I would like to extend to you my heartfelt wishes for a happy and healthy new year. For musicians, the holidays usually mean work, whether on Broadway, Radio City, orchestra concerts, clubs or parties. No doubt it feels strange to be home, although perhaps you are slightly relieved not to be driving on icy roads or fighting crowds in the Broadway district. To me, the 2020 holiday season feels more like Yom Kippur, the most solemn day of the Jewish calendar, which is not so much “celebrated” as “observed.” Yom Kippur is a somber day of atonement, filled with prayer, introspection, spirituality and fasting, a far cry from the exuberant, raucous festivities of the secular new year. But don’t despair! Both holidays conclude with a sip of wine and hope for a better year to come. (By the way, comedian Lewis Black has a hilarious riff on Yom Kippur. E-mail me for the link!)
Despite the suspension of most live performances, our work at Local 802 continues unabated. As I reported throughout 2020, we negotiated contracts, extension letters and pandemic sideletters with signatory orchestras, many before their expiration dates. To wrap up the year, we completed a sideletter agreement with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the terms of which will be revisited in March, and a three-year CBA with Musica Viva.
The following freelance orchestras have agreements expiring in 2021: Bronx Arts Ensemble, American Composers Orchestra, American Symphony Orchestra, NY Scandia, Oratorio Society of Queens/Sacred Music Society of Queens, Queens Symphony, St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, Stamford Symphony and Westchester Philharmonic.
Negotiating the reopening of our field to live performances will be our challenge and major focus this year. Orchestra managements and boards that have the temerity and imagination to adapt with the times will be best positioned to survive. I urge you to present your ideas to your orchestra’s administration and advisory boards. As musicians, we are used to adapting to hard times. We are bold, creative and tough. For every project that comes to fruition, there are three more that fail, but we will keep searching, experimenting, and adjusting. Even as live performance has been virtually shut down, our musicians have found creative ways to perform. In October, the Oratorio Society of New York recorded selections from the Messiah in a socially-distanced environment in upstate New York, complete with masks and Covid tests. Additional members of the Society joined virtually for a triumphant finale singing the Hallelujah chorus. Musicians were paid under union contracts. Watch the performance here.
As work gradually opens, please remember that we will continue to devote time, thought, and resources to helping you get back to work safely. The document we created in collaboration with leading experts in this field is available for reference here.
Rostered musicians in Local 802 freelance orchestras may request access to the shortfall funds only through the Local 802 website beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 19, 2021. Read our announcement here. Please check your balance and carefully read through the instructions before applying. We have put this procedure in place to ensure that the funds are allocated in the fairest, most equitable way possible. We are aware that even with the help of shortfall funds, employer contributions will not meet the eligibility needs of all our members. We have compiled a considerable list of resources on our website to help you navigate alternate health insurance options.
Thanks to the efforts of our controller Alla Emelianova, accountant David Taylor, and the cooperation of our staff, the union’s 2021 budget was approved by the Executive Board on Dec. 8. The usual metrics on which we base the process did not easily apply to all areas this year, as the parameters and timing of the reopening of our business are not clear. This year will be exceptionally challenging, and we will be keeping a keen eye on our finances as the year progresses.
Local 802 is 100 years old!
Local 802 was chartered on August 27, 1921. One hundred years is quite a milestone and we are in the nascent stages of thinking about how to celebrate. We have a very interesting history; be sure to read up on it here. Stay tuned for updates through the year!
On a personal note, I want you to know that I miss seeing and hearing all of you very much! Until we can meet again in person, we will continue to collaborate, discuss and celebrate our accomplishments virtually. As always, please feel free to reach out with questions, concerns or just to say hello. You can contact me personally at Kfisher@Local802afm.org, or if you have a general question for Local 802 or about your membership, you can use Membership@Local802afm.org.