Fellow musicians really do need your help

Volume 112, No. 2February, 2012

Andrew Schwartz

By this time you probably feel inundated with appeals from the Emergency Relief Fund. Appeals in your inbox, appeals in your mailbox, appeals from callers you don’t know and from some you do.

Some of you have responded with great generosity and a sense of concern about the future for this life and career saving charity.

Some have recognized that it may be the most meaningful appeal that you, as a musician and member of Local 802 will receive, and understand that it is a service that we cannot afford to lose. That it is the first place you can turn to when trouble strikes you or your family members. You have recognized that it is, very simply, about us as a musical family taking care of our own.

Others of you have been uncertain about the “ERF” and “MAP,” and wondered what they are and how they relate to your lives.

Many do not know that the Local 802 Musicians’ Emergency Relief Fund, inaugurated in 1967, is the nonprofit that was set up to provide financial grants to musicians in dire need.

It could be to pay a doctor, a landlord, or utilities for instance, when the bottom suddenly drops out of your career and the bills are choking you, the bank account is flat and no gig is in sight.

The ERF oversees the Musicians’ Assistance Program – they are a part of the same confidential charitable service we all can access – and MAP is where you turn when the problems of life, career, family, addiction, alcoholism, homelessness or relationships become more than you can manage, more than you can bear without support and guidance. MAP’s staff is there for all of us, ready to help.

So many of us have benefited from the ERF and MAP, it’s a wonder that it isn’t the most respected and lauded service of 802.

I guess when services such as these are focused on sensitive personal matters it is not surprising that they are talked about rarely and remain off the radar for many members.

Well, we can’t keep the ERF under wraps now that it is so in need of help itself. Contrary to what some believe, the ERF is funded solely by donations and not by Local 802 – the union is prohibited in our bylaws from doing so. It relies on the gifts of members and music lovers to keep it going. It relies on you.

If you are a member who responded to the appeals with $25, $100, $250 or more, you already understand.

If every member made even a modest contribution we would be ready to take on all the circumstances and hardships our members face with a full bank account.

If you are a working member who heard the appeals but then turned away, turned off, or tuned it out, please think again.

Those of us blessed with a regular income from our music making are indeed lucky.

But how fragile is our world? How fast might a thriving career stall, might our physical or emotional health erode?

We have a real place to get help, right where we need it and among caring friends.

Okay, so the 90th Anniversary Benefit Gala is past us and future covers of Allegro will focus on other important matters. The very real need is still with us, however, and will not go away. It is time for every member of 802 to step up and open their hearts and checkbooks. For the sake of your brother and sister musicians, it is time to respond.

Members can donate at or send checks made out to Local 802 Musicians’ ERF, mailed to the Office of the President, Local 802, 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10036. For more information, e-mail me at

Also, please see union social worker Cindy Green’s column in this issue for more information on the Musicians’ Assistance Program.