By the time you read this it will have been one year since I began working as the social worker for the Musicians’ Assistance Program. I wrote my first column in this space about some of the services the MAP office provides for members and employees of Local 802. In the year since, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of the unique problems facing musicians, particularly in our current economic climate.
It has struck me that much of the work the MAP office does goes unnoticed, which is, of course, as it should be. Our work is confidential, and people don’t necessarily want to broadcast to their colleagues that they’re having financial or personal problems.
The difficulty with this is that the MAP office and Local 802’s Emergency Relief Fund, which we help to administer, both rely on financial donations. If you haven’t had personal experience with the service an organization provides, why would you think of contributing to its support?
So, in the long tradition of squeaky wheels getting some grease, I thought I would fill you in on some of the ways I’ve seen the MAP office contribute to the lives of your colleagues.
Sometimes when members call it’s just a quick request for information or a referral. They have a problem, but they’re not sure what to do about it, or where to get help. The MAP office may not always have the answer, but we’ll do our best to find out who does, and connect the member with that resource.
Sometimes the problems can be more complicated. For example:
- You and your wife are having the same fight over and over, and you’re worried about saving your marriage.
- You’ve been feeling anxious and depressed, and can’t seem to motivate yourself to pursue work.
- Your drinking has gotten out of hand, and you’re at risk of losing your job.
The MAP office can help members with short-term counseling, or a referral for ongoing treatment.
Often, members call us requesting financial assistance. Imagine this:
- You didn’t get paid for your last few gigs, and the contractor isn’t returning your calls, or the tour got cancelled, and now you’re behind on the rent.
- A car accident has landed you in the hospital, you have no health insurance and no way to pay thousands of dollars in medical bills, much less your living expenses while you recover.
There are times when the problems facing a member can seem completely overwhelming. The MAP office assesses members who are in need of financial assistance, and helps them to access any community resources they’re eligible for. When appropriate, we’ll advocate on their behalf for financial assistance from the Emergency Relief Fund, as well as from other relief organizations.
I feel so privileged to have the job I do. Strangers do me the honor of letting me into their lives and entrusting me with deeply personal problems – not necessarily because they want to, but because they don’t know where else to turn.
Sometimes we like to imagine that we don’t need others, that we can solve our own problems. And why should we take on responsibility for the problems of others?
You may never need or want to call the MAP office, but by ensuring that we are able to help the members that do, you enrich your own life in ways that may not be immediately apparent. The world of professional musicians has been buffeted by challenges from many quarters. You wouldn’t be in this business if you didn’t place a special value on what music has to offer the world. This fragile, delicate, lusty, exhilarating art is really only as strong as each of its practitioners.
The Emergency Relief Fund is a kind of safety net, an important resource the union offers members when they have no where else to turn. In recent years contributions to the fund have fallen, as has been true for many charitable organizations. I hope you will continue to add a few dollars to support all of the MAP office’s work when you pay your dues, and consider making an additional contribution to the Emergency Relief Fund. In that way, you can help your fellow musicians to keep doing what they do best – make music. Your world will be better for it.
Members can easily contribute to MAP or the Emergency Relief Fund when they renew their dues in the Membership Department. The next time you renew your dues, simply say that you want to make a donation. You’ll just pay for the donation as if it were part of your dues, and the money will automatically get routed to MAP or the Emergency Relief Fund. For more information, call the MAP office, Membership Department or President’s Office.