Classical Musicians Come Together

At our core, we are a supportive, caring community

Volume 117, No. 12December, 2017

IN THE FIELD: Local 802 reps visit our union orchestras as often as possible to check in and meet with our members. Pictured above and below article, musicians at the Stamford Symphony Orchestra at a recent rehearsal. All photos by Walter Karling.

Hi there! If you are working a lot in the concert field, you may have been seeing a lot of me lately. I’m the one in the back of the hall with the glasses and big hair. As your union rep, I am making rehearsal visits to all of our signatory orchestras this season. My purpose is to touch base with all of you and to get to know your orchestra even better. I always endeavor to be your liaison and address any questions you may have.

Over the last decade, I’ve had the great pleasure and privilege of serving as your concert rep and hearing many Local 802 freelance orchestras perform. As a former freelance clarinetist myself, I am impressed again and again by the professionalism, musicianship, flexibility and collaboration exhibited by our members. In just the past two months, I’ve heard everything from Berwald to Stravinsky to Broadway to jazz standards, executed to perfection sometimes by the same musicians. I’ve visited the American Classical Orchestra, Harmonie Ensemble, Little Orchestra Society, the New York Pops, and Stamford Symphony as well as some single engagements. I hope to eventually see and hear all of you during the current performance season.

Orchestra visits are just a part of the outreach we are doing on the fourth floor here at 322 West 48th Street. As we are all aware, many of our future colleagues move from Juilliard, the Manhattan School of Music and Mannes directly into freelancing. The Concert Department has consistently made yearly outreach visits to all these music schools. In September, Financial Vice President Tom Olcott and I visited with students in the orchestral studies program at the Manhattan School of Music. We discussed and fielded questions about the local musical landscape. But more significantly, we talked about the importance of collective action and working under union contracts. Without this outreach, most music students will graduate from a conservatory with no idea what a union does – or, at the very least, they will have a (usually incorrect) preconceived notion about what we do and why we exist. Our goal when visiting with students is to bust some of the myths about unions and to empower younger players with facts. It’s always enjoyable and enlightening to meet with the next generation of musicians, and we will continue to make educational outreach a priority in our work.

Something that strikes me over and over again as I work with all of you is the lengths musicians will go to support and care for one another. Just in the last two months, we have seen orchestras from around the county collecting tens of thousands of dollars for their colleagues in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. We also organize beautiful memorial services for deceased colleagues and jump into action to help surviving family members. We gather support for those who are sick or in need. We attend each other’s recitals and concerts, even though we all have busy lives away from the music stand. We even boost and encourage our colleagues in their non musical endeavors.

Our community is facing tough challenges, both locally and globally, the likes of which most of us have not anticipated nor seen before. It is heartening to know that no matter our superficial differences, we are strong, vibrant, and supportive of one another.

Next time you see me at a rehearsal, come by to say hi, and know that you always have someone in your corner.

Karen Fisher is the senior concert rep of Local 802. Contact her at (212) 245-4802, ext. 174 or via contact page.