As you may recall, in the almost two years leading up to the past Broadway negotiations, Local 802 engaged in a public relations campaign built around the theme of live music. A series of radio ads was created, read both by myself and, more effectively, by a number of Broadway stars who were deeply concerned about this subject and strongly committed to live musicians. Several print ads appeared – chiefly in Playbill – and a number of articles on various aspects of our situation was published in major-circulation newspapers and magazines.
The thrust of all this activity was the proposition that the live music experience is among the deepest and most profound to be found in life and that no technology can replace it, whether in the theatre, the nightclub or the concert hall.
We were successful, I think, in bringing this to audience members’ attention and causing them to be aware, much more than in the recent past, of our presence and our contribution.
I had heard too many times – especially from Broadway musicians – that audience members had approached the orchestra pit curious to see if a real orchestra was present and surprised to find one. That is no longer true; theatregoers recognize us, respect us and understand that our contribution is essential.
Broadway producers, understanding our role more clearly, have continued to engage orchestras of 22-25 musicians for recent productions, thereby retaining – for now anyway – the artistic integrity of musical theatre.
But we need to continue our efforts in this regard. The public relations activities we engaged in should not be viewed as of short duration but as ongoing, both in terms of outreach to the general public and efforts to develop a more active relationship with our fellow workers, the actors, stagehands, wardrobe personnel, hairdressers, ushers, box office workers, press agents, directors and choreographers that, together, make up the theatrical community.
Recently, several creative Local 802 members – Marshall Coid, Scott Shachter, Kory Grossman, Mike Christianson, Ben Herrington, Michael Ishii – have organized public relations outreach events of great merit.
A large contingent of musicians voluntarily performed in the Labor Day Parade, receiving positive notice in the press. Then, on Sept. 21 between 50 and 60 violinists played at the TKTS booth just before a Sunday matinee and following that, many of these musicians marched over to Shubert Alley to give a much-appreciated performance to the crowd attending the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS auction. On Oct. 2, 40 brass, wind and percussion players were, once again, at the TKTS booth on Duffy Square for a well-received performance conducted by Christianson.
This must continue. To that end I have submitted a budget for 2004 that includes money to engage the public relations firm that helped us during the Broadway campaign. The incoming president, David Lennon – I know the election hasn’t taken place, but he’s the only candidate – has been a long time proponent of this and supports it without reservation as does the current Executive Board.
With all of us working together we can keep New York alive with music.