Jazz Educators Need Benefits, Too

Volume CV, No. 3March, 2005

Jimmy Owens

Local 802 and the union’s Jazz Advisory Committee were an important presence at the 32nd annual convention of the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE). At our booth were Recording Vice President Bill Dennison, Jazz Representative Bob Cranshaw and myself.

The convention draws jazz educators from around the world. The attendees take part in daily workshops and attend a variety of concert presentations. The workshops usually deal with technical areas of education, like how to perform and play your instrument better or how to be a more effective educator.


The areas that were not emphasized enough at IAJE are areas Local 802 has been diligently working to correct within the education community.

Adjunct and part-time professors continue to work in important educational positions with young people. These professors usually don’t earn benefits – most importantly, health insurance and pension contributions. It is a huge problem in need of repair. Most of these professors are also working musicians in the cities where they teach.

By speaking with many people from all over the country, I was able to discover the keen interest educators have in learning about what Local 802 has accomplished in getting benefits for part-time educational workers as well as benefits for their performing work.

Bill and Bob were able to inform people about the various contracts Local 802 has achieved and, in particular, share information about the new LS-1 contract form. This form allows members to have benefit contributions paid on their behalf for live music jobs. (See story in the November 2004 Allegro, or call Bill Dennison or Jim Hannen at Local 802 for more information.)

Many educators, who are also performing jazz artists, don’t know about the AFM pension fund or how they can work towards someday receiving an AFM pension from the live performance and educational work they do.

I recommended that the IAJE Resource Team Committee, of which I am a member, investigate ways for part-time educators to receive health insurance. The idea was well received by the committee. The resource team plans to bring this issue to the IAJE Board of Directors.


I believe that an organization such as the IAJE – with 10,000 members – could easily combine their members’ needs with those of other organizations to provide better health care and pension benefits for the working musician and educator. In fact the AFM could benefit by forging a partnership with the IAJE with this aim in mind, benefiting these musician-educators as well as increasing AFM membership.

It is an unfortunate situation when musicians teach elementary school music three days a week from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., but receive no health benefits or pension contributions. These musicians may be members of both their local AFM chapter and of the IAJE. I met a few people in this position.

I am happy to report I heard some wonderful interviews with artists such as Nancy Wilson, James Moody, Gerald Wilson and Sammy Nestico. All have years of affiliation with the AFM in one way or another. They discussed their lives and answered questions, many times hitting on areas of union protection or the unfortunate lack of such protection.

I would like to suggest that Local 802 start a dialogue with the IAJE to see how we can work together on solving some of these difficult and continuing problems.

Jimmy Owens is the Jazz Advisory Committee liaison to the Executive Board.