Knowledge is Power

Volume CX, No. 12December, 2010

Local 802’s annual meet-and-greet reaches out to new
theatre musicians and gives them some tools of the trade

How do you get a job in this town? Network! For the past six years Local 802 has held an annual “meet-and-greet” in the fall, which allows new musicians to meet one another and interact with established musicians and union reps. This event is especially aimed at new theatre musicians – specifically, musicians who perform at the New York International Fringe Festival and the New York Musical Theatre Festival.

From August through mid-October, the staff of Local 802, along with members of the Broadway community, did outreach and recruitment at 10 Fringe shows and 22 shows from NYMF.

We ultimately invited over 112 musicians to the meet and greet, which was held on Oct. 20 and attended by over 130 musicians.

Our panelists included Clayton Craddock, Michael Starobin, Isaac Robert Hurwitz, Matt Hinkley, Steve Danenberg, Belinda Whitney and John Miller.

Panelists discussed how they got their entrée into the theatre world. Each panelist emphasized the importance of musicians networking with each other and not just sending their resumes to contractors.

The night began with panelists discussing how important it is for musicians to treat their work as a business.

Matt Hinkley said the more you demand to be treated like a professional the more respect you get from producers and contractors.

Furthermore, a musician’s professionalism helps to keep them from having to do a day job.

Matt is certainly a good example of his own commitment. Last year he was in the audience; this year he was a panelist with a lot of union gigs under his belt.

Michael Starobin, a busy and experienced orchestrator had this to say: “We are living in hard economic times. If musicians find that they are not getting enough work, they should not be afraid of getting a day job.”

He discussed his time working at the New York Public Library as a positive experience. He also said that a musician has to know where they want to go with their music. He indicated that a professional musician not only requires great skill, but also great commitment.

Clayton Craddock discussed his transition from being an accountant to becoming a Broadway musician and how some of the skills he attained from accounting helps him understand the role of playing contractor at his show “Memphis.”

Other panelists discussed the importance of honing your craft and realizing that the theatre world is more than Broadway.

Isaac Hurwitz, the Executive Director of the New York Musical Theatre Festival, said the festival’s mission is to bring musicals to a wider audience and to provide a place for new musicals that may or may not have a place on Broadway.

Belinda Whitney, who was the in-house contractor and concertmaster for South Pacific, discussed the importance of knowing your craft and networking with musicians who play your instrument.

Local 802’s Steve Danenberg, supervisor of the Recording Department, discussed looking beyond being a musician in theatre and looking into doing work with copying, orchestrating and arranging.

John Miller, music coordinator of hundreds of Broadway shows, wrapped up the night with three pieces of advice: network, network and network!

During the evening, President Gagliardi announced a membership drive that will allow new members to join Local 802 without having to pay the $100 initiation fee. (See back cover for details.)


Since 2005, we have visited over 155 productions from the NYMF and Fringe festivals, meeting a few hundred musicians.

Most of these productions have hired between one and six musicians. But two notable exceptions this year were the Fringe’s “The Pig, The Farmer and The Artist,” which hired 10 musicians and NYMF’s “Tess,” which hired 9 musicians.

Often we come across musicians who are relatively new members or not members at all. However, about 65 percent of the participants are veteran Local 802 members and theatre musicians.

Larry Lelli, drummer at “Million Dollar Quartet,” recently played at the NYMF’s “BLOODTIES.” He says, that he enjoys playing new shows because, “I simply love to make music, play in many different situations as possible, and truly enjoy building a project from the ground up.”

Lelli added, “It helps me to stay fresh, creatively inspired, and keep my skills sharp. For instance, this recent production featured a rock band playing the amazing music of singer/songwriter Ned Massey. Not only was it a great time with a wonderful band of 802 members, I enjoyed the challenge of playing for the space. We had to play with the intensity of a rock band in a big arena, but with a dynamic level fitting for a very small black box theatre.”

Lelli also said, “I met some wonderful singers, musicians and production staff I otherwise might not have met. Local 802 got a signed Theatrical Showcase Agreement which was great too.”

Sixty-nine of previous NYMF shows have gone on to post-festival productions, including “Altar Boyz” and “Next to Normal.” NYMF shows have garnered 12 Tony nominations, winning three.

On the Fringe side, notable productions include “Urinetown,” “Debbie Does Dallas” and “Dog Sees God.”

For the first time since NYMF’s inception, Local 802 was asked to be on the jury for its annual awards ceremony. Theatre rep Marisa Friedman attended and reviewed 10 productions, six of which won awards this year.