‘Dear Friends and Colleagues…’

Local 802's new financial vice president makes his debut

Volume 111, No. 10October, 2011

Tom Olcott

“Dear Friends and colleagues…” Over many years as a member and committee chair, I sent out countless e-mails beginning with that salutation.

I addressed those messages in that way because we on those committees were (and of course still are!) working, talking, negotiating, evaluating, and doing a considerable amount of fussing, on behalf of all of our “friends and colleagues,” hard-working and dedicated members of each and every ensemble.

I have always believed that the lines of communication between committees, orchestras and Local 802 should be collaborative, and I’ve always been mindful of presenting the best and most practical face of each group of musicians.

I also know that each member of every rank-and-file committee I have ever served on has dedicated themselves and their time in that way.

Now I write as someone whose role has shifted. I was appointed by Local 802’s Executive Board to be the new financial vice president of Local 802, an appointment that became necessary when Jay Blumenthal was offered the opportunity to become the AFM’s director of symphonic services and assistant treasurer.

When I initially heard of Jay’s appointment, my first reaction was one of shock, tempered by the following thought: I was happy for Jay and for the AFM and thought his appointment was the perfect choice.

I also thought of Local 802’s major loss, and asked myself who could fill Jay’s rather large professional shoes.

When I was notified that the Local 802 leadership thought that I might be the person to fill those shoes, I experienced a similar level of shock.

Humbled, I thought long and hard. I ultimately accepted this very large challenge.

My new position essentially encompasses the entire freelance concert field minus the major Lincoln Center contracts. This field is extremely complicated and difficult to organize. It is a profound challenge to assist and support musicians to reach solutions, while at the same time dealing with the problems of funding, marketing and cultural change. I will constantly seek to find the best path through that difficult terrain.

Perhaps the fact that my professional performing life was primarily in that field will aid everyone – Local 802 members and employers alike – to find reasonable solutions to mutually confounding problems. (For those who don’t know, I’ve been the chair of the American Ballet Theatre Orchestra Committee and the Radio City Orchestra Committee.)

Finally, I want to emphasize that musicians come first. I consider any organization’s best assets to be its members.

The financial side of the Local 802 office is perhaps more daunting. I am not an accountant, and am not expected to be one, but nonetheless I am charged with monitoring and managing all financial reporting and the flow of financial transactions through the Local 802 system.

Please know that the other officers, Tino Gagliardi and John O’Connor, also have consistent and well-structured oversight of all expenses as well as the management and investments of our assets.

But my oversight extends as well to Local 802’s very able and accomplished staff.

That staff works mostly behind the scenes and is not always visible to most 802 members. I assure you that the work they do is integral to the efficient operation of Local 802, and that it has been my distinct privilege to meet them, know what they do to make our union work, and to honor their service to all of our members. I invite all members to meet our staff and to get a feel for how hard they work for all of us. You will be amazed at what they do for us, and I thank them all.

One other financial reality is that Local 802 has a new controller, Cathy Camiolo, whom Tino introduced in his president’s column last month. She has already shown her considerable expertise in recent reports to the Executive Board. I believe that the union’s financial recording and reporting are in very good hands.

In summary, I pledge to you that I will help us all fight the good fight for reasonable pay and working conditions. Your dues will be well spent on your behalf, and – above all – well-invested and well-protected.

That is my committment to you. Finally, I wish my best regards to all Local 802 members, my dear friends and colleagues.

This story originally appeared in the October 2011 issue of Allegro, the magazine of the New York City musicians’ union (AFM Local 802). For reprint requests, send an e-mail to editor Mikael Elsila at