Local 802 and our musicians. Last year, nearly half of the shows utilized recorded tracks for their performances, while the live orchestra sat in silence. The situation had become intolerable.

I am pleased to report that this year marked a turnaround in restoring the prominence of live music in this high profile event.

In April 2006, Allegro’s feature story, “MPF Says No to Taped Music,” stated unequivocally “the provisions governing the granting of funds clearly state that projects must be live performances free to the public.” MPF’s strong stance was and is to be commended. The rules governing the fund are crystal clear.

As for Local 802, this administration’s unwavering stance against the use of “canned” music, whether the virtual orchestra machine or the abuse of recorded tracks, is well known. Any time “canned” music is allowed to replace live, the future of live music – and musicians’ livelihoods – is at stake.


Music director, conductor, drummer and 802 member Paul Gemignani earned a Creative Arts Emmy for his work on PBS’s presentation of the Carnegie Hall concert version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific,” presented last June. Gemignani conducted the Orchestra of St. Luke’s; the cast included Reba McEntire, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Jason Danieley, Lillias White and Alec Baldwin. The performance was acclaimed by the New York Times as “a state of nearly unconditional rapture.”

While I fully agreed with and understood the MPF’s position, as president of Local 802 my first obligation was to do whatever necessary to ensure the restoration of live music to this very public event. That is why I requested a meeting with Paul Gemignani and representatives of the League to help turn the situation around.

Early on in the meeting, two things became apparent – Gemignani’s efforts prior to the meeting had set the stage for a productive discussion and the League, under new leadership, seemed sincere in its desire to work with us to improve the situation.

Some of the reasons given for the increased use of “canned” music were logistical and acoustical. Moreover, certain producers felt entitled to use the recorded tracks they had obtained through the Industrial Buyout Agreement, since the additional cost of the guest conductors created a financial disincentive to go live. We all agreed, however, it was vital that live music be restored to this annual event, which heralds in the Broadway season.

After our meeting and several follow-up discussions, the League agreed to press each show’s producer to use live music whenever possible, and Local 802 agreed to help them in securing alternative funding to offset the cost of the guest conductors. The result was that this year only four of the 23 numbers used recorded tracks. It is our hope that next year we will see the total elimination of recorded music at this event.

I attended the performance and was gratified by the enthusiastic acknowledgement Local 802 musicians received when the orchestra was introduced to the public at the outset of the show.

The remarkable interplay among the performers reflected the experience and sensitivity of the BoB orchestra, the professionalism and flexibility of the singers and dancers performing in a new and challenging environment, and the skill and judgment of Gemignani and the various conductors who brought it all together.

Going forward, the union’s job is to make sure that live Broadway and live music are inseparable.

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